This is how I ended my last piece as we were approaching the middle of February:

“Once we get towards the end of February various signs of early spring start to appear, even in the mountainous regions. I always try to ignore them at first but come March it gets more difficult to, and people start talking about spring skiing. More on that next time. Here’s to the second part of the Japan winter season!”

Soon after that was written, the fresh snow supply to Japan dried up. At first, we all believed that it was going to be a short-term blip – just some of those early signs of spring that I mentioned last time. Surely, we’d be getting back to something like normal for the end of February and into early March? But it went on… and on… it was as if someone turned off the tap, cutting us off from all supplies of fresh snow. And so here we are in the second week of March which is usually the time when spring starts to take hold.

Just to get an idea: less than 10cm of snow has been recorded at Niseko base since 17th February, and since 18th February (up until 8th March) just 4cm of fresh snow was recorded in the usually very snowy Myoko in Niigata. Such low numbers are clearly not normal as we can usually expect regular snow in the second part of February and at least some in March.
In a welcome return to more winter-like conditions some regions of Honshu received decent snowfall around 8th March, but as I write this on 9th March it is back to clear skies, sunshine and spring-like warm conditions again across most of Japan.

Looking ahead there does seem to be a chance of some regions getting snow in the coming week, but I don’t think we should expect much. We need to get our mindset into full-on spring mode and just enjoy the snow that’s left, while it is still around. And of course, one of the good things about these spring conditions is that there are some beautiful clear and sunny days to enjoy.

By the time I write for you again next month most of the ski hills around Japan will be closed for the season; many will probably just about make it to the end of March. Some will struggle. That will leave us with a selection of open ski resorts dotted around the country at higher altitudes, and some of those hope to remain at least part open through until the end of Golden Week on Monday 6th May. Why a Monday?

Golden Week

Golden Week is a string of national holidays here in Japan spanning from the end of April into early May every year. Depending on the year and what days the holidays fall on, many Japanese can usually enjoy a week or so of holidays – or at least two long weekends.
2019 is shaping up to be a very special Golden Week. This year the holiday period will be starting on Saturday 27th April and running through until Monday 6th May, allowing many lucky people to enjoy an unprecedented 10 day run of holidays.

One very special and rare event this year is going to be taking place in the middle of that period with Crown Prince Naruhito due to take the Imperial Throne on 1st May. This change marks the end of the ‘Heisei’ period (the name of the new period is yet unknown) and it is surely going to be a major event in Japan. No doubt it will get attention from overseas too so look out for it on the news.

The ski resorts that plan to be open until 6th May will be really hoping that their snow lasts to take advantage of the long holiday period and all those people with extended free time to enjoy skiing.

With the good snowfall in January and the early arrival of spring it will certainly be interesting to see how long the snow will last.

Until next month