Japan Photo Drift: Niigata Snow Country

Niigata Dec. '14

Yukiguni “Snow Country”

Tokyo may be generally mild, dry, and sunny in winter, but it comes at a cost to its neighbours: much of the snow that crosses from continental Asia bumps up against the mountains of central Honshu and dump their burden on the Sea of Japan side of the island. Niigata, where R. is from, lies within this yuki guni,”snow country.” In fact, the novel Snow Country by KAWABATA Yasunari is set in the mountain resort area of Yuzawa. Each New Year, R. and I pass through on our way by Shinkansen to coastal Niigata. The change from the balmy Kanto plain to yukiguni is always dramatic as the shinkansen exits a tunnel from Kanto and enters mountainous Gunma prefecture. The photos taken from the train are of Gunma and Niigata, both coming from and returning to Tokyo.

This year, 2014, Niigata has had a particularly hard spell of snowfall. In fact, the day after we arrived blizzard conditions kept us holed up for most of the day at the home of R.’s parents. We did manage a walk later in the day, however, and these are the town and castle pictures in this set.

Continue reading “Japan Photo Drift: Niigata Snow Country”


Tokyo Photo: Suburban Snow

Berries in Snow All this recent snowfall (last weekend’s record-breaking storm, here in pictures; yesterday’s flurry; word on the street there may be more to come) has given “snow on the brain” to this old Canuck. Inspired by Sunday’s neighbourhood photo safari, I’ve been editing recent snow pics as well as going through my Lightroom Library and uploading to my – rejuvenated – 500px.com account oldies but goodies of snowstorms in Tokyo. Continue reading “Tokyo Photo: Suburban Snow”

Good Reads: “snowflakes that cast shadows” (Niseko)

NYTimes: “Niseko, Japan’s Own St. Moritz” by Ondine Cohane; with  ccompanying slidehsow


11 years ago, when I last visited Niseko, the ski resort area outside of Sapporo on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, the place still felt off the beaten path, for expats and tourists alike. I remember snowshoeing through a river valley, among rocks and trees mushroom-capped with some of that “champagne powder” snow that is making this part of Hokkaido internationally famous. At the time, Niseko was still a destination worth visiting for some peaceful communing with nature.

Hopefully, that’s still the case. However, in the ensuing 11 years, Niseko has apparently gone from a sleepy village to a world-class resort town. Australians and others are buying up vacation condos, and the area is now on the radar of the international jet set. And service infrastructure, ie restaurants for foodies,  is arising to meet the needs of this new class of visitor.