Snow in May: Visiting Hokkaido

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/320 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Snowballs in May
(in the Northern Hemisphere, no less)

We're on vacation in Furano, Hokkaido (northern Japan). It's my first time to Japan's big northern island, and it's turning out to be a really nice trip.

It started with the idea of coming to see one of the things Furano is famous for, its huge fields of lavender and other brightly colored flowers. It's apparently spectacular, but due to an unfortunate image / calendar mismatch in one of Fumie's guidebooks, we're here two months early for that. (The other thing Furano is famous for is that it's the setting for a Japanese soap opera that's been running for the last 25 years.)

It's also too early for cherry blossoms... the buds are not even starting to show. In fact, except for the cheapest hotel rates of the year, this is the absolutely worst time to visit. The trees are totally barren as in winter, but most of the “white fluffy blanket” of winter-wonderland snow is gone, so all that's left is bleak, bland, and dreary. It's like the end of the winter in any place that has a lot of snow, but before the first hint of spring.

The thing is, the countryside around here is so full of beauty that even at its most bleak and bland, it's still capable of stunning beauty. But that's for another post (a small hint of which is here).

There are some mildly high mountains in the area, the tallest being 2km higher than the surrounding countryside, rising about 7,000 feet above the city. Today was cold, overcast, and rainy, so we took a drive that took us a third of the way up. This whole island (which is about the size of Ohio, where I grew up) gets massive amounts of snow, but the area we visited today still had snow 5 feet deep, and that's before the plow piled it deeper.

Consider the picture below, in which Anthony stands on some drifting snow at the edge of an earlier cut of a snow plow. The snow must be 5 or 6 feet deep where the plow cut it. And this is what's remaining today, May 2nd.


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 55mm — 1/200 sec, f/9, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 95mm — 1/250 sec, f/11, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Anthony and the Volcano

I didn't notice it at the time, but the part of the mountain in the background (which is several miles away, although it perhaps doesn't look like it in this picture) looks like the remains of a volcano having blown its top. I did notice the steam cloud at the upper right, but I don't recall any of the signs referring to a volcano. I'll have to check more.


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Yes, Snow Can Be Cold

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 82mm — 1/160 sec, f/9, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Trying to Slide

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 22mm — 1/320 sec, f/9, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Only Sun We Saw Today

Normally, I'd be tempted to say that this was the most snow I'd ever seen — the most in May, certainly — except that yesterday (May 1st) we took a different road into the mountains, and ended up at an altitude over 1,200 meters, with enough snow to make what we saw today look like nothing more than the leftovers from a mildly ambitious snow globe. I saw one building so buried that its door was not visible (and certainly not used in the last six months). More fodder for future posts.

Tomorrow we check out, then kill 13 hours until the 1:30am departure of our ferry back toward central Japan.


One comment so far...

Well, in the first photo, “Snowballs in May”, looks like the son has his father’s throwing arm. Hope his aim wasn’t as accurate and his mother’s face was spared. Yet more evidence for global warming. 🙂

— comment by Grandma Friedl on May 4th, 2007 at 10:34pm JST (10 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink
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