An attempt to describe Fukui snow

Posted by in Mike's blog

Looking back, I realize that I never posted about the snow we got here last winter.  I did write one about clearing the snow away, but not about the snow itself.

Oops.  Now that it’s June, I have reminisced about what I was thinking last summer while we were preparing for our big move to Japan.  One of our burning questions had been “what is the snow REALLY like?”

We tried our hand at internet research and we learned a few things.  First we learned that people who write about Fukui’s snow on the internet come from diverse backgrounds.  I like my South African friends, but their expertise in all things cold is somewhat limited.  Next we learned that the overall consensus was that Fukui gets a lot of snow.

Now that we can look back and saw that we survived our first winter (with no car!), I can make an attempt at describing the snow situation here.  I keep in mind, of course, that every winter is different.  We heard that this year it was pretty mild, and I believe it.

Fukui DOES get “dumped” upon with big snowfalls on occasion.  It’s much worse outside the city.  Villages in the mountains had snow long after our snow melted.  There were a few times that we had a couple of consecutive days with 25cm falling on each.

There wasn’t much snow on the ground the day before I took this photo in front of Fukui station. There’s a picnic table under there.

We heard stories of up to 2m falling overnight in previous winters.  This year we didn’t see anything close to that amount.  The snow didn’t really stay on the ground until the end of January.  Up until that point whenever we would get a snowfall no matter the size, it would melt in the next day or two.

The defining feature of snow here is the texture.  Most of the time it snowed, there was an ugly snow/rain mixture going on.  It was so ugly that we needed to use umbrellas – otherwise we got soaked.  The light/happy/fluffy/powdery stuff did come in February…but most of it was the ugly gross rainsnow.  It was perfect for snowmen and snowballs, but absolutely horrible for everything else.  When it was rainsnowing with wind the precipitation blew at our legs (or the Bunny’s FACE) and stuck to us.

See all the water on the platform? That’s what it’s like. The snow sticking to the train? Powder doesn’t do that.

My winter boots that I brought all the way from Canada couldn’t handle winter in Fukui.  When I had to walk through snow they got wet and they stayed wet for days.  I started to dry them in front of the Bunny’s heater at night.  Boots shouldn’t have to do that…but it was too wet.  Eventually I caved and got some rain boots, and then I got some huge thermal socks to go in them for the colder days.

Another of the defining features of the last Fukui winter was that it wasn’t _that_ cold.  The temperature rarely went below -5ºC, especially not while the sun was out.  The temperature fluctuated a fair bit, so we had days like the one pictured below:

Koyo benkyou byouin guchi vs. Fukui ekimae

I took those photos within 45 minutes of each other.  Wouldn’t it have been so cool if I did a time-lapse comparison of the same spot?  The locations are only a couple of kilometres apart.  I think the street on the right may have gotten some help from groundwater sprinklers…but look at the sky!  This was a normal occurrence, and one I was thankful for that day because I thought I was going to have to do my errands in a nasty blizzard.

What we learned about snow in Fukui is that there CAN be a lot of it (but usually it’s manageable), and that it’s very, very wet.

I’ll take it over the summer heat any day.