Thursday, January 21, 2010

Snow, snow glorious snow and those clever little sprinklers

Wow, sashi buri ne? (long time, no see!) I arrived back last Sunday and within a few days so did the snow.

Car near my house in Kanazawa, poor owner!

Having just come back from a snow laden UK which caused thousands of schools to shut, brought public transport to a standstill and a tirade of weather forecasters' "only travel in exceptional circumstances" warnings I was wondering how the Japanese handle snowy conditions?

My walk home in the snow, Kanazawa

Well they handle the snow doing only what the Japanese know best- calm, ease and technological sophistication! OK so we're at a slight disadvantage as we're just not used to it in the UK but they do truly put us to shame. The Sea of Japan side of Honshu where I live sees a LOT of snow. I can now totally understand why they spend weeks prepping up their precious trees and branches last month (see my yukitsuri post).

My little bus stop near Oyabe that I couldn't get to on Monday!

When I say it's been snowing I mean a proper DUMPING of snow to the point that I actually started to feel claustrophobic sitting in the school staff room because it had piled so high up against the windows and didn't seem intent on stopping. (at time of writing its stopped....but we're due another spurt tomorrow)

My huge Canadian 4 x 4's (snow boots) have even bent under the pressure and I've resorted to buying wellies, the only fail safe option when the snow is over the knees . No gritters in sight here.

Japanese "snow clearing" sprinkler systems

The Japanese have developed a very sophisticated snow clearing system for the roads here. As soon as it starts snowing these mini water sprinklers which are set in the middle of the road start spraying the road with warm ground water. Despite getting over a metre of snow these little things just about manage to clear the roads although leaving an unbelievable amount of slush. Wellies, you see now, are a must!

Railway tracks covered in snow but my train was STILL on time!

I've only been delayed twice since the snow arrived (once by 4 minutes) despite treacherous conditions, no-one has missed a minute of school and life continues as normal.

The downside is that the frequency of snow in Japan makes it less of a novelty and more of a nuisance so whilst the entire adult population back in the UK regressed to being kids again sledging, chucking snowballs and building snowmen the Japanese set out on little ant type missions equipped with snow shovels to clear the snow (sometimes as early as 2.45am, I can personally vouch for that....) and the kids get roped in to dig out the snow too, poor little devils!

NB Despite me thinking the Japanese handle the snow better than we English do, according to my friend from Canada (where it also snows heaps) they're half as efficient as the Canadians.
Well let me know what you think!

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