Winter In The Land of the Rising Sun

If you’re one of those people who enjoys the beauty of winter scenery, you probably couldn’t find a better travel destination than Shirakawa-go, a small village nestled in the mountains of Japan that happens to be one of the snowiest places on Earth. From The Smithsonian:

The picturesque mountain village of Shirakawa-go — which literally translates as “White River Village” — has recorded an average of 415 inches (that’s about 35 feet) of snowfall every year, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. The town has become famous for its winter nighttime illuminations of its historic houses covered in snow.

The UNESCO World Heritage village developed in relative isolation, as it’s surrounded by mountains on all sides.

Because of its solitary location, inhabitants developed a unique style of architecture that still exists in 114 huts.

The thatched-roof huts were specifically designed to withstand heavy amounts of snowfall and some date back more than 250 years.

Just seeing the pictures makes me yearn for a plane ticket and a mug of hot chocolate.

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15 comments to Winter In The Land of the Rising Sun

  • Scott M.

    Looks like gingerbread.The show “Nature” last week was about the Japanese Snow Monkeys.Boy were they humanlike.

  • Rufus

    Great photos! I’d love to visit.

  • Rufus

    Almost every time I read an item by a journalist who has to reference math or science they get simple, basic stuff wrong. It is seriously disconcerting. One wonders about the rigor of their education beyond language arts.

    “… has recorded an average of 415 inches (that’s about 35 feet) of snowfall every year…”

    I’m not sure what the writer meant to convey (my guess is he or she also did not know what he or she meant to convey), but that phrase is meaningless.

    There’s no point in mentioning an average if we don’t know the range it’s measured under. It snowed in the Sahara Desert last week. If I use that one week as my range it’s snowier in the Sahara than Antarctica. Is this an average over the past decade? Century? Since humans have been keeping records in the area? The stat the non-STEM familiar writer is referencing likely comes from the latter (but who knows), but let’s go with that.

    To make the math simple let’s assume the locals have records for 100 years. That means 50 years could register 830 inches of snowfall and 50 years could register none and the average would still be 415 inches but 50% of winters you’d encounter a non-snowy village. There could have been 1, bizarro, freakish year of 41,500 inches of snowfall and 99 years of no snowfall. In other words, it could be one of the least snowy places on Earth but for one, freakish year and the average would still be 415 inches a year. You can vacation in that place every year for 99 years hoping to find a winter wonderland and be shut out every time.

    Since the author is writing about it being a great location on the planet for winter scenery it’s a good guess he or she meant to convey the village gets a lot of snow most years. Someone who matriculated through a 3rd grade math class would know the phrase does not convey that and would, instead, write something like: “… most winters the village gets over 400 inches of snowfall…” Or, if the word “every” is taken from a meteorological stat the author does not fully understand, but indicates the village gets some amount of snow every year, how about: “… for as long as humans have kept records in the Village winters have been snowy, averaging more than 400 inches of snowfall through the ages…”

    • Rufus

      What’s really scary about this is what Michael Crichton called, “The Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect.”

      (from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2011/08/the-murray-gell-mann-amnesia-effect/)

      Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

      Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

      In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

      That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

      But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

  • jonathan harris

    Rufus, calm down. Ski resorts are always measured and rated by average annual snowfalls, usually measured in inches or metres. It makes sense to everyone it seems, except for you. Now just settle down and take another valium.

    • Rufus

      “Average annual snowfall” is a phrasing that makes sense. It does not mean the same thing as, “has recorded an average of 415 inches of snowfall every year.”

      Explain, “every year” in that phraseology. Does it snow every year? Does it snow exactly 415 inches every year? Does snowfall average 415 inches every year? If it averages 415 inches every year, what happens if next year it snows 416 inches? It’s no longer “every” year.

    • Rufus

      Jonathan,

      Try it this way:

      The average height of the students in Miss Jones’ classroom is 65 inches.

      The average height of every student in Miss Jones’ classroom is 65 inches.

  • kishke

    Pics are beautiful. You’re more likely to get a mug of hot sake than hot chocolate.

  • jonathan harris

    Rufus, would you be happy if they removed the ‘every year’ bit?

  • Magnus Caseus Formatis

    Over a span of 59 years, 1,729 feet of snow would have fallen. Over a span of 100 years, 17,290 feet of snow would have fallen. Almost 3 miles. Where do you suppose they put it all?