Snow can be cruel, Snow in Tokyo


It’s snowed in Tokyo.

It’s snowed a lot in Tokyo.

It’s snowed a lot in Tokyo for two ¬†weekends in a row.

It sucked.

Tokyo is located in a sub-tropical climate, which is defined as a climate with “hot and humid summers and cool winters where cold is seldom seen.” So basically, the fact that the city has gotten, like, 30+ centimeters of snow in two weeks is some rich motherfucking bullshit. (Although, despite my anxiety and paranoia about climate change, such storms are not entirely unheard of, and should only become something to fret about if they become the new normal here.)


Tokyo is ill-suited to deal with winter storms, which makes sense. The city typically only gets about 11 cm of snow a year, which is a third of what it’s gotten in a month this year. With such a deluge of icy hell, I’m surprised it hasn’t just devolved into widespread anarchy on the street. Actually, maybe it would if people knew how to walk in the snow here.

You see, when I say that Tokyo is ill-suited to deal with extreme winter weather, I mean that in every way you could possibly imagine. I don’t just mean the city doesn’t own salt trucks or plows, I mean the people don’t own shovels or ice scrapers. They look at a substantial accumulation of snow the same way a small child reacts to seeing Santa for the first time – with a combination of awe, fear and confusion.


On more than one occasion, I’ve seen a Tokyoite run on the snow only to slip and fall, and then be surprised at the fact that heavy snow is a little slippery. Of course, that’s nothing to the number of…let’s just say…innovative ways I’ve seen various people try to remove snow for the sidewalks in lieu of winter shovels. These include garden shovels, trowels, rakes, plywood boards, dustpans, indoor brooms, trashcan lids and (my personal favorite) spraying the sidewalk with water to make the snow go away.

I want you to think about that last one for a second.


As bad as the snow was two weeks ago (something like a 40 year record) the storm we had last week was even worse. Although it didn’t snow as much, about halfway through the 12+ hour downpour, it slowly got warmer and the snow turned to sleet, and then rain. That meant that the roads and sidewalks were all completely covered with a thick, disgusting layer of icy, messy slushy sludgy hell.

And you know what’s worse than having to walk in a slushy mess? Having to work in a slushy mess while wearing a suit and dress shoes. The bottom of my street was basically one giant puddle, a freezing cold, ankle-deep puddle. I thought my feet were going to fall off by the time I made it to work. And, of course, nearly half of my clients cancelled because of the weather, so my insane commute was mostly for naught in the first place (at least I got paid).

Although these past two weeks have been hell on the roads, the sidewalks, and my poor feet, I will say that I am at least a little glad that I got to see it. Because Tokyo sure looks beautiful in the snow. And the beauty is made even more impressive by the number of incredible snow sculptures that the people of Tokyo made during both storms. For a people who don’t see snow a lot, they sure know how to make the most of it.


I saw more snowmen the day after that first storm than I think I ever have in my entire life. Funnily, Japanese snowpeople are only two snowballs tall, as opposed to us westerners and our giant three snowball people. I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but it sure made them cuter.


They weren’t always smaller though, this nearly went up to my neck, and since I’m about 2 meters (6’6″) that’s pretty damned impressive. But, Japan being Japan, most people here focused on making their snow creations as small and adorable as possible.



There were a few scary ones out there though…



I’m glad I didn’t see that in the middle of the night.




From now on, when people ask me “What’s the weirdest thing about Japan?” I’m just going to show them that picture and give no explanation.

Snow in Tokyo, when it happens it’s a mess, but at least it’s never boring.

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