Japan Snow latest record falls for Minakami, Yuzawa, more

Oh what a season! The amazing snow storm across Japan this week has delivered record 72 hour falls for several Niigata and Yamagata areas, including some of Snow Action’s all time favourites like Minakami and Yuzawa.

Snow clearing after record 72 hours snowstorm in Minakami, Gunma Japan
Hard to clear the roof when the snow is up above the level of the house .. © Enjoy-Minakami

The storm wreaked havoc, shutting down the Kan-Etsu Freeway across central Japan from Tokyo to Niigata with over 1,000 vehicles trapped earlier in the week. Police reports said the line of stuck vehicles extended for 16.5km.

Another 300 cars were trapped on the Joshinetsu Freeway linking Gunma, Niigata and Nagano.

Emergency crews do a great job, even helicoptering in port-a-loos for stranded truckies. When the big snow hits in Japan is when self-drive snow chasers start thinking maybe the rail pass would have been a better plan.

But you never know there either, some friends got caught when mega snow in Aomori Prefecture buried the approach to the tunnel to Hokkaido a few seasons back. Not wishing to miss out they got a car and diverted via the ferry.

Record snowfall this week at Gala Yuzawa, Niigata Japan
Gala Yuzawa scored over 180cm in 72 hours © Gala Yuzawa

Some of the 72 hours snowfall totals in Niigata, Yamagata and Gunma were epic this week, like 217cm for Minakami town – a local record. How much they got up on mighty Tenjindaira Tanigawadake is anyone’s guess.

Neighbouring Yuzawa had over 180cm in the same period. It looks like the epicentre of the storm hit the range that separates them with prodigous dumps on both sides.

So much snow, so few people around to enjoy it. Gala Yuzawa is actually Japan’s #1 ski resort for skier days, thanks to direct shinkansen access from Tokyo in 70 minutes. Elevators and lifts take you up from the platform to the gondola base. Everything you need is right there, from gear hire to ski schools.


Minakami Snow guide/instructor Adam Portland from Canyons.jp finding the car © Portland Family

It usually snows a lot in the Minakami area anyway – the selection of nearby resorts covers all tastes and levels. In the whole of Japan it’s hard to top Tenjindaira with it’s amazing alpine hiking higher and superb trees right off the lifts.

Local’s favourite Okutone is just out of town, a great go to on a socked in day with plenty of great tree runs without the exposure of Tenji. They run some crazy short lift shifts so workers can get in a session from 6am before work, and on weekends running till midnight peak season.

When you can get there do yourself a favour and get out with the Canyons.jp crew – founder Mike Harris has been skiing here for over 20 years.

For Minakami tourism info check their site here.

Most places have also got plenty from the storm systems, with epic conditions at Nozawa, Shiga, Hakuba, Madarao, Myoko, Geto and so many more in Honshu while Hokkaido has not missed out either.

There are just locals on hand to enjoy it all most places too after Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga suspended the Go To Travel Campaign, which heavily subsidised domestic travel as part of the country’s COVID-revival stimulus package.

Enjoy. Sob .. Roll on the vaccine roll outs!


An average season like 2019 still beats most places: with Adam at Okutone © Scott Bensley