Yukiguni, which translates as Snow Country, is a place where the climate and environment play a very large role, and has shaped the culture of the region.
The Yukiguni region, named after the heavy snows, lies along the 37th parallel north which is also home to California, Sicily, Portugal, and Seoul. None of these are areas that can boast similar climates. One of the strangest aspects in Yukiguni is that it has a mix of climates.
The heavy winter snows are brought by the cold Siberian winds coming across the Sea of Japan and collecting moisture, which they then deposit as snow when they hit the mountains of the Snow Country Region. This weather pattern is linked to the Tsushima current which brings warm water into the Sea of Japan . It is believed that this has been flowing in this way for over 8,000 years so it is safe to assume that the Jomon era peoples living in the Yukiguni region experienced the same heavy snows. Many marvel at their ability to survive but the climate here was relatively easy living. There was lots of snow but it wasn’t too cold as in many more northern latitudes. In fact there were benefits to the snow, for example animals were much easier to hunt as they left prints that were easy to follow. The winters were followed by the abundance of nature in the other seasons.
Yukiguni produces the famous Koshihikari brand rice that is highly regarded all over the country. If you think of rice growing regions around the world you tend to think of warm Asian countries rather than areas of heavy snow. This snow melts to provide abundant water, and then the Asian monsoon pattern provides the hot summer that the rice needs. It is also said that the snow falling through the air acts as a kind of filter, making the area in the region so clean.
It is a strange blend of weather patterns but makes for distinct seasons, each of which has their own characteristics, and gives the pattern of life here a very set cycle.
This mix has led to a variety in the flora and fauna of the region. Yukiguni is the southernmost point of where beech trees will grow in Japan. Where you find beech trees, you also find bears. The variety of trees were also put to good use with different trees being used for different tasks appropriate to their natures. Beech used to be farmed for firewood in a cycle lasting around 15 years. The trees on the slopes were often bent by the weight of the snow, and these timbers were highly prized in building. Should you see beams with this distinctive shape it is a good chance that they originally came from Yukiguni.