November 15, 2005

Snow Country


"The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The earth lay white under the night sky."

So begins the novel Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. This 2004 satellite photograph vividly illustrates its location. At this latitude, Japan's "snow country" experiences the world's heaviest snowfall (as illustrated here). Where the Japan Alps cross central Honshu island, you can even make out the ridgelines separating the southern slopes facing the Kanto Plain and the warm Pacific from the northern slopes facing Siberia across the Japan Sea.

The scattered black dots are lakes. The big gray splotch at center right is Tokyo. West of Tokyo is Nagoya, and a short hop further west from Nagoya is Osaka. At the very top right is the island of Hokkaido. Halfway between Tokyo and Hokkaido is the city of Sendai.

To provide some geographical context, Tokyo is a tad south of Greensboro, North Carolina. Sendai is the same latitude as Washington, D.C. and Hokkaido shares the same latitudes as Minnesota. The mountains in northern Honshu are not as high as in central Honshu, so what is known as the Tohoku ("northeast") reigion is more directly exposed to those cold Siberian winds.

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