The Financial Times rarely troubles itself with Japan’s hundred mountains. But last week, the pink pages celebrated Ibuki-san, Fukada Kyūya’s Hyakumeizan no. 89. Writing in the FT’s travel section, Nick Middleton, an Oxford University geographer, marked the anniversary of the world’s deepest-ever snowfall, which was recorded 90 years ago on the summit of this 1,377-metre mountain near Nagoya.
|Snowy Ibuki-san: woodprint by Hashiguchi Goyoh|
On 14 February 1927, the snow was already more than nine metres deep on Ibuki, when an “astonishing” 230 centimetres fell in 24 hours, bringing the total depth to 11.82 metres. Japanese meteorologists call these large mountain snowfalls “yamayuki” (mountain snows), notes Middleton. They occur when cold, dry air sweeping in from Siberia pick up heat and moisture on its way over the Sea of Japan. You get the drift.
Unsurprisingly, most of that snow falls on the mountains lining the Japan Sea coastline. Yet Ibuki sits as close to Japan’s sunny Pacific coastline as it does to the traditional “snow country”. This apparent anomaly might be resolved by a glance at the map below. It reveals a gap in the Japan Sea coastal range, through which those cold winter winds can blow through onto Ibuki. (There’s more detail on this blog.)
Some years ago, a mid-winter summit climb and camp by meizanologists Chris White and Wes Lang suggested that Ibuki-san still likes to defend her snowy reputation. (The female pronoun is surely justified, as Wes has since named his daughter for the mountain.) Readers who want to emulate their feat might want to hurry, though. Last December, Ibuki set a more ominous record. The first snow fell 22 days after the average date, the latest "hatsuyuki" ever seen on this mountain.
Financial Times, "A Geographer’s Notebook: the world’s biggest snowfall", 17 February 2017
Wes Lang, Tozan Tales, Ibuki – the search for beauty
Chris White, i-cjw blog, Mountain redeemed