Snow Monsters- They`re Real. Zao, Japan.

Every now and again, I claim my maternal right to say the following words,

“I want to go, so you`re all going.”

Spouse is usually more than happy to comply whereas the Offspring will catapult feeble arguments in retaliation to my proclamation followed by flaming insults toward the location of my choosing. This backlash usually fortifies my resolve that some time away would be good for the hostiles.

The location eliciting the firestorm of burning barbs of criticism was Zao, Japan, located in the Yamagata prefecture. (West of the famed Fukushima)

Ed`s Photos Of Japan

The hook attached to my lip was the Snow Monsters- Juhyo in Japanese.

These monstrosities only appear during the month of February due to weather conditions blowing in from the ocean making the snow wet and heavy. This gluey, goopy snow sticks to the trees at the highest elevations enveloping them from top to bottom transforming in to giant snow monsters bowing over to grab skiers flying by.

On Wednesday before our Friday departure, Spouse threw the work card and Offspring #2 claimed pressing social engagements – a dance and a sleep over leaving just Offspring #1 and me. Although the snowboarding was heralded as more cellar than stellar, he would snowboard on a 3% incline and a dusting of snow. Even the looming “threat” of Fukushima couldn`t keep us away. I get more radiation from my super sonic frizz fixing hairdryer.

OS#1 and I arrived at our hotel located at the base of the lift to the Snow Monsters. Based on our reception, Zao is not a frequent haunt of Western tourists.The man at the front desk greeted me as we walked through the door. “Konbawa Ouisar-san!”

It was late so he advised that we go to dinner before viewing the snow monsters. Presented in Japanese style, it was served in one room with all guests eating a set menu.

“Konbawa Ouisar-san” The hotel staff were all greeting by name- on sight. This was to become a pattern wherever we went as news of our Western presence became known. We were famous for a weekend.

The first course arrived-

We were thrilled with our dinner. OS#1 and I had never eaten uni (Sea urchin) out of the shell. Possibly over exuberant, and potentially louder than the other patrons- taking pictures etc., all the other diners turned to watch us “enjoying” our dining experience. They must eat uni out of the shell every night.

As soon as was polite, we charged out to the lift.

During the month of February, a lift takes walkers, skiers and snowboarders up to the Snow Monsters where all are allowed to view during the day and night.

The weather was bad the two nights of our visit which did not provide good picture-taking opportunities. However, I highly recommend this location for a horror movie or desolate winter scene to all of the famous movie producers reading this blog as it is truly one of the spookiest places I`ve ever seen.

Antarctica must be tropical in comparison.

I was not posing for this picture, I was frozen mid stride. OS#1 had to chisel my pants at the knees so I could walk back inside.

The next day was beautiful.

We found this Buddha who had been hidden the night before. When not snow-covered, he sits in lotus position flanked by 4 other Buddhas. The wind has blown his nose to the side of his face.

The exposed part is about 5 feet tall.

The skiing trail through the snow monsters is behind OS#1. The gondola taking skiers and walkers can be seen in the background over the snow monsters.

No matter how many times I threw objects of varying sizes at the tree, it would not dump its snow on OS#1. Very disappointing.

OS#1 kept saying “Mom- you stink!” to which denial is the only appropriate response no matter the situation. We soon discovered the source.

A scenic, yet odiforous onsen. Rumor has it that its strong smell indicates superior healing qualities. Zao is equally famous for the beautiful onsens.

Of all the places I`ve visited in Japan, this is on my Top 5 list. Many of you know that I`ve been whining that my new camera was among the Top 5 worst purchases I`ve made – highlighted by the pictures above. However, a wonderful article accompanied by stunning shots of Zao and the Snow Monsters was written by Lisa Jardine and Hilary Wendel for Please get all the details for travel and see the Snow Monsters in all their glory below.

Read “Japan`s Weirdest Snowscape: The Monsters of Zao” Lisa Jardine Here

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35 Responses to Snow Monsters- They`re Real. Zao, Japan.

  1. Wow Emily, what amazing things, never seen anything quite like that! How lucky you are to have seen them, the rest of the family really missed out on something spectacular.


  2. These images are so cool. What a fabulous adventure.


  3. Jeeper, creepers–that has got to be one of the most surreal places I have ever seen. Plus, I can’t imagine eating sea urchin. What does it taste like?
    Stay warm, my friend.


    • It was really a creep place at night. Even during the day it was just the strangest place I`ve ever seen. The sea urchin I`ve had in the US was just AWFUL. Smells bad and tastes worse. Here it is much better- probably because it`s much fresher. That said, it`s not really fishy tasting, kind of a thick slimy texture. Not something I`d serve a picky eater…..


  4. Mia Parker says:

    No Doubt, Emily-san, this definitely has to be one of THE coolest things I’ve ever seen, too (via the internet, unfortunately, instead of experiencing these REAL natural wonders for myself!) — thanks for sharing!!! ~ Momma Mia-san


  5. Rachael says:

    Awesome pictures! I hope one day to travel outside the US especially to Japan. I just need to get my husband on board. I am trying to learn Japanese but lately I haven’t had the motivation to study. It comes and goes. Did you know some Japanese before moving?


    • Thanks Rachael! It`s hard to study a language especially when you`re not speaking it on a daily basis. I didn`t speak any before we moved. I`ve been here for about 20 months and I speak rudimentary Japanese. I`m pretty good in certain situations but can`t carry on a casual conversation. They say it takes 4 years of daily classes to become conversational. I get trying! Thanks for stopping in!


  6. Devon says:

    Beautiful photos. Great story as “per usual”. Your family is on the most amazing adventure! Xxoo from Maui for spring break.


  7. megalagom says:

    Amazing!! Thank you for sharing!


  8. Really cool. I’ve lived through my share of snow and snowstorms, but I’ve never seen anything like that. What a great find!


  9. Cynthia says:

    I never want your blogs to end


  10. staff says:

    Beautiful photos. Don’t have snow monsters down here in Hiroshima. Got wild boars, and lots of mud from the late winter rains. I suppose if a boar was to slip and get covered in mud . . . no, the snow monsters are definitely better. Thanks for the pictures.


  11. Jackie Cangro says:

    They kind of remind me of the abominable snowman from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. 🙂
    What an amazing sight. They look like they are ready to charge up the mountain in that photo with OS#1.


  12. Wow, wow, wow! Snow monsters, scenes for a horror movie, now we’re talking! 🙂
    Seriously, what an amazing scenery, love it!


  13. Tar-Buns says:

    Those are cool! I never got to see them when I was in Japan. Glad you shared the adventure with your readers! How long will you stay in Japan – any idea? Gonbatte’!


  14. Lu says:

    Wow – snowy zombie-like monsters – total horror flick setting! The night-time photos are absolutely the most convincing. In daylight they look far too tame 🙂


    • There was one tree in particular I wish I had taken a picture of- it had a big head and two arms reaching down over the trail. BUT- the trail was so flat by the time we got to the spot I was so exhausted I was too tired to set up the picture and just wanted to get to a point where I could snowboard! Should have done it….


  15. Amazing! I’m wondering if those monsters all hide trees – or whether some humans got stuck there in mid-stride? Could happen . . .


  16. The Nose says:

    I loved the photos in the last two blogs!! So glad ya’ll are getting out and having fun! I can’t wait to come back! Catherine loved the baby snow monkey and Kamil the one showing his butt (of course)


  17. Pingback: Friday Five – The Wanderlust Edition | Jacquelin Cangro

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