Inside the Snowiest City in the World, Where an Average of 26 Feet of Snow Falls Every Year
This story originally appeared on ThisIsInsider.com.
Aomori City, Japan, is the snowiest city in the world, according to AccuWeather.
The coastal city located in the northern Japan prefecture, Aomori, — a prefecture in Japan is equivalent to a county in the US — sits between the Hakkōda Mountains and the edge of Mutsu Bay — which means it gets a ton of snow during the winter.
But the city and the surrounding area also find ways to celebrate the snow.
There are a number of festivals and beautiful snowy sights to see throughout the season.
From train delays to annual walks in the snow, here's a look at what life is like in the snowiest city in the world.
Construction on a seaport-turned-city began during early Edo period Japan, and was named Aomori City in 1624.
The city is now home to more than 279,000 people and is annually buried in the heaviest snowfall worldwide, according to AccuWeather.
Its location in the north of Japan — directly on the coastline — makes the city susceptible to snowfalls that are heavier than anywhere else in the world.
It gets so snowy here because it's nestled between the Hakkōda Mountains and the shores of Mutsu Bay.
The separate winds collide as they come off the mountains and the sea, creating a lot of clouds very quickly.
The precipitation that comes as a result of the clouds turns to snow instead of rain because of the cold winter temperatures — the high from December to February typically doesn't get warmer than 39 degrees.
The city gets an average of 26 feet — or eight meters — of snowfall every year, mostly between November and April.
That's 10 feet more than the runner-up, Sapporo, Japan, which gets an average of 16 feet of snowfall per year.
Driving in Aomori can sometimes feel like you're driving between glaciers.
Across Aomori, stretches of the national highway, the Hakkoda-Towada Gold Line, is shut down every winter. Before it reopens around April, a team of snowplows like the one below, bulldozers, and snow sweepers spend almost a month clearing an entire winters-worth of snow from the highway.
Because these plows are working through so much powder, they end up creating an epic snow corridor with walls sometimes 26 feet high.
The snow tunnel is so impressive that visitors come every year to walk roughly five miles — or eight kilometers — through the corridor along the Hakkoda-Towada Gold Line before the highway is reopened.
On more local roads and city streets, residents can either shovel and plow themselves or find a contractor to do the job for them.
Shoveling snow can feel like a never-ending cycle in Aomori. "Snow shoveling morning, noon, and night is only to be expected," reads Aomori Unearthed, a magazine produced by the city. "As much as I shovel, I can't keep up," a resident told author Anthony Rausch.
Some in Japan believe that shoveling or removing snow should be considered exercise rather than laborious work. For example, the Japan José Size Association provides precautions and best practices for turning snow removal into a workout, including warmups and how to shovel properly.
Some city sidewalks, however, are heated, keeping them relatively free of snow and ice. In 2002, the city installed a system of boreholes and electric heating pumps across a total of 7,100 square feet.
Even with all of the different snow removal systems, many city streets are still often covered in snow and slush during the winter. Local organizations recommend getting shoes with grips on the bottom for walking around during the season.
Streets in the surrounding area have even gotten so snowy during storms that people were forced to leave their cars on the highway.
Because of the smaller population size, the public transportation system in Aomori is less extensive as infrastructures in Tokyo and other larger cities.
To travel around the prefecture, you can hop on the Aomori Railway Train at the station in Aomori City.
Or if you want to take in the scenic view of the snowy countryside, you can travel nostalgically on a potbelly train — aptly named for the potbelly stove that heats up its passenger cars.
From Aomori City, you can take the Ou Line via the East Japan Railway Company to the Tsugaru Goshogawara station. There, you can board the old passenger train for a 12-mile novelty ride through one of the city's surrounding areas.
Passengers can sit right in front of the stove to keep warm, which needs to be poked and prodded to make sure it keeps burning.
Keeping the tracks clear is a constant chore that involves the work of both government-employed companies and independent volunteers — not to mention a little help from technology as well.
A sprinkler system using warm water keeps the Tokyo-to-Aomori Shinkansen – a high-speed train run by the East Japan Railway Company — on its tracks and the snow and ice at bay. The company told INSIDER it pumps water from local rivers through the system and then collects the water afterward to continue re-using it.
The East Japan Railway Company told INSIDER that their employees aren't allowed to enter the high-speed track area, but they do help out by scraping snow off the trains themselves.
While there's a chance you could be snowed in and stuck onboard your train, clearing train platforms and airport runways is a task that the area seems to have mastered. The nearby Aomori Airport, for example, has put together a snow-clearing team devoted to making sure the runways are safe for takeoff and landing.
The team is known as White Impulse. A 38-vehicle formation of snowplows, snowblowers, snow sweepers, anti-freeze sprayers, and other smaller vehicles are sent out at the same time, and the team clears the airport's runway, taxiway, and apron within 40 minutes at a time.
A team manager told the Japan Times that the removal process has been developed over decades, evolving as the needs of the planes and snow do.
Members of the team only work on White Impulse from November to March — the snowy months. In the off-season, many of them are reportedly farmers.
Aomori has been recognized for more than just its snowfall, though.
The region is a popular producer of sake, which might keep you warm. It's also known for cold-water seafood, and, once the snow melts, you can look forward to Japanese apples. The region has been referred to as "the Apple capital of Japan."
Toki is a hybrid variety of the fruit farmed in Aomori.
During the winter, Aomori is a popular tourist destination. People come from all over to visit the ski resorts.
There are also plenty of temples and castles to visit throughout the entire Aomori Prefecture.
If you can make it through the snow and into a restaurant, you may be able to try an internet-famous dish featuring a dancing cuttlefish. Yes, it flails it's tentacles all over the dish just as you're ready to eat it!
While it may seem pretty cruel to eat a still-moving animal, the fish isn't technically alive — the chef removes its brain during the preparation process.
The dance is more of a chemical reaction that the muscles are having to the soy sauce diners pour over them.
Aomori is also known for its scallops because of the surrounding frigid waters these mollusks live in. Scallop — or Hotate — curry with rice is a traditional dish.
At the first Tsukiji market fish auction of 2013, a bluefin tuna sold for a record-breaking $1.8 million — that's a great deal more than the 2012 highest bid, which set the all-time record at $646,000.
The 2013 massive, 489-pound fish came from Oma, Aomori — about a two-hour drive from Aomori City. The bluefin tuna that comes from Oma is said to be the best in the world.
People in Aomori have the chance to eat the outrageously expensive bluefin tuna at the annual Oma Super Tuna Festival in October.
Fishmongers carve and slice it up right in front of an audience and will dish it out for a relatively small cost.
As an agricultural area, Aomori has always put an emphasis on both fishing and farming.
Rice paddy art combines the city's emphasis on agriculture and love of art into something everyone can experience.
Rice farmers started making painting-like images in the paddies by planting different color rice plants in certain areas — think of it as a paint-by-numbers exercise.
From June to October, you can even go on a tour and see all the season's art on display. Some are more traditional in their image, while others celebrate pop culture.
While the summer in Aomori promises festivals like the colorful Aomori Nebuta Festival, the winter has its fair share of events as well.
There's even the Hirosaki Castle Yuki-Doro Festival, which brings people to the castle to walk through a display of lights and lanterns made out of snow.
Different local artists build their own rendition of a snow lantern for the festival, which gives all the visitors many different pieces of art to look at.
Festivals and snow artists can make everything seem like a beautiful wonderland, but the landscape and nature can also do that all by itself.
Winter in the city and surrounding areas can be extremely harsh, but those harsh conditions can also make for some pretty stunning photo ops. Just look at this rime ice — the thickening layer of ice that's a result of fast-freezing moisture coming off of an object — on the trees.
There are also trees all along the nearby Hakkoda mountains that get buried in snow and ice throughout the winter that have come to be known as "silver frost sculptures" or "snow monsters."
This phenomenon gets its name from the snow-covered trees' eery shapes, and it's a popular tourist attraction in Northern Japan.
Visitors can take a cable car up the mountain and either ski or snowboard down, or take a walking tour through the giant, white, monster-looking snow-mounds.
While it's clear the snow can definitely be a pain when it comes to every-day life, it also makes for a beautiful and unique natural landscape.