The Frozen Snow Monsters Of Japan's Winter | CoolJapan

 Zao Snow Monsters

The famed Zao Snow Monsters attract visitors from all over the world every year. (Photo from: Pixabay)

Much of Japan transforms into a snowy wonderland in winter, especially the northern region of Tohoku. This is where Mother Nature puts on its best show in winter!

Stunning snowy landscapes are everywhere but for a real visual treat, head over to Mount Zao situated along the border of Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures. This active volcanic mountain range is lushly blanketed with snow during the winter months and is a highly popular destination for avid ski enthusiasts. The pristine powder slopes are also home to one of the world’s most incredible natural phenomenon — the Zao Snow Monsters.

Winter Creatures Of Snow and Ice

 Zao Snow Monsters at night

Snow monsters marching in the night (Photo from: Koichi Hayakawa/CC BY-SA 2.0)

From afar, the slopes of Mount Zao look like they have been invaded by big scary monsters covered in snow. These snow monsters, also known as Juhyo, are what attract throngs of tourists from around the country and even overseas!

The winter conditions on the mountain slopes are quite unique. Icy winds from Siberia travel across the North Japan sea and blow over huge fir trees located on Mount Zao. These freezing winds of snow and ice coat the fir trees like sugar icing. Over time, the frost builds up and transforms the trees into hulking shapes that resemble gnarly monsters.

This rare natural phenomenon occurs on the top of Mount Zao every winter and is a magnificent sight to behold.

Best Ways To See The Juhyo Snow Monsters

The adventurous type would definitely seek pleasure in snow trekking their way up and getting up close to the snow monsters. You can hire a guide from the Zao Onsen resort, rent some snowshoes and trudge among the frozen giants to your heart’s fancy. Away from the busy slopes of photo-taking tourists, you can imagine you are hiding in a fantasy world. It truly is a once in a lifetime experience!

 Juhyo Snow Monster Tour

Trek up the mountains to get near the Zao snow monsters. (Photo from: yuukokukirei/CC BY 3.0)

Another option (our favourite one) to enjoy nature’s winter creation in close proximity is to take a cosy ride in colossal snowmobiles. From Sumikawa Snow Park located in Miyagi Prefecture, you can hop on the Juhyo Snow Monster Tour (from JPY5,300). The lumbering snowcat will take you on a scenic ascent up to the snow monster field, where you will have plenty of time to admire and play amongst the frost-covered trees.

For those who do not fancy battling the harsh winter elements, the Zao Ropeway is a great option to view Japan’s snow monsters. It is the only ropeway in the area where you can get an aerial view of the Juhyos in the comfort of a cable car. From Zao Sanroku Station, take a short scenic ride to Jizo Sancho Station. At 1,661m elevation, the peak offers a dazzling view of the white frost fields.

 Zao Ropeway

The Zao Ropeway also transports skiers and snowboarders to the top of the mountain (Photo from: E-190/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Don’t forget to check out Jizo Sancho Station’s rooftop viewing deck for some amazing vacation pictures. If you have the chance, go for a night cable car ride. The forest gets illuminated in coloured lights and the scene looks straight out from a magical fairytale.

If you are heading to the famed Zao Onsen Ski Resort for some winter activities, you can also experience the enchanting night lights at the much-anticipated annual Zao Snow Monster Festival. They have swanky new heated snow tractors, aptly named the Nightcruiser, that will take you on a special tour of the Zao mountain slopes to soak in the beauty of the illuminated snow monsters.

The Zao snow monsters is a masterpiece of nature but all good things come to an end eventually. Head over to Mount Zao to catch a glimpse of these spectacular winter apparitions before they disappear again with the first thaw of spring!