Snow monsters in Japan
ON FIRST impression, Zao Onsen looks like a fairly typical Japanese ski resort but, when you start exploring, you realise there’s so much more to this mountain settlement.
Zao Onsen (www.jnto.go.jp) in central Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture, a short drive from Yamagata City, is not only one of the country’s biggest ski resorts but also one of its oldest.
The resort has grown around a traditional Japanese village, where you can stay in ryokans and soak in thermal pools.
But Zao is unique for another reason – and that is its famed snow monsters.
Because of geography and weather patterns, the snow that falls on Zao’s 305ha is bone dry. On the very top of Mt Jinzo, the resort’s highest spot, evergreen trees are covered in a thick layer of white that clings to the branches, making them took like an alien army marching across the peak.