Monday, 31 January 2011

Child throwing in the snow

Snow-blowing the pavements and delivering the newspapers

The snow has been falling constantly for many days now, reaching intimidating 'end of the world' quantities - and what if it never stops? It is forecast for the next week too. Snow is piled up to the first stories now, and becoming too heavy for many roofs, so everywhere there are old people risking life and limb cutting big slabs from high up on their roofs. I'd like to help, but I know from past experience that an offer of help can be taken as doubting the ability to cope and an insult to proud and very capable people, however old they are. In fact the lady at the shop said it is shovelling snow through the winter that gives Aizu people their tough spirit. She is probably right.

There is a 2 metre hat of snow on everything, in this case a rice husking kiosk

So what would it be like trying to get about without the huge effort and resources put into clearing it? Having tested it today in what used to be the garden I can report that walking through a patch of virgin snow is....well, interesting. You sink into deep powder up to the crotch, which makes for hard work. Walking is possible, but not probable. Even snow shoes don't keep you on top of this stuff - I tried and sank in 30cm, which is still hard work.  If you were properly snowed in, you had better have a full season's worth of provisions. This probably explains Aizu people's love of all things dried and pickled and their cheerful 'We're all in this together' attitude.

How many times have I got to tell you? Not the face!

I have also conducted child throwing experiments. If you throw a medium-sized child into the air they sink a couple feet down into the very soft snow, which is satisfying both for child and thrower. These results may not be reproducible, and even then, as Hume pointed out during a particularly white Scottish Christmas, "There is no reason to suppose that the causal link we perceive between throwing the child and it sinking into the snow will always occur in the future." Perhaps tomorrow he will float off into the sky, then boy won't I be embarrassed about my reliance on instinctive inductive inferences.  

My son and I make inroads into the piled snow with our daily snowball fights. Ordinarily useless at ball games, my aim is getting better which should help in the unlikely event that I choose to add baseball onto my list of Japan-specific activities. The snow might have been specially engineered for snowballing perfection (no Dawkins, I don't mean it literally) - to grasp it is to have a sticky wodge ideal for chucking in quick-fire succession. It's just as cold down your neck and in your ear though. However, I have concluded that snowballing is about as efficient at re-distributing snow as the 'trickle down' theory is at wealth re-distribution. You still end up with a big pile in the same place.


  1. What a fun experiments! I loved walking in the snowy hill near my house in Mishima. Those very soft snow will be hard one when spring comes, and you might be able to walk the surface. It will be much fun!

  2. Yes, if you can think of any more snow experiments, let me know (as long as they don't involve risk of death!). I will certainly be snow-shoeing later. We have had some hard night frosts the last few days, so now the problem is ice, and avalanche risk from the sunshine in the daytime. The Kawaguchi pavements are completely iced, so it is very hard to stay on your feet - I don't know how the older folk manage. How is it where you are?