Plum trees blossoming in Kagawa Prefecture, temperatures topping 20 degrees in central Japan, stores selling spring clothing –– sounds like winter is finally over. Yet it is only one week before Christmas.
The recent mild temperatures and lack of snow, abnormal for this time of the year, are causing alarm at dozens of ski resorts and businesses profiting from cold weather across the country, with a vast number of ski resorts still remaining closed, according to Japanese media reports
“We pray for snow everyday,” says Yasuhisa Chigira, a staff at the Marunuma Kogen Ski Resort in Katashima, Gunma Prefecture.
With no significant snowfall this year, the resort was forced to lay down artificial snow, opening the season on Dec 4, two weeks later than last year, Sankei Shimbun reported. As temperatures are not falling below zero –– with a day's high of 8 degrees recorded Dec 15 –– many ski resorts in the area still remain closed, unable to produce the snow artificially.
The snow shortage problem extends even to Hokkaido, the Hokuriku and Tohoku regions, all usually known for heavy snowfall. As of Dec 17, 36 of the 54 major ski resorts throughout Hokkaido still remain closed or have suspended their services for the season. According to officials at Big Holiday, a travel agency organizing winter leisure tours, there have been huge numbers of reservations canceled for December.
The warm temperatures are also affecting the fuel businesses, as less people are buying heating oil in comparison to previous years. “Our revenue has dropped by over 20% compared to the same time last year,” a gas station owner in Niigata City says. ”We need snow, which brings more customers.”
The confusing weather has even prompted some department stores to speed up the displays of spring fashion by several months. The Seibu Ikebukuro department store in Tokyo’s Toshima ward, for example, has reported increased sales of light and colorful clothing –– a selection that in regular years begins in early spring –– in line with current trends among customers, an employee at the store’s women's clothing section said.
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the mild winter weather is due to the El Nino phenomenon which is at its peak now. El Nino is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific. Temperatures, however, are expected to drop from Friday.© Japan Today