9 January 2022

Juhyo: The Snow Monsters of Japan

There are monsters, high in the Japanese mountains of the country’s northeastern region of Tohoku.  A few miles outside of Yamagata city the mountains rise and as the seasons turn and autumn becomes a memory, the monsters appear.  Winter isn’t coming here; it’s well and truly arrived.

Their shapes are not uniform. The imagination can truly take flight when considering what might lie beneath the snow. Is that a dragon? Is that a troll? Is that Sulley and Mike from Monsters Inc over there?

In Japanese they are known as Juhyo (樹氷) and it is easy to see why folklore sprang up around these ghostly figures.  Sometimes they are alone yet at others they become an army.  Are they standing guard or preparing an invasion of some kind?  This is not the only place these monsters appear; in a number of Japanese mountain ranges, Juhyo make their annual appearance like an army of ghosts.  Yet these snow monsters, for all their foreboding appearance, have a secret, simple to guess.

These wraiths are in fact (and of course) fir trees, buried under the snow due to some extremely harsh weather systems.  The Siberian jet stream is responsible for these conditions and when it blows the trees on the upper peaks are exposed to heavy snow which collects on their branches and leaves.  Eventually entire forests disappear under this uneven blanket and are frozen in to the forms you can see here.

樹氷/Snow Monster
樹氷 - Ice Monsters
Icetrolls 樹氷
Quite the view
樹氷 (Snow at Zao Park, Japan)
Small runs of Zao
11570012 樹氷 _ Frost-covered trees
snow monsters