SAPPORO: Concerns are growing for tourism in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, due to serious snow shortages in the northernmost Japan prefecture this year.
Some ski resorts have yet to open, while organizers of the annual Sapporo Snow Festival are struggling to gather enough snow.
"I've never experienced a shortage of snow as serious as this year," a city official in charge of the festival said. The festival is scheduled to start on Jan. 31 next year.
The cumulative amount of snowfall in central Sapporo as of Friday night stood at some 80 centimeters, around 60 pct of the normal level, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. On Saturday morning, the amount of snowfall stood at some 15 centimeters, the agency said.
The atmospheric pressure is not typical of winter patterns that cause snowfalls. In addition, recent average temperatures have been some 3 degrees Celsius higher than in normal years, melting snow quickly.
In normal years, 3,000 dump trucks of snow are gathered from locations in and near Sapporo for the festival. This year, however, organizers are looking elsewhere as well due to the shortfall, city officials said.
As of Saturday morning, two of the city's six ski resorts are not open. Three of the four resorts that are open make some ski courses unavailable or limit their use to children sledding.
A Mount Moiwa resort ski school is holding lessons at another resort. "Such a thing has not happened in the school's history. It's an unusual situation," said a school official.
The agency forecasts that a cold wave will arrive in Hokkaido as early as Tuesday. City officials are hoping to see a great amount of snowfall in the year-end and New Year holiday period.