There are a lot of interesting facts about Tokamachi, particularly related to the amount of snow in the region. Brush up on some trivia and impress your friends during your visit!
Tokamachi is known for the large amounts of snow it gets during winter. In order to make snow removal easier, there are pipes that run under the roads that are connected to thousands of sprinklers up top. The water stays on constantly and essentially melts the snow when it hits the ground, so cars can easily drive in this area. Many outsiders are bewildered that the roads don’t turn into one huge ice rink – this is because it rarely goes below freezing in Tokamachi! The next time you come to see us, take note of the unique, reddish-colored roads.
When you come to downtown Tokamachi, you’ll notice many of the main sidewalks are covered by roofs. These convenient walkways allow for safe foot traffic no matter what kind of weather. Don’t be surprised if you hear residents shoveling the sidewalk roofs above you! They push the snow down to the grates on the road next to the sidewalks and the snow is whisked away into the snow gutters below. So feel free to put your umbrella down and browse our downtown area with ease.
Speaking of, have you seen the grates along the edges of the roads? After the residents of Tokamachi have shoveled the snow off their roofs, they can’t just leave the snow piles laying around. The second step to proper rooftop snow removal are the snow gutters. The massive amounts of snow are dumped into these gutters under the roads and eventually melt and travel down to the Shinano River.
Throughout our city you may see red, yellow, and white poles sticking up from the ground. They don’t necessarily stick out much, but you might wonder what they are for! Like most “unusual” sights in Tokamachi, these poles have a purpose and it is indeed involving snowfall. These tall poles mark where the roads are and serve as a sort of caution to snow removal vehicles where the curbs start and the roads end, so they know where exactly to remove the snow from. They also let residents know where the roads are too.
During winter or late autumn, you may notice many of the statues, trees, and other shrubbery around the city are covered with planks of wood or tarps. This is done to protect the structures from the massive snowfall in winter. Rather than let our poor smaller trees or statue suffer damage from being blanketed in snow for three months, it is simply easier and more cost-efficient to protect them proactively. Take special note of some statues within shrines and temples in the area that look like they are wearing winter gear!
Have you noticed many of the rooftops on the homes in Tokamachi are slanted? Or some standalone garages have domed roofs? This is all for easier snow removal. The snow becomes so heavy in weight in Tokamachi. With the slanted roofs, residents can climb up and scoop the snow down to the ground with much less hassle. Some rooftops are even slanted enough that residents don’t even need to climb up, because gravity takes care of rooftop snow removal on its own. Some roofs also have heating elements that melt the snow using kerosene.
If you go up to the mountains, or even some of the hills in Tokamachi, take a look at the trunks of the beech trees. Some of them are curved at the base from the sheer amount of snow they are covered in during the winter. The weight of the snow slowly bends the tree trunks over years, resulting in the curved trunks you see now. Beech is especially flexible and more prone to the bending.