The sheltering effect of Sado Island on wind waves off Niigata city’s coast is the reason why the capital city was built where it was. Typically, Niigata city gets about twice as much snow as Tokyo does annually. The winter of 2020 was no different, but in the first weeks of January 2021, we have seen once in decade snowfall. In normal years the coastline is free of snow, but 10 - 15 kilometers inland is Snow Country Niigata, and anywhere you can view Sado Island from the mainland typically means rain. On the coastline that experiences the Sado Island Sheltering effect in Niigata, you will find plants such as the Paperlant (Fatsia Japonica), which grows in regions with little or no snow and are indigenous to Southern Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, and other plants such as the green tea plant and various others, these species of plant life will not survive in harsh snow country. Still, they thrive in the Niigata region facing Sado Island.
Whooper Swans migrate by the tens of thousands to Niigata each winter due to the region's abundance of feeding grounds and safe roosting sites that several generations of swans have migrated to for hundreds of years. On any given day during the winter, you can find them in the rice fields, especially near the coastline, where the Whooper Swans, too, benefit from Sado Island’s sheltering effect. Due to snowfall, there is a period of about 1 - 2 weeks where the swans are in short supply of food; gracefully, the Whopper Swans are a hearty bird and usually feed in winter a couple of days per week or less and can easily go a week or more without food, and spend their days sleeping on frozen ponds as you see in the image below.
My village in Niigata, Japan, generally enjoys the highest percentage of the Sheltering effect from Sado Island since the Sado is directly facing us 32km out to sea. Typically, it rains in the winter, with little to no snow, as mentioned earlier. But the past couple of weeks, we got a strong low-pressure system that slammed us into Niigata Snow country. The image of my 100-year-old traditional Japanese home in Nigata below may look like a lot of snow to some. Still, I’m used to it because of where I was born in Canada, in the polar bear capital of the world region, and I am local of Niigata, Hokkaido, where I have been leading winter wonderland Hokkaido photography tours for over 20 years, so snow and blizzard conditions are nothing new to me. In my part of Niigata, it makes no sense to own a gas-powered snowblower, so all the snow removal at home is done by hand with a shovel in hand, and happily, for my family me, and our community, the main roads are cleared by snow removal graders. After the most recent snowfall, after clearing my driveway, I took a drive around our hamlet where we reside for about half the year to enjoy photographing Azure-winged Magpies, Whooper Swans, and other wildlife and winter wonderland landscapes in my region. This is the one winter out of 20 that I won’t be in Hokkaido, due to social distancing. But lucky me, I stayed in Niigata, and I am happy to experience a once in decade snowstorm. I’m enjoying my first Seaside Niigata Snow Country experience. I think I will go outside now and build a snowman. Namaste, Blain in Japan.