Visitors walk before illuminated "Juhyo," trees covered with frozen snow, during a night event at the Zao hot springs ski resort in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. Also called "snow monsters," the Juhyo phenomenon happens when small particles of crystallized ice and snow strike coniferous trees under the strong winter winds. File Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE
Feb 21 -- At an elevation of more than 6,000 feet near the top of a volcano exists a land of snow monsters, a mountainside that is home to fleeting figures that come each winter and then fade along with the cold weather as spring approaches.
It might sound like material for a scary children's book, but these monsters are nothing to fear -- they're just one of nature's quirky and unique creations that materialize in wintertime.
On the summit of the volcanic Mount Zao in Japan, about 220 miles north of Tokyo, an unusual natural phenomenon gives birth to snowy, monster-like figures every year.
The strange occurrence, which the Japanese call "Juhyo," leads to the creation of thousands of "snow monsters" that rest on the mountain during the winter.
Those who come to see the monsters can safely walk near them, ski or snowboard alongside the creatures, or view them from the comfort of a cable car while enjoying stunning views of Japan.
The snow monsters can look even cooler at night, as some of the monsters are illuminated in a variety of flashy colors. Drone footage captured recently from above shows a frozen sea of snow monsters festooning the mountainside.
According to reporting from The Atlantic, the seemingly mystical occurrence can be explained by the unique mechanics of a few different weather conditions that all come together in just the right way.
The snow monsters are created through the repeated process of high winds blowing snow onto rime ice that then binds to trees and tree branches, creating snow clumps that appear monster-like.
Strong high winds also blow water from a nearby lake toward the mountainside, and the water droplets freeze on the branches. Also, fresh snow can fall and also bind to the ice. This process happens over and over throughout the winter.
Much like a snowflake itself, the chaotic process that forms the monsters ensures that no two snow monsters are entirely identical.
The unusual snow creatures are considered by many to be one of Japan's best winter attractions. Thousands of tourists travel across Japan each year to see the so-called snow monsters, which typically are around from the end of January through mid-March.
Rainfall and warmer weather brings a low fog to a snowy Central Park near the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace in New York City on February 3, 2022. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo