Winter lasts most of the year in Daisetsuzan, the high mountain range that stretches across the center of Hokkaido. The first flurries of snow arrive in September, and the final thaw doesn't come till the following June. Yet some animals live successfully and apparently quite happily in this frozen worldWinter has come to Daisetsuzan.

It's only October, but the once-dazzling autumn foliage has all dropped from the trees. As cold air moves in from Siberia, the scene changes dramatically. Fresh snow settles first on the mountain peaks, then advances inexorably down the slopes until it reaches the bottom and the entire landscape has turned white. Day after day the vast forests are blanketed with sparkling ice crystals. Soon, all signs of human encroachment have disappeared from the high ridges, now the domain of no one but the wind.

Boasting several of the island's highest peaks, the Daisetsuzan range is known as the "roof" of Hokkaido. It extends over an area of some 230,000 hectares, about the same size as all of Kanagawa Prefecture. Daisetsuzan was declared a national park 80 years ago, in 1934.