Snowfall causes transport chaos in eastern, northern Japan; 250 people hurt

Kyodo, Staff Report

Heavy snow in eastern and northeastern Japan wreaked havoc with transportation systems and injured about 250 people Monday as central Tokyo was blanketed with 6 cm.

At least 40 people were sent to hospitals in Tokyo alone, and another 30 were reported injured in Saitama Prefecture, police and fire departments across the region said.

Over the 24 hours through 6 p.m. Tuesday, up to 100 cm of snow is forecast to fall in Hokkaido and the Hokuriku region, 70 cm in the Tohoku and Tokai areas, 50 cm in the Chugoku region, and 40 cm in the Kanto and Koshin regions, according to the Meteorological Agency.

The low-pressure system responsible for the snow was predicted to remain through Tuesday, especially along the Sea of Japan coast.

The land ministry urged people to prepare for heavy snow in the affected areas and refrain from going out unless necessary. Snow tires and chains for cars were also recommended.

The snow temporarily brought services on the Joetsu and Hokuriku shinkansen lines to a crawl, affecting approximately 30,000 passengers, while a slowdown of services on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line inconvenienced around 11,000 people.

Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. cancelled 197 domestic flights in total, affecting more than 16,000 people.

The Chuo Expressway was closed in some areas of Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures.

East Japan Railway Co. also canceled some express and local trains on the Chuo and Oume lines.

In Suginami Ward, Tokyo, a minivehicle overturned and the driver, a man in his 60s, suffered a broken right arm. In Chikusei, Ibaraki Prefecture, a 22-year-old man injured his head after his car slipped and collided with an oncoming truck, police said.

Unaccustomed to the snow and ice, many people in urban areas suffered minor injuries in falls. Thousands of morning rush-hour commuters were stuck on crowded station platforms or aboard trains as the weather disrupted the rail network.

Brimming with passengers waiting to board trains, people were seen unable to pass through ticket gates at Shinjuku, Shibuya and other major stations.

Even the normally subdued Motohasunuma Station on the Toei Mita Line in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, was packed with commuters waiting for trains at around 9 a.m.

The line reduced the number of operating trains, causing delays of roughly 60 minutes.

“I just called my company that I won’t make it to the office in time,” a male employee in his 30s said in a resigned tone while waiting for a train he could squeeze into. “I’ve already passed over four consecutive trains but still can’t get on. … This is amazing.”

On the Keio Inokashira Line, the usual 15-minute commute from Mitakadai to Shibuya Station took nearly 75 minutes after the operator halted express services and reduced the number of trains.

The disruptions also forced a group of young female travelers from Yamagata Prefecture at JR Shinagawa Station to look for alternatives to their plans.

“We were hoping to visit the Studio Ghibli Museum (showcasing the anime of Hayao Miyazaki) in Mitaka (western Tokyo), but we assumed it would take too much time to get there,” a 25-year-old woman said. “We were just discussing how best to spend our time here as we have to go back home today.”

A 50-year-old American man in Tokyo for a business trip, said as he was heading to JR Osaki Station he was surprised to see such heavy snow in the capital.

“It’s scary. I’ve been to Japan many times, but I’ve never seen something like this,” he said.

  • James Curley

    Has the weather ministry declared a snow emergency?

  • James Curley

    Has the weather ministry declared a snow emergency?

  • Denny Pollard

    I live in Tohoku snow country, we deal with several meters of snow every year and accept it. Are you kidding snow emergency, there is not such thing in Tohoku. People in the cities need to get out more and see what real Japan is like in snow country. We just deal with it and don’t rely on government.

    • Philosopher

      Denny, you’re assuming that 20 million train passengers have access to alternative transport and that tripling the amount of traffic on the roads won’t result in chaos. What planet are you from?

    • Philosopher

      Denny, you’re assuming that 20 million train passengers have access to alternative transport and that tripling the amount of traffic on the roads won’t result in chaos. What planet are you from?

      • Starviking

        But the government has had plenty of time to consider how to deal with such events – and they have a massive knowledge base to tap in the areas of Japan where snowfall has to be factored in, but still we have Tokyo shuddering to a halt with a few centimetres of snow…

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Same thing applies in all countries, though. Where I’m from in Canada, when it snows we shovel it, in Toronto they call in the armed forces to do it.

      • Starviking

        But we’re not talking about snow that needs to be shoveled – we’re talking about a few cms.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        When the majority of the population does not have shoes suitable for walking in cms of snow, yeah, it needs to be shoveled.

      • Starviking

        Really? A bit more caution is what is required – and lot more preventative measures for public utilities and services.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        What should be done exactly that would work on a city the size of Tokyo in case something that happens rarely happens?

      • Starviking

        Protection of train power cables for one.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        By? What method would both protect power cables from snow and make them accessible shortly after an earthquake?

      • Starviking

        I would assume the same methods that are used in Tohoku and Hokkaido.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        So those are?

      • Starviking

        I don’t know, I’m not a railway engineer.

        I would assume either strengthening line supports, protecting vital points from snow accumulation, preventative cleaning, or some combination of the three.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        So you’re making assumptions on what Tokyo should do based on assumptions of what works in other areas with other climates and weather concerns would seamlessly work in Tokyo. Cool. Well-informed is not your way, then.

      • Starviking

        Let me modify my response to you. I presume they would take some of the measures above.

        I would presume the strength tolerances of the line supports would allow for measures to protect from snow.

        I would presume that measures to deal with snow could be transferred to other areas, it’s not as if the physics is different.

        From Philosopher’s observation above, that public lines do not seem to be having any trouble, it may be that measure have already been taken.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Right, but without knowing how the lines differ in what is used in Tokyo and what is used up north, it’s all gobbledygook.

      • Starviking

        But we’re not talking about snow that needs to be shoveled – we’re talking about a few cms.

      • Philosopher

        I agree that the train companies have had plenty of time and warning about the dangers of snow on their tracks. Do you think they’ve decided it’s not cost effective to do anything about it? I have noticed that it’s mainly the private lines that have snow stoppages while the publicly-owned ones keep on moving.

      • Starviking

        Could be a business decision, could be penny-pinching…

      • Starviking

        But the government has had plenty of time to consider how to deal with such events – and they have a massive knowledge base to tap in the areas of Japan where snowfall has to be factored in, but still we have Tokyo shuddering to a halt with a few centimetres of snow…

      • Starviking

        But the government has had plenty of time to consider how to deal with such events – and they have a massive knowledge base to tap in the areas of Japan where snowfall has to be factored in, but still we have Tokyo shuddering to a halt with a few centimetres of snow…

      • Starviking

        But the government has had plenty of time to consider how to deal with such events – and they have a massive knowledge base to tap in the areas of Japan where snowfall has to be factored in, but still we have Tokyo shuddering to a halt with a few centimetres of snow…

    • Blair

      Luxury! I lived in a shoebox by the side of the road

      • L & R

        You were lucky! We lived in a rolled up newspaper on the motorway. Worked 25 hours a day. When we got home, dad would cut us in half with a bread knife.

      • Karagarga

        Phht! In my day, there were no newspapers. We ran back and forth at the Shibuya intersection, using the mass of people to keep us upright. Then we taught English (I think that’s what it was) to brain dead college students just for the heat, got slapped up and down the corridors by sumo wrestlers at Kokugikan, just so we could lick their hair for nutrition. Home? What home? I once got on the Yamanote line and lived there for 37 years, came out and the guy at the wicket wanted me to pay off the national debt. What saved me was an offer from NHK to appear on their education channel and I rose to be their talent scout for English-language skits.

    • Starviking

      It’s always a laugh when NHK News reports record snowfalls in Tokyo – snowfalls that wouldn’t even be worth commenting on in Tohoku or Hokkaido. However, for NHK, it’s like the Apocalypse is coming…

      • J.P. Bunny

        Of course, NHK treats any snowfall or heavy rain as the Apocalypse. Spending 15 minutes or more endlessly repeating how the capital has come to a complete halt because of some weather is much easier than reporting real news. Every year there is chaos in the capital because of a few centimeters of snow or rain, each event good for several days of wasted NHK air time.

  • Yuki

    I hope those kids got to school safe.

  • Spaceteddy

    “It’s scary. I’ve been to Japan many times, but I’ve never seen something like this”. Oh come on, 6 cm of snow is nothing scary. And the proper way to walk in the snow and slush is to walk like penguins.

    • Clickonthewhatnow

      If he’s from Texas, it’s scary.

  • Christina Tsuchida

    Foreign tourists are supposed to bring in money for Abenomics, but Tokyo is like an ostrich despite NHK’s prior prediction that precisely this warmer winter would have MORE snow than other years. Tohoku, Hokkaido, etc. have snow gear: trains brush their own tracks, vehicles plough streets, etc. Alas, Tokyo, like Washington, DC remains thinking snow is an exception that can be ignored.
    In American law, an “act of God” relieves even financial institutions of responsibility (e.g., for loss of EFT processes), but Tokyo seems to try to use human effort against all disaster (even earthquakes) … exc. snow!

  • Christina Tsuchida

    Foreign tourists are supposed to bring in money for Abenomics, but Tokyo is like an ostrich despite NHK’s prior prediction that precisely this warmer winter would have MORE snow than other years. Tohoku, Hokkaido, etc. have snow gear: trains brush their own tracks, vehicles plough streets, etc. Alas, Tokyo, like Washington, DC remains thinking snow is an exception that can be ignored.
    In American law, an “act of God” relieves even financial institutions of responsibility (e.g., for loss of EFT processes), but Tokyo seems to try to use human effort against all disaster (even earthquakes) … exc. snow!

  • Christina Tsuchida

    Foreign tourists are supposed to bring in money for Abenomics, but Tokyo is like an ostrich despite NHK’s prior prediction that precisely this warmer winter would have MORE snow than other years. Tohoku, Hokkaido, etc. have snow gear: trains brush their own tracks, vehicles plough streets, etc. Alas, Tokyo, like Washington, DC remains thinking snow is an exception that can be ignored.
    In American law, an “act of God” relieves even financial institutions of responsibility (e.g., for loss of EFT processes), but Tokyo seems to try to use human effort against all disaster (even earthquakes) … exc. snow!

  • Christina Tsuchida

    Foreign tourists are supposed to bring in money for Abenomics, but Tokyo is like an ostrich despite NHK’s prior prediction that precisely this warmer winter would have MORE snow than other years. Tohoku, Hokkaido, etc. have snow gear: trains brush their own tracks, vehicles plough streets, etc. Alas, Tokyo, like Washington, DC remains thinking snow is an exception that can be ignored.
    In American law, an “act of God” relieves even financial institutions of responsibility (e.g., for loss of EFT processes), but Tokyo seems to try to use human effort against all disaster (even earthquakes) … exc. snow!

  • Christina Tsuchida

    Foreign tourists are supposed to bring in money for Abenomics, but Tokyo is like an ostrich despite NHK’s prior prediction that precisely this warmer winter would have MORE snow than other years. Tohoku, Hokkaido, etc. have snow gear: trains brush their own tracks, vehicles plough streets, etc. Alas, Tokyo, like Washington, DC remains thinking snow is an exception that can be ignored.
    In American law, an “act of God” relieves even financial institutions of responsibility (e.g., for loss of EFT processes), but Tokyo seems to try to use human effort against all disaster (even earthquakes) … exc. snow!

  • Christina Tsuchida

    Foreign tourists are supposed to bring in money for Abenomics, but Tokyo is like an ostrich despite NHK’s prior prediction that precisely this warmer winter would have MORE snow than other years. Tohoku, Hokkaido, etc. have snow gear: trains brush their own tracks, vehicles plough streets, etc. Alas, Tokyo, like Washington, DC remains thinking snow is an exception that can be ignored.
    In American law, an “act of God” relieves even financial institutions of responsibility (e.g., for loss of EFT processes), but Tokyo seems to try to use human effort against all disaster (even earthquakes) … exc. snow!

  • Starviking

    “nothern Japan” in the title needs changed to “northern Japan”.

  • Starviking

    “nothern Japan” in the title needs changed to “northern Japan”.