Snow continues in western Japan; 110 passengers spend night on bullet train

Kyodo

Swathes of western Japan and areas along the Sea of Japan continued to see snowfall Monday due to a strong winter pressure pattern, and the Meteorological Agency warned against avalanches and further traffic disruptions.

About 110 passengers stayed overnight on a Sanyo Shinkansen Line train at Okayama Station after it arrived around 2 a.m. Monday.

The bullet train, bound for Shin-Osaka Station, had been stalled en route for about two hours due to a breakdown of railway equipment, apparently caused by the snow.

In Nichinan, Tottori Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan coast, an 88-year-old woman died and her son and his wife suffered leg injuries after a landslide hit their house at around 4:40 a.m. Monday.

The area received around 50 cm to 60 cm of snow, which is believed to have blocked water channels on a mountain behind the house. When the water eventually burst through, it caused the landslide, according to the prefectural government and police.

In Sendai, a care facility vehicle carrying elderly people overturned, killing a woman in her 90s and injuring five others.

Heavy snow kept roughly 100 vehicles stalled on Route 378 in Yawatahama, Ehime Prefecture, from Sunday afternoon through evening. Seventeen cars stayed overnight by the side of the road because they didn’t have snow tires.

All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Co. canceled some flights.

Bullet trains operated at reduced speeds between Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and Shin-Osaka stations on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line, while other trains, including those operated by Nagoya Railroad Co. and Kintetsu Corp., were delayed, affecting commuters in Nagoya and other areas.

With a cold air mass gripping Japan, even usually warm southern islands saw snow, with Okinawa observing snowfall Sunday for the first time in nearly 39 years and only the second time on record. Amami Island, a subtropical island in Kagoshima Prefecture, had snow for the first time in 115 years.

More than 10 cm of snow was observed in the cities of Nagasaki and Kagoshima, while Saga had 7 cm.

The temperature in Fukuoka fell to minus 1.4 degrees while Kumamoto saw minus 1.1.

Many residents in Kyushu, where snow is rare, had to walk to work or school as buses and trams suspended services on icy roads.

“I’m so surprised to see such snow in Kyushu. I usually drive or ride a bike, but I walked today because it’s so scary,” said Sachiyo Sato, 40, who was taking her 3-year-old daughter to a nursery school.

Mai Koyanagi, a 20-year-old company employee in Nagasaki, said she walked three hours to work as no public transportation was available.

“I slipped many times. I hope it’s only for today,” she said.

In Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, motorist Sosaburo Miyagoe, 59, was stranded on a major street.

“We hardly ever have icy roads. I don’t have snow chains and there is nothing I can do,” he said.

The Nagasaki District Court called off a trial session Monday because some lay judges were unable to get there.

The Meteorological Agency said temperatures will likely remain lower than seasonal averages in western Japan as a cold air mass moved over the Kinki region centering on Osaka.

The winter pressure was expected to weaken Tuesday, it said.