A sample of the natural ice ridge phenomenon known as omiwatari (crossing of the gods) was spotted Friday on Lake Suwa, Nagano Prefecture, for the first time since 2013.

"I'm so relieved to finally see this winter scenery that best represents Lake Suwa after five long years," said Kiyoshi Miyasaka, the 67-year-old chief priest of nearby Yatsurugi Shrine, which certified the omiwatari.

The ridges form when ice on the lake's surface stretches, leaving a ridge protruding from the surface. The stretching occurs when the ice repeatedly expands and contracts with the temperature swings between day and night. Thanks to recent cold snaps, the movement of the ice has progressed, helping the ridges reach heights of several tens of centimeters.

The shrine plans to hold a viewing ceremony at the lake next week. The direction in which the ice ridge runs will be compared with previous omiwatari. The shrine believes the direction of the omiwatari will tell of this year's fortunes.

Priests have been studying the thickness and direction of the ice, which is topped with Wednesday's heavy snow, since 7 a.m.