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Snow brings chaos to Japan

Heavy snow falls disrupted transportation in Japan over the last 48 hours.

TOKYO –   Sudden snow in Eastern Japan halted public transport and caused dozens of road accidents last Monday with Japan’s national television network NHK reporting about 267 being injured in road accidents following heavy snow.

Snow delayed train services and disrupted also flights last Monday as Tokyo was blanketed by the first snowfall of the season. The Meteorological Agency issued a gale and snow advisory for central Tokyo, with 7 cm of snow already fallen in the capital, said Kenji Okada, a forecaster for the agency. The snow came 11 days later than the average first fall and six days earlier than last year, according to Okada.

Power was cut to 6,200 households in Tokyo and the surrounding area in the evening.

Minor delays were expected for bullet train services to and from the Japanese capital. Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) said.  Some train lines in Metropolitan Tokyo area were also temporarily halted.

All Nippon Airways Co. canceled 116 domestic flights as of 2 p.m. local time, affecting about 24,000 passengers, it said in a faxed statement. Japan Airlines Co. said it canceled 193 domestic flights, affecting more than 31,000 passengers.

Tokyo’s Narita International Airport said 3,400 travelers spent the night in the terminal after 71 flights were cancelled. Operations returned to normal Tuesday except for a few delays, according to Associated Press news agency.

As much as 50 cm of snow was also expected in the Kanto and Koshin regions and up to 40 cm in the Tohoku region. Strong winds were also forecast in areas facing the Pacific Ocean across the country. The situation will continue to be difficult in Northern Japan predicts meteorologists.

The snow proved especially inconvenient for a group of young women wearing traditional Kimono outfits to celebrate their transition into “adulthood,” or the Coming of Age Day in Japan. It’s a milestone event for those who are turning 20, as they can legally drink and vote.

“It must be very hard for them to walk on the snow with their kimono outfits,” said 15-year-old Nanamo Ogasawara, who watched the women struggling on the slippery streets in their long dresses.

Monday was indeed celebrated as “Sei-nen-no-hi”, a national holiday held in Japan on the second Monday of the year to commemorate the passage to adulthood for young women.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.