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Japan's Long Winter Has Only Just Begun

japan cold snap

Screenshot of ANN Newscast.

Japan is experiencing the first early-December cold wave (寒波, or kanpa) in eight years.

According to meteorologists, from December 1 to December 12 Japan can expect cold temperatures and winter conditions normally seen only in February.

The cold winter weather makes for excellent television of wind-driven storm surges, hazardous driving conditions, and snowy landscapes as “intense cold invades the Japanese archipelago, causing damage throughout the country.”

The typical mid-winter pattern in Japan sees intensely cold air masses travelling across the Sea of Japan from Siberia towards Japan. Much like the “lake effect” experienced in the U.S. Northeast, the cold, dry air from the continent picks up moisture as it travels across the relatively warm waters of the sea of Japan.

The result is heavy dumps of snow along the Japan Sea coast facing the continental mainland.

The mountains that line Japan from north to south act as a wall, blocking the snowy weather patterns. Tokyo and the other cities of the Pacific Coast typically enjoy cool, dry, sunny winters, while the Japan Sea coastline is snowy and dark until late March.

With this latest cold snap, the northenmost island of Hokkaido is already socked in, as this Instagram photo of Rumoi demonstrates:

るもいのよるは吹雪

A photo posted by kuma chu (@bearbrichu) on

A blizzard in Rumoi

To the south, Aomori was also blanketed in its first snowfall of the season, receiving seven centimeters in the city center:

What an amazingly lovely scene! Snow is the best!

Amanohashidate, the famous “floating bridge of heaven” located near the city of Miyazu north of Kyoto, received a rare coating of snow:

A photo posted by 太田あや乃 (@ayanoncham) on

Back in Hokkaido, a bus carrying a group of tourists from Singapore made the national news after it slipped off an icy highway near the town of Shimukappu:

A tour bus slides off the edge of the road, leaving 18 lightly injured. Slippery road conditions are thought to have caused the accident.

On Route 402, southwest of Niigata City, howling winds travelling at 33.8 meters/second are creating stormscapes along the Japan Sea coastline:

#日本海#西蒲区

A photo posted by 佐藤 謙太 (@kkkkenta) on


#Japan Sea #Nishiura District

As these snapshots from Yokote in the mountains of Honshu's snowy northeast shows, Japan's long winter has only just begun:

The nightmare is far from over.

  • Oh wow. In the US we’ve been also experiencing early snow weather and temperatures that we usually see in January-February. A lot of pretty snow scene out in Japan right now :)

  • Nevin Thompson

    Hi Naja! Thanks for the comment! Your photos of Japan are awesome!

  • Fdom

    Even in an ice age Japan still would look beautiful!

  • basspig

    So it’s not just the US getting early snow this year.