Japan has had an unusually cold start to the New Year with heavy snow falls in many parts of the country.
Japan has had an unusually cold start to the New Year with heavy snow falls in many parts of the country. In northern Japan there had already been earlier falls, but in the south it was the first snow of the season and the first time in seven years that snow had fallen there over the New Year holiday period.
SYNOPSIS: The Japan capital of Tokyo often has snow-free winters so residents were surprised when they awoke on tuesday morning to find the city blanket with snow.
Snow ploughs worked throughout the morning to clear the main roads and more old-fashioned methods had to be employed in other areas. In some parts of the city the snow was up to 21 centimetres deep, and elsewhere in southern Japan falls of to 15 centimetres were recorded. Such heavy snow is something of a novelty in these areas, but is not without certain frustration.
At Tokyo's Haneda airport international flights were delayed for more than eight hours while workers cleared the snowbound tarmac, and 35 domestic flights from the city were cancelled. The snowfall coincided with the last day of the New Year holiday period, causing problems for holidaymakers wanting to return to their homes.
Train travel in the city was also disrupted while snow was cleared, and although buses were able to get through on major routes they ran to restricted timetable.
Houses in some parts of Tokyo were snowbound and some roads were impassable at points, causing serious traffic problems.
But for some the snow was good news. It is not often that Tokyo children have the chance of building snowmen, or sledding through snow. For them it meant fun and games, and a wonderful way to end their holiday.