Living in Tokyo

First Snowfall of 2019 in Tokyo Expected Today: Here are Some Tips for Getting Around

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) forecasts that a wide swath of the Kanto region, including Tokyo, will see snowfall today, due to the effects of a low-pressure system and low temperatures. Tokyo’s 23 Wards is forecast to get 5-cm (2-inches) of accumulated snowfall. This would be the first snowfall of the year for the capital, and people are advised to take caution as roads and sidewalks may be frozen over.

Cold and snow forecast for February 9th throughout Kanto

Cold air, measuring as cold as minus 6-degree Celsius, is expected to flow at about 1,500-meters above East Japan on January 9th. Simultaneously, a low pressure system is developing above the Izu Islands and is forecast to move east-northeast. The result is that the Kanto region (which includes the city of Tokyo, as well as Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Chiba, Saitama, and Kanagawa prefectures)  is forecast to experience snowfall from the early morning till evening of February 9th.

In Chiyoda Ward, one of Tokyo’s central wards, snow will start falling between 6AM and 9AM.

In southern Kanto, the forecast low is 1-degree Celsius (33.8 F) and the forecast high is 2-degrees. Low temperatures will continue through to Sunday, February 10th. People are urged to dress warmly and be aware of slippery road surfaces, as roads and sidewalks will likely freeze overnight.

Forecast snowfall by region by 6pm on February 9th:

  • Southern Kanto plain (including parts of southern Tokyo, and Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures): 10-cm
  • From Hakone to the Tama region (western Tokyo suburbs) and northwest Tokyo (Chichibu district): 10-cm
  • Northern Kanto plain (including parts of Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi, and Ibaraki): 8-cm
  • Mountain regions of northern Kanto: 8-cm

Tips for getting around on a snow day

Below are tips for getting around on a snow day. These were originally published on last January 2018, when Tokyo was hit by the biggest snow storm in four years.

If You Can, Time Shift

Have you noticed how when it rains in Tokyo (or any other large city, for that matter) everything seems to slow down and everyone seems to be running late? It’s even worse when it snows, of course. To counter this phenomenon, shift your schedule if you can, so that you can avoid the hordes of other people who are starting work or school at exactly the same time you are.

A quiet side street covered in snow. Tokyo, January 23, 2018

Your company or school may even let you leave early. Even better, if you can leave home earlier in the morning, you may be able to avoid the peak commute time. When there’s heavy rain or snow, peak commute hours are made worse by the fact that there will be fewer trains in any given hour because they are required to slow down for safety reasons.

It’s common sense, but give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go.

Shoes and Shuffle

Ladies (and gentlemen!), snow days are not the time to show off your high heel shoes. You can buy all sorts of special snow gear, including anti-slip shoe spikes, but basic snow boots or shoes are a good start.

Also, if you’re from warmer climes, now is the time to learn the snow shuffle. Basically, to avoid slipping, drag your feet a little when you are walking in snow. Don’t pick up your feet too much, step squarely down when you take a step, and walk in other people’s tracks so that you’re walking on snow that’s already mostly melted.

Muddy tracks after the storm. Tokyo, January 23, 2018

In terms of slipping, a greater danger than snow is ice, especially ice that is nearly invisible. If you don’t have shoes with good grips, you may want to buy anti-slip attachments for your shoes. The word for anti-slip in Japanese is suberi-tome (滑り止め).

Example of anti-silp attachments to be worn over shoes. You can easily slip these on and off over the shoes you wear to work.

Keep Your Hands Free

It’s also a good idea not to carry things in both hands when you’re walking in snow, in case you need to break a fall. Many people in Tokyo use umbrellas on snow days, but carrying an umbrella in one hand and a shopping bag in the other leaves you with no hands to prevent a hard landing if you slip.

A Few Things to Watch Out For

Roof tops thick with snow in Tokyo, January 23, 2018.

With so much snow accumulation in one day, here are a few things to watch for as you are walking around Tokyo, or any other big city after a big snow storm.

  1. Ice: There are usually more injuries reported the day after a big snowfall, due to people slipping on ice. The anti-slip shoe attachments mentioned above are one way to stay safe.
  2. Some areas may temporarily lose electricity due to electrical lines being cut due to the weight of the snow.
  3. Watch out for chunks of melting snow from electrical wires.

Stay Informed

Cue up your favorite weather app on your phone, watch the news, and stay in touch with your company or school so you can make good decisions about getting around safely.

If you are in Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures, JR East has a useful app, called JR-EAST Train Info, for getting almost real time information about the status of both JR and other companies’ train lines.

JR East Train Info app

If possible, keep up with the current status of train lines before you head to the station. Image: Screenshot from JR East Train Info app

A Few Good Phrases

When you’re on the station platform waiting to get on the train, you may see a few phrases flash across the screen to let you know the current status of your train. Sure, you can wait for the English, but why not learn them now and you’ll be ahead of the class!

ressha chien: (列車遅延) train delay

unten: (運転)operations

mi-awase: (見合わせ)suspend

unten mi-awase: (運転見合わせ)operations suspended

ichi-ji: (一時)temporary. As in ichi-ji unten miawase (operations are temporarily suspended)

oo-yuki: (大雪)  heavy snow. As in, oo-yuki no eikyou de, unten mi-awase (operations suspended due to heavy snow)

eikyou: (影響) influence, effect of

kon ran: (混乱) congestion. As in, 混雑の影響などで、現在も一部列車に遅れが出ています。Kon-ran no eikyou nado de, genzai mo ichibu ressha ni okure ga dete imasu.  (Due to congestion, some trains are delayed).

ichi-bu: (一部) some, partially

ressha: (列車) train

tenken: (点検) inspection. As in 踏切内点検, fumikiri-nai tenken. Inspection of railroad crossing

You may also be interested in: Most crowded rush hour trains in Tokyo

Top photo: Snow day in Tokyo, January 22, 2018 (file photo)