TOKYO: Heavy snow in northern Japan caused transport chaos over the holiday weekend, with flights and train services cancelled and thousands of passengers forced to camp out at a regional airport for three straight nights.
Sapporo on Hokkaido island had up to 96 centimetres (38 inches) of snow as of Friday night (Dec 23), the city's heaviest snowfall in half a century, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Snow-covered road near Shinshinotsu, Hokkaido. (Photo: Royston Chan)
The snow blanketed New Chitose Airport, the main gateway to the northern island region, and caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled.
Some 2,500 people were forced to stay there on Thursday night, 6,000 on Friday night and 2,600 on Saturday night, according to a security official at the airport.
Snow-covered farm near Hokkaido's Shinshinotsu. (Photo: Royston Chan)
The passengers' plight was compounded by the fact that most flights had been fully booked due to the holiday, national broadcaster NHK said.
More than 280 flights to and from the airport were cancelled on Friday alone, along with hundreds of train services in the region during the weekend, according to local media.
A snowman in Sapporo. (Photo: Royston Chan)
But the weather had significantly improved by Sunday morning and most if not all the stranded passengers at the airport should be able to leave by Sunday evening, said the security official.
Hokkaido, known for its big mountains and powder snow, attracts many ski enthusiasts from Australia and China along with Japanese.