SAPPORO/TOKYO -- The northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido was gripped by a record cold spell on Feb. 8 with temperatures plummeting below minus 10 degrees Celsius as Tokyo and its environs in the eastern part of the nation braced for a major snowfall expected on Feb. 9.
With the temperature at minus 12.5 degrees as of 9:40 a.m., people in the Hokkaido capital of Sapporo were seen walking on the streets covering their ears to protect them from biting northerly winds.
According to the Sapporo Regional Headquarters of the Japan Meteorological Agency, a cold air mass 1,500 meters above the city recorded minus 24.4 degrees, the lowest temperature since observations began in April 1957. Extremely low temperatures on the ground were marked in eastern Hokkaido, especially in the town of Oketo at minus 22.7 degrees and in the town of Rikubetsu at minus 20.6 degrees.
Hokkaido Railway Co. said 25 regular train services were suspended as the cold and snow froze railroad points and train brakes.
According to the Japan Weather Association, the cold air mass will affect most of Japan. Tokyo and surrounding prefectures in the Kanto region, including the center of the capital, are expected to see large, widespread snowfall from the morning of Feb. 9 through the evening.
(Japanese original by Kotaro Adachi, Hokkaido News Department)