Record Snowfall in Japan Kills 17 and Injures More Than 90

Among the dead, many had fallen while clearing snow from their roofs, while some were buried by thick snow that slid off their roofs.
Koh Ewe
People cross the road in Niigata, Japan, amid record snowfall that has left 17 people dead.
People cross the road carefully as heavy snow hits northern Japan in the city of Niigata on December 19, 2022. Photo: STR / JIJI Press / AFP

Japan is emerging from a deadly white Christmas, as heavy snow blanketed its northern region killing 17 and injuring 93 people in the past 10 days, officials said on Monday.

With record snowfall enveloping various parts of the country, three municipalities in Japan's northeastern region measured over a meter of snow within a 24-hour period on Monday morning—the highest these areas have ever recorded. Cities in Niigata Prefecture recorded between 72 centimeters to 87 centimeters of snow. 


This year’s record snowfall has caused severe transportation disruptions and power blackouts after snow toppled an electric power transmission tower in northern Japan’s Hokkaido, leaving 20,000 homes without power on Christmas morning. Hundreds of flights and train services were suspended in the region. 

Niigata Prefecture, located along the northwestern coast of Japan’s mainland, was among the hardest hit during this year’s dangerously heavy snowfall. Last week, more than 10,000 homes in Niigata Prefecture also suffered power blackouts. 

A 27-year-old woman in Niigata died of carbon monoxide poisoning in her car while trying to seek warmth amid a power blackout in her neighborhood, authorities said. Meanwhile, an 85-year-old man in the same city died after falling into a drain while plowing snow around his house. Among the dead, many had fallen while clearing snow from their roofs, while some were buried by thick snow that slid off rooftops. Local governments have urged residents to be careful while removing snow and refrain from working alone. 

Record snowfall in Japan has left 17 people dead.

A tram runs on the snow covered street on December 23, 2022 in Kochi, Japan. Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Hundreds of cars were stuck on Niigata’s highways, with the jam spanning over 20 kilometers (12 miles), resulting in delivery service disruptions. Hundreds of troops were deployed to clear the snow, while local volunteers brought food for those stranded in their vehicles. 

In response to the heavy snowfall this Christmas season, the country’s leaders encouraged residents in potential blizzard zones to stay indoors and remain vigilant over the Christmas weekend, while the country’s weather agency warned residents of another snowstorm and traffic disruptions.

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