Heavy snow forecast for much of Japan

Weather officials are warning of heavy snow over much of Japan from Thursday through Saturday.

The Meteorological Agency forecasts heavy snow in wide areas along the Sea of Japan, from the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido to the southwestern region of Kyushu, including plains areas.

Mountainous areas on the Pacific side will also have heavy snow, with accumulations possible on plains.

The agency forecasts stormy weather from Thursday through Friday, with very strong winds expected to cause blizzards and high waves, mainly in areas on the side of the Sea of Japan.

Agency officials say the cold air mass is stronger than the one that came during the yearend and New Year holidays.

They're calling on people to refrain from nonessential outings, citing poor visibility and the possibility of traffic getting stuck in snow.

They're also urging caution for avalanches and snow falling off roofs in the regions of Tohoku and Hokuriku, where snow is already three to four times deeper than usual.