Japan's Meteorological Agency is forecasting a severe winter storm across the country from Thursday through Friday. Officials are advising people to be prepared for heavy snow that could disrupt traffic.
The agency says winds are becoming stronger with snowfall mainly along the Sea of Japan coast as the result of a cold air mass and a low pressure system moving into the area.
Wind gusts of around 100 kilometers per hour were recorded in Hamada City, Shimane Prefecture, and in Nikaho City, Akita Prefecture, on Thursday morning.
Heavy snow is forecast from Thursday mainly along the mountains in the Sea of Japan coastal areas from Hokkaido to Kyushu.
In the 24 hours through Friday morning, snowfall of up to 80 centimeters is expected in the Hokuriku region and Niigata Prefecture, and 20 centimeters in the northern part of the Kyushu region.
Weather officials are also cautioning against high waves and avalanches. They say snow accumulating on power lines could cause electricity outages, and that trees could collapse under the weight of snow. They are also warning of possible thunderstorms and tornados.