Season’s first snowfall blankets Tokyo area, including several US military bases
Stars and Stripes February 6, 2024
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The first big snowfall of the season dumped nearly 3 inches of precipitation across Tokyo, including at several U.S. military installations in the area.
Commuter rail lines from the western edge of Tokyo were slowed and expressways closed as the city awoke to piles of snow, slushy streets and light rain. U.S. military bases, including Yokota and Camp Zama, the headquarters of U.S. Army Japan southwest of Tokyo, approved late-report times for most personnel.
None of the bases reported significant problems due to the weather or a major change in their operations.
The snowfall delayed classes at Defense Department schools at Yokota and Yokosuka Naval Base and closed them for the day at Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi. The same routine is expected Wednesday in anticipation of icy roads.
Alexandra Cudney dropped her kindergartner off at Yokota West Elementary School for the abbreviated school day.
“The snow doesn’t bother me, and the kids really enjoy playing in it,” she said outside the school.
Snow started Monday afternoon and continued throughout the night across the Kanto Plain, prompting early release times at U.S. military installations.
By 5 a.m. Tuesday, 2.75 inches had fallen on central Tokyo and 1.2 inches on Yokohama to the south, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency website.
A total of 105 people in Tokyo received emergency treatment for weather-related injuries as of 9 a.m. Tuesday, according to broadcaster TBS.
The JR Chuo and Ome lines, which link Yokota with central Tokyo, halted service Tuesday morning, according to public broadcaster NHK. Both lines resumed service in the afternoon, though the Chuo experiences some delays, according to the JR website.
Multiple city expressways were closed Monday afternoon as preventative measures, according to NHK, including the expressway that loops around central Tokyo, which remained closed as of Tuesday afternoon.
At Yokota, the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron started early to clear away the snow, base spokesman Capt. Danny Rangel said in an email Tuesday.
“The flightline and major roads are the priority, but crews are making sure we have secondary roads clear as soon as possible,” he said. “We are not seeing unusual base traffic and there are no road closures or gate closures due to the weather.”
The leftover slush may freeze late tonight and remain a hazard through Wednesday, according to an email Tuesday from the 374th Operation Support Squadron.
Yokota’s schools started classes at 10 a.m. Yokosuka’s schools were on staggered late start times.
“My concern isn’t for myself, but for families that have situations with bringing their little ones to school; they have to be walked or driven to school because it’s snowy and cold outside,” Diana Carson, a substitute teacher at Yokota’s Joan K. Mendel Elementary School, told Stars and Stripes Tuesday morning.
Eris Buritica, a teacher at Mendel, her husband, Steven Buritica, and their children Ella, 2, and Rome, 1, took advantage of the late start to play in the snow.
“We just decided to go sledding for a little bit to have the kids experience a little bit of fun,” Buritica, of Anchorage, Alaska, said at the east side bandshell park.
Yokosuka city received a mix of rain and light snow with little accumulation; traffic was normal outside the base with no delays, according to the city government website.
At Sagamihara Family Housing Area for Zama, children released from school spent the morning at playgrounds throwing snowballs and building snowmen.
“I built a llama. I tried to build an alpaca, but the nose fell off,” said London Riley, 9. “It’s really fun. It’s supposed to rain this afternoon, so it’s good to do it while you can.”
Stars and Stripes reporter Claire Jenq contributed to this report.