Season's first snow brings Tokyo to a halt

The winter's first snowfall blanketed the Japanese capital Tokyo and its environs on Monday, paralysing traffic and stranding young people taking part in traditional coming-of-age ceremonies.

Pedestrians tiptoed through the slush in the luxury Ginza shopping district as a storm system covered much of the Japanese archipelago.

Policemen helped drivers shove cars stuck on snow-covered roads while employees cleared the pavement in front of their shops.

Japanese airlines cancelled more than 460 domestic flights, mainly to or from Tokyo's Haneda airport where runways were temporarily closed as workers removed snow, public broadcaster NHK said.

Dozens of train services in the capital were also cancelled. Highways were also closed at many points in Tokyo and surrounding areas as seven centimetres (2.8 inches) of snow fell in the capital, news reports and officials said.

The severe weather disrupted "Coming-of Age Day" ceremonies across the nation on Monday, a national holiday at which 20-year-olds celebrate legally reaching adulthood.

"The snow disappointed me as I was hoping for fine weather," a 20-year-old woman wearing a traditional kimono and sheltering under an umbrella told TV Asahi at a ceremony hall in the city's western district of Oume.

Other young women in colourful kimonos walked gingerly through the snow-covered streets to the ceremonies.

The weather agency warned of further severe winter storms and heavy snow overnight in eastern Japan.

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