The Japanese capital of Tokyo on Thursday was hit by its first November snow in 54 years, slowing rush hour trains as residents slogged to work wearing heavy coats and boots in a city far more accustomed to earthquakes than to snow. The last time snow fell in November in Tokyo, John F. Kennedy was President of the United States and singer Bob Dylan – who this year won the Nobel Literature Prize – had released his debut album just months before.
The snow, which began as sleet around dawn but turned to snow soon after, was sparked by an unusual cold front spreading over the Tokyo area that sent temperatures down to near zero C (32 F).
Average temperatures at this time of year are highs of 14 C (57 F) and rose as far as 20 C (68 F) as recently as Sunday.
“I was shocked,” said Masaru Machida, who had just finished night shift work and was walking home. “It’s too early.”
Though Tokyo, which is on roughly the same latitude as the U.S. city of Raleigh, North Carolina, does see snow at least once a year, it usually falls in January or February and rarely accumulates for long.
As much as 2 cm of snow was predicted for central Tokyo by the time the snow stops, likely by early afternoon, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency.