Snow blanketed Tokyo on Thursday as hours of flurries forced the cancellation of over 100 domestic flights and the weather agency issued the city's first heavy snow warning in four years.

Residents held umbrellas and pushed their bicycles as large snowflakes began to settle, with the Japan Meteorological Agency saying up to 10 centimetres (four inches) could fall over a 12-hour period.

The JMA issued a heavy snow alert for the Tokyo area for the first time since 2018, warning of potential disruption to traffic. 

The snow caused the cancellation of 66 departing and 53 arriving domestic flights at the Japanese capital's main airport Haneda, an airport official told AFP, but no international flights were cancelled.

Some commuter trains in Tokyo were delayed due to heavy snow, JR East railway operator said on its website.

On Twitter, the weather agency warned residents that "caution for heavy snow is warranted" in central Tokyo.

"Heavy snow warnings are being issued... The affected areas might be expanded. Please check the latest weather and traffic information!"

At Sensoji Temple in central Tokyo, a popular tourist destination, some visitors dressed in traditional kimono and "geta" wooden sandals with split-toe socks walked past the landmark's red columns and golden bells as snowflakes fell.

The scene was more prosaic for commuters stuck navigating the rare weather event in the Ginza shopping and business district.

"It's kind of unusual that it snows this much in Tokyo in January," Tokyo worker Keiichi Masuda, 37, said as he hurried home. 

"I need to be careful not to slip as I walk."

But others in the area were taking the time to soak up the unusual snowfall, including Tokyo resident Shigeko Nagahama, 73, who was taking pictures of the iconic Kabukiza Theatre.

She stood alongside others enjoying the snow settling on the traditional architecture of the building that hosts kabuki performances.

"It's a beautiful sight. The snow lends a quaint aura to it, I think," she said.

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