The mammoth pile up happened on the Tohoku Expressway in the nothern prefecture of Miyagi at around midday, the government said.
Officials said around 200 people were caught up in the crashes. They have been given drinking water, food and blankets to keep warm, reports public broadcaster NHK.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said a lorry rammed into a passenger car, triggering the pile-up.
He said one person was killed and according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, 17 others were injured, including two seriously.
NHK News said authorities finished cleaning up the debris after about eight hours.
Authorities had imposed a speed limit of 31 mph when heavy snow blanketed the stretch of road which is about half a mile long.
Pictures of the Tohoku Expressway show multiple snow-covered cars damaged by the crash.
The region is expected to record up to 15 inches of snow in the next 24 hours reports BBC News.
Japan has experienced a number of snow storms in recent weeks. In December 2020, hundreds of drivers were left stranded when snow covered the Kanetsu expressway.
An emergency meeting was held and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga urged members of the public to take care in the severe weather.
That same month, snowfall records were broken when 176cm of snow fell in 48 hours in Fujiwara.