The storm blanketed a stretch of the Tohoku Expressway in Miyagi prefecture at around noon on Tuesday.
Some 200 people have been caught up in the pile-up and rescuers were at the scene, officials said.
Japan has been hit by severe snowstorms in recent weeks with some parts of the country having double the average expected snowfall.
Authorities had already enforced a 50km speed limit on the road due to visibility.
There was a maximum wind speed of about 100km/h at the time of the incident, local weather officials said.