I'm not sure when they started last year.
IIRC, I received my placement in June last year. Because of May 11th, though, our whole application process was delayed a bit. You might find out earlier. I can say, though (at least for my town), that decisions have not been made yet. I don't think we've even seen the short list yet. All we know is the number of empty spaces in our prefecture, which is pretty much useless info for you guys.
Guess all this cold weather made me not want to go to a cold place... but I love snow so *crosses fingers for snow country* )
Well, pretty much anywhere you go that isn't Okinawa is going to have stupidly cold winters. Snow is definitely not guaranteed, but if there are any mountains nearby (and there will be, since the country is pretty much made of mountains), then snow will never be far away.