Hanami flower-viewing season begins nine days earlier than average as the city’s official “sample tree” sprouts its first blossoms.

In March every year, the Japan Meteorological Agency keeps a careful eye on Tokyo’s special hyoujun-ki (literally “sample tree“), which officially heralds the start of the region’s long-awaited sakura season when it blossoms.

This special cherry blossom tree, located at Yasukuni Shrine in the capital’s Chiyoda Ward, in an ideal position that doesn’t receive too much light or shade, is a Somei Yoshino variety, which is the country’s predominant type of sakura that commonly draws thousands of tourists to Japan each spring.

▼ The sample tree is used “for phenological observation
conducted by the Tokyo Regional Headquarters of the Japan Meteorological Agency.”

The meteorological agency announced yesterday that Tokyo’s cherry blossom season had officially arrived, after five to six blossoms were spotted on the city’s hyoujun-ki, which is the standard requirement for the announcement.

▼ Japanese media outlets crowded around the tree yesterday
to spread word of the opening of the season with breaking news reports on television.

The 17 March announcement comes nine days earlier than the average year, and four days earlier than the 2017 sakura season, due to warmer-than-average temperatures in the city from the end of last month, which led to the rapid blossoming of buds on trees. According to the agency, this year’s cherry blossom season is the second earliest on record since 1953, following the 2002 and 2013 seasons, which began on 16 March in their respective years.

▼ The hyoujun-ki in full bloom.

The early arrival of the sakura flowers means the dates for the city’s first cherry blossom forecast have now been pushed forward, with full bloom expected in a week to ten day’s time. Once more than 80 percent of the hyoujun-ki is in flower, the agency will announce that the city’s sakura trees are in full bloom, which will be the optimal time to meet up with friends and gather your limited-edition sakura goods together for a hanami picnic to remember.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun via Weathernews
Featured image: Pakutaso