The country’s symbol of spring is being spotted in mid-autumn, so we held a one-man sakura party to celebrate!

October is a pretty nice time in Japan. The heat and humidity of summer are long gone, and the fall colors of the nation’s turning leaves make for a beautiful backdrop to an afternoon stroll or weekend trip.

But there’s one big drawback to October, which is that it’s about as far away from sakura/cherry blossom season as you can get. The best cherry blossom viewing conditions occur in April, which means that right now our sakura memories from sixth months ago are pretty hazy, and we’ve still got a half-year wait until we get to make new ones.

Or so we thought. Over the last week, users of Japanese website weathernews have been reporting sakura sightings across Japan, with witnesses spotting the country’s favorite flower in locations from the southeastern island of Kyushu to the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. During last weekend alone, more than 10,000 people, in over 350 different places, got to see a cherry blossom, which had us feeling jealous, especially when we saw people on social media claiming they saw sakura in Tokyo.

So on Thursday we sent our Japanese-language reporter Ahiru Neko out to the Meguro River, which runs along the southwestern edge of the capital’s downtown area. In recent years, it’s become one of Tokyo’s most popular venues for hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties), so we figured it was a good choice for our sakura quest.

However, as Ahiru Neko walked along the waterway, the somei yoshino sakura trees looked as bare of blossoms as they usually do in October. Still, he was determined to keep looking, partly because he believed in the miracle of autumn cherry blossoms, and partly because it’s human nature to linger over an out-of-the-office assignment when your workplace occasionally doubles as a pro wrestling battleground.

▼ Ahiru Neko was in no hurry to get back to this.

But just as he was about to resign himself to going back to SoraNews24 headquarters, he noticed something.

At first he thought it might be a hallucination brought on by the fear of spending the rest of his shift in the office, where he could be subjected to a scorpion deathlock at any time. Looking closer, though, he confirmed that what he was seeing was real.

There’s a cherry blossom blooming in Tokyo in the middle of October.

Being of the mindset that one cherry blossom is all you need for a cherry blossom viewing party, Ahiru Neko dashed off to the nearest convenience store before returning to his vantage point with a cup of sake in one hand a bag of snacks in the other.

▼ Sakura position marked by arrow

So what’s causing this unseasonal phenomenon? Well, about a week or so after they ordinarily bloom in April, cherry blossoms fall to the ground. During the summer, new buds start to form, but they’re prevented from opening because the leaves at the base of the bud (which emerge before the bud itself forms) secrete a plant hormone called abscisic acid, which prevents the buds from opening even during warm weather.

However, Japan has been hit by some unusually strong typhoons over the past few weeks, and the mixture of strong winds and salty air has left some trees without their leaves. The leaves usually fall off naturally in the winter, when the weather is too cold for the buds to open. However, the October weather has been just warm enough that without a bloom-preventing supply of abscisic acid, some leafless sakura buds have opened half a year early.

▼ The location of Ahiru Neko’s sakura (red arrow), two blocks away from the Pizzeria e Trattoria da ISA restaurant (blue arrow)

Sadly, the same bud can’t blossom twice, and so not only will the raison d’etre for Ahiru Neko’s one-man hanami session not be making a repeat appearance in the fall, it won’t be getting its replacement until next summer. On the bright side, despite the nationwide reports of sakura sightings this week, the volume of cherry blossoms isn’t enough that it’ll have any noticeable detriment to the trees’ beauty during the upcoming standard spring sakura season.

So should you be lucky enough to spot an autumn cherry blossom, take a moment to appreciate the fact that it’s sacrificing a chance to blossom with its floral friends to give you a special sneak preview. And while you’re probably not going to find any full-scale, large-party hanami going on, Ahiru Neko assures us that taking a few quiet moments of contemplation is also a legitimate way to enjoy the sakura.

If nothing else, it’s a better way to spend an afternoon than by getting a hot crepe thrown on your face.

Reference: Weather News
Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]