Hanami season has arrived in Japan much earlier than expected. 

Whenever spring begins in Japan, people across the country start taking extra notice of the sakura trees around their neighbourhood, watching the buds as they begin to develop and wondering when they’ll burst into bloom.

Weather forecasters are always on hand to help with those predictions, releasing forecasts from the beginning of the year and keeping an eye on the nation’s sample trees, which are used to declare the start of the season in each region once a certain number of blooms appear.

In Tokyo, the sample tree is located on the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine, and the start of sakura season is officially declared when the Japan Meteorological Agency confirms the appearance of at least five blossoms on the tree.

▼ Tokyo’s sample tree is a someiyoshino variety, which is the most prevalent variety around the nation.

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With temperatures in Tokyo rising to above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) for four consecutive days last week, the Japan Meteorological Agency had been keeping a watchful eye on the tree in Yasukuni Shrine, and today, it announced that five blooms had appeared on the tree. 

This official announcement signals the start to cherry blossom season in the capital, and it was earlier than forecasters had predicted.

▼ Back in January, the first forecast of the year suggested sakura season would start in Tokyo on 22 March.

▼ A revised forecast in February predicted the season would start in Tokyo on 17 March.

The flowers beat the forecast by three days, making it the earliest start to the season in Toyo for the third year, matching the record first set in 2020 and again in 2021.

According to the agency, four cherry blossoms were seen on Tokyo’s sample tree on 13 March, but the all-important fifth blossom wasn’t sighted until the following day. If that fifth blossom had unfurled its petals a day earlier, it would’ve made the record for the earliest sighting since official observations began in 1953.

▼ In Japan, the difference between four blossoms and five is serious business.

By the end of the day, 11 blossoms had been spotted on the tree, showing the steady progression of hanami flower-viewing season, and making it the first someiyoshino tree to bloom in Japan this year. This year’s announcement comes six days earlier than last year and 10 days earlier than usual.

With the early arrival of the blooms in Tokyo, peak blossom is also set to arrive earlier than predicted, with officials now forecasting 21-24 March as the ideal time to view the city’s trees in full bloom.

▼ Soon the sample tree, and all others around, it will be at peak beauty.

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Forecasters say the blooms will now arrive earlier than first predicted at all locations across Japan, bringing peak blossoming periods forward by roughly a week. So be sure to amend your hanami plans accordingly, especially at these top spots, which will be much busier now that sakura parties are finally permitted in Japan for the first time in three years!

Source: Japan Meteorological Agency, NHK 
Featured image: Pakutaso
Insert images: @Press, Weather Map, © SoraNews24
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