Official announcement comes with a new date for full bloom.

Back in January, Japanese weather forecasting organisation Weather News released its first sakura forecast for the year, where it predicted the flowers would begin blossoming in Tokyo on 17 March. 

In early February, an updated forecast pushed the blossoming date back to 20 March, but another update two weeks later switched the prediction to 18 March, before the final forecast, released earlier this month, settled on 19 March. However, in the end, all those dates came and went, and the buds on Tokyo’s hyoujun-ki, the sample tree by which the start of sakura season is officially declared when five or six blossoms can be seen, remained tightly closed…until today.

▼ Tokyo’s famous sample tree is located on the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine.

The official start to sakura season in the capital was declared by the Japan Meteorological Agency on 29 March, after an employee observed more than five to six blossoms on the Somei Yoshino sample tree at around 2:00 p.m. This makes the start date almost two weeks later than the initial forecast, five days later than the average, the latest in 10 years, and a whopping 15 days later than last year, which was the earliest date for the third year running.

▼ An official declared the start of sakura season in Tokyo at the sample tree this afternoon.

While we spare a moment to think about the tourists who planned their visit to Tokyo according to the forecasts only to be disappointed by their late arrival, the question arises — what caused the blossoms to bloom so late? According to specialists in the field, the unusual temperatures, with February being relatively warm and March being relatively cold — a reversal of the norm — led to their late development.

Still, there is an upside to the late blooms, with people around Japan commenting that it harks back to the years when the sakura coincided with school entrance ceremonies and new job starts in early April.

“This timing was normal 30 years ago — the flowers were in full bloom in early April at the time of the entrance ceremonies.”
“I have a photo of me with my parents in front of the main gate of the elementary school when I was six years old, and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.”
“When we were children, there were always flurries of sakura around the entrance ceremony. It made me feel like it was the start of a new year.”
“It’s as as if the tradition of cherry blossoms at entrance ceremonies had disappeared in recent years so it’s nice to see it return.”
“This year has become a year when you can experience the original seasonal feeling of cherry blossoms for the first time in a long time.”

Following today’s start-of-season announcement, the meteorological agency is now predicting full bloom in central Tokyo will occur around 4 April. This will be the first time in seven years for full bloom to occur in April in Tokyo. Considering the sakura was in full bloom around 24 March last year, five days before the blooms even appeared this year, the upcoming season is much more in line with years gone by.

▼ For many people, childhood memories are wrapped up in April sakura.

Reports say that warm weather in the coming days will speed up the blossoming process, so they will reach full blossom in a shorter period of time than usual, and initiate blossoming in other parts of the country as well. So if you’re visiting Japan in the next week or so, you’re in perfect time to enjoy the dazzling cherry blossoms. And next year, we’ll be taking our sakura predictions from Mr Sato, who predicted they would arrive on 28 March, making his guess more accurate than any of the official forecasters!

Source: Mainichi Shimbun, ANN via Yahoo Japan
Featured image: Pakutaso
Insert images © SoraNews24, Pakutaso

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