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Japan’s Cherry Blossom Season Begins at Record-breaking Early Date

Japan’s Meteorological Agency revealed on March 14 that cherry trees are beginning their annual bloom in Tokyo, marking the earliest start to Hanami season since records commenced in 1953. The season’s start date has slowly crept forwards in recent years, with records being broken each year from 2020-2022 respectively. Now, the city’s official sample tree used to quantify the onset of Sakura has blossomed ten days earlier than it did in 2022.

Based on data collected this week, peak bloom is also predicted to arrive earlier than initially expected, as officials forecast March 21-24 as its new start date. This is a consequence of unusually high temperatures before the turn of the spring equinox on March 21, agency representatives say.

Tokyo’s cherry blossom forecast is based on the schedule of Somei Yoshino trees — the country’s most prevalent variety of sakura species. Whilst the flowers only last for a few days before falling, the economic and cultural significance of the season is monumental. People travel from across the globe specifically to see the infamous blossoms, friends and family get together for picnics and celebrations, and throngs of people take to the streets of Tokyo, saturating Instagram with pictures of the pink petals. 

However, this year’s early bloom points to something troubling — rising temperatures are having a detrimental impact on Japan’s cherry trees to the point where, eventually, they might not blossom at all. The trees need a full month of cool weather, below five degrees Celsius, to be able to blossom later on, author of The Sakura Obsession Naoko Abe told NPR. 

Whilst this year’s early onset has been caused by an unusually warm spring, late blooms could also be possible in the coming years due to increasingly warmer winters; sakura trees in Southern Japan have already experienced these delays. What’s more, such irregularities have wider implications for the country’s ecology and delicate ecosystems. 

It’s no secret that human-induced climate change, accelerated by urbanization and rising levels of fossil-fuel pollutants, is warming our cities at record-breaking rates. In fact, Met Office scientist Dr. Nikos Christidis predicted in 2021 that early flowering of Japan’s cherry trees is now expected to occur once a century — his prediction materializing when 2021’s peak blossom became the earliest on record. However, with this year’s peak now looking as though it will arrive even earlier than it did in 2021, it might be time to revise that calculation. 

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Tags: #Japan #Climate #Hanami #CherryBlossoms #Toyko #Sakura


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