Cherry blossom season off to early start in Tokyo, Shizuoka, Kumamoto

Kyodo News

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Cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Shizuoka and Kumamoto prefectures became the first in the nation to bloom this season after they were caught opening at designated observation areas across Japan, the Meteorological Agency announced Saturday.

Among the several varieties of “sakura” (cherry trees) in Japan, the “someiyoshino” in Tokyo and Shizuoka opened six days earlier than usual, while the trees in Kumamoto flowered two days earlier, said the agency, which reports annually on this closely watched barometer of spring.

The blossoms in Shizuoka opened two days earlier than the previous year, while the Kumamoto flowers opened one day earlier and the Tokyo blossoms opened two days later, it said.

It was only the fourth time Tokyo has led the archipelago in opening the cherry blossom season. The other times were on March 23, 1979, March 24, 1993, and March 20, 2007.

The Japanese archipelago was enjoying a bout of high atmospheric pressure on Saturday, which gave rise to sunny weather and mild temperatures in many areas across the country, the agency said.

To make the annual blossom declaration, the agency has designated certain trees at Yasukuni Shrine and other locations throughout the nation as “sample trees.”

The someiyoshino sakura at the shrine and on the grounds of the meteorological agency’s regional branches in Shizuoka and Kumamoto were certified as having the first blossoms after officials saw five or six flowers on the trees in bloom. The agency made the official announcement the same day.

The agency said the cherry blossoms will likely be in full bloom in about a week.

Tree blight spreading

Kyodo News

Crown wart and canker are spreading to cherry trees across Japan, the Flower Association of Japan said Saturday, issuing a public call for more information so it accurately address the diseases.

The diseases cause warts that prevent water and other nutrients from circulating, crippling photosynthesis. Infected trees can lose strength and even die if their condition deteriorates, the group said.

The infection route is unknown, but the risk of contracting a disease climbs if trees are scratched, the group said.