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The early spring warmth that has enveloped the nation in recent weeks has accelerated the blooming of cherry trees in many areas, causing headaches for “hanami” viewing organizers hoping to draw crowds of revelers to see the famed “sakura” blossoms.

In Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, famous for its traditional Kairakuen garden, the cherry blossoms are forecast to bloom later this week. Last year they appeared in early April.

“We are wondering if we should light up the garden early,” a local tourism official said, adding that the Mito Sakura Festival was scheduled to kick off April 1.

In Senboku, Akita Prefecture, the organizer of a major hanami festival said it was busy getting ready for an accelerated start.

According to the Meteorological Agency, temperatures overall since February have been higher than last year, triggering the earliest blooms on record in the south and the west, including Fukuoka and Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture.

In Tokyo, the agency declared the sakura’s arrival Friday, seven days earlier than last year.

Despite early spring warmth in most regions, however, the city of Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, expects its cherry blossoms to open up late, around April 22, compared with April 16 last year.

That prospect has delighted local tourism officials ahead of the Hirosaki Sakura Matsuri festival in late April, which gathers crowds to see its more than 2,600 cherry trees.

Last year, sakura peaked and waned before the Golden Week holidays from late April to early May. But this year, the town is “ready for a big crowd coming here for sakura,” a tourism official said.

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