The annual cherry blossom front began its northward journey Saturday as this spring's first blooms of the Somei-Yoshino variety were reported in various areas of the country, the Meteorological Agency said.

Saturday's bloom in Fukuoka came four days earlier than usual and in Nagoya it was seven days, the agency said, attributing the early efflorescence to the warm weather. In both places, full bloom is expected between March 26 and 29.

"I feel that the spring has arrived," said Yasutaka Nanri from Fukuoka, who was passing by a blossoming tree. "I'm looking forward to blossom viewing several times this year," he said.

The weather agency and weather services provide bloom reports throughout the season, which usually begin in the southern parts of the country before proceeding northward.

The timing of the annual front is a source of interest for the tourism agency, not only because of the cherry blossom-loving Japanese, but also for foreign tourists who might want to come view the trees in full bloom.

The Japan Weather Association is urging people to plan for an early hanami cherry blossom viewing, as the trees are expected to be in full bloom in late March to the first week of April in places to the west of the Kanto region.