Tokyo and many parts of central Japan should prepare for the cherry blossom season to arrive early this year, according to a forecast that says winter’s icy grip may loosen sooner than usual.

Japan Meteorological Corp., an Osaka-based weather forecasting company, released on Feb. 1 its prediction of when the nation’s iconic sakura flowers will begin blooming. According to the forecast, which covers about 1,000 locations across the country ranging from Kyushu in the south to Hokkaido in the north, this year’s flowers are due to arrive on March 20 in Tokyo, as well as in Kochi and Kagoshima prefectures.

The company has predicted the flowers may start blooming in the nation’s capital up to six days earlier than usual, reaching full bloom on March 28. Last year, the blossoms officially began blooming in Tokyo on March 21, according to the Meteorological Agency.

Elsewhere, cherry blossoms are expected to arrive on March 21 in Fukuoka, March 22 in Nagoya, March 26 in Osaka, March 27 in Kyoto and April 10 in Sendai.

In northern parts of the country the flowers are expected to start blooming as usual, with residents of Hokkaido having to wait until around May 3 to begin cherry blossom viewing.

The southern islands in Okinawa Prefecture are usually the first to see the opening of the blossoms, which appear there in January due to the region’s subtropical climate. But the varieties blooming in Okinawa — okanzakura and kanhizakura — differ from those in the rest of the nation. The forecasts, which are subject to updates, are based on data derived from studying the blooming characteristics of the someiyoshino tree, or Yoshino cherry tree, which is the most common type of sakura tree and is known for its pale pink flowers.

The forecasting firm has concluded that in many areas the flowers entered the growth stage in the end of January, with Maebashi in Gunma Prefecture and Tokyo topping the list with growth rates at around 21 percent.

More information can be found at the company’s website, at n-kishou.com/corp/news-contents/sakura/news2018.html?lang=en .

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