A mild winter in many parts of Japan means the cherry blossoms are expected to arrive earlier than usual. By the time we hit April — the start of the fiscal year, the school term, and when new employees begin their first day on the job — the cherry blossoms are likely to be almost finished in the Kanto and Kansai regions.

For Kyoto in particular, that's very bad news. COVID-19 couldn't have arrived at a worse time for a city world renowned for its cherry blossoms. Local businesses know cherry blossom season and the autumn months are the two peak spending periods by foreign and Japanese visitors. Since late February, Kyoto, like elsewhere, has been forced to cancel events, large and small, including traditional spring events like the "Miyako Odori," a series of cherry blossom dances performed by the city's maiko and geiko (Kyoto's geisha).

For the past five or six years, overtourism has been Kyoto's main problem, with residents, foreign and Japanese, complaining loudly about hordes of foreign tourists in the streets spoiling their fair city. On the other hand, hotels and hostels have been popping up in Kyoto like mushrooms. A lot of people made, and continue to make, a ton of money off the tourist trade.