• Jiji


Many local governments in Japan are continuing to ask residents not to hold cherry blossom-viewing parties after the country’s coronavirus state of emergency was fully lifted Monday.

The move comes as some eating and drinking establishments defy requests for shortened operating hours in a bid to rake in sales during the blossom-viewing season.

In Tokyo, which emerged on Monday from more than two months under the emergency declaration, Ueno Park is asking visitors not to hold parties with picnic sheets for the second year in a row.

Prior to the pandemic, the popular cherry blossom destination saw roughly 3 million visitors during the season each year.

Still, the rows of cherry trees — which were closed off to the public last year — have been opened up for one-way traffic after the park decided to allow blossom-viewing while walking.

“We want people to take preventive measures such as wearing masks and disinfecting their hands when visiting the park,” a Tokyo metropolitan government official said.

In Yamanashi Prefecture, where the governor made headlines by saying residents should feel free to go out and enjoy the blossoms, the Sakura Matsuri cherry blossom festival is slated to begin at Oboshi Park in the town of Fujikawa on Thursday.

Tokyo's Ueno Park has set up dividers so people can view its cherry blossoms while walking. | KYODO
Tokyo’s Ueno Park has set up dividers so people can view its cherry blossoms while walking. | KYODO

The venue will have food stalls and visitors are being urged to use special eating and drinking spaces that implement infection prevention measures instead of using picnic sheets or walking while eating.

“Although it remains difficult to go out, we hope that viewing the cherry blossoms can help lift people’s spirits,” an official said.

Meanwhile, some restaurants are aiming to use the opportunity to stage a comeback from their slump amid the pandemic.

One restaurant in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward decided to stay open until 11 p.m., flouting the metropolitan government’s request to close by 9 p.m. The establishment faces the Meguro River, a popular cherry blossom spot that boasts some 800 cherry trees that line a 4-kilometer stretch of its banks.

Meguro Ward has called for voluntary restrictions on going out to view the blossoms, asking restaurants and bars near the river not to provide takeout services for such visitors.

However, the restaurant manager, 33, put a premium on making money and said that his place will not abide by the request after area businesses saw sales suffer for months under the emergency.

He said the number of reservations is reaching pre-pandemic levels and that he has hired 15 part-time workers to keep up with the demand.

“We’ll do it as long as customers come, as we want to somehow get back on our feet using the cherry blossom-viewing season,” he said confidently.

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