Cherry blossoms in Tokyo have begun blooming, the Meteorological Agency announced Tuesday, matching a record early start seen only twice before as revelers look set to flock to parks and other sites for viewing parties that had largely been curtailed by COVID-19.
According to the weather agency, more than five blossoms were seen from Somei-Yoshino cherry blossom trees at Yasukuni Shrine in the capital.
Cherry blossoms, or sakura, in the capital started blooming 10 days earlier than average, tying 2020 and 2021 for the earliest date since 1953, when data first began being collected.
Temperatures have been rising since the beginning of March, leading to quicker bud growth. The blossoms are expected to be in full-bloom within the next week, the weather agency said.
The news comes amid an easing of the government’s masking guidelines, making it easier for crowds to flock to cherry blossom viewing parties for the first time since large gatherings were frowned upon — and sometimes blocked by local authorities — amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the first time in four years, Ueno Park is allowing people to gather with food and drink to view their famed cherry blossoms. Although laying out sheets and seating is prohibited for the park’s main cherry blossom-lined street, some areas will be designated as areas where people can continue to party until 8 p.m.