Tokyoites are getting back into a pre-COVID-19 tradition.

This month sees the return of hanami, the cherry-blossom viewing parties that are part of a tradition dating back to the Heian Period of 1,200 years ago, before being cruelly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each spring heralds the spectacular-but-short-lived bloom of the flowers that coincides with the end of Japan’s fiscal and school years, and becomes a time of partings, new beginnings — and an excuse for raucous drinking parties beneath the petals.

This will be the first year since the coronavirus first surfaced in Wuhan that authorities aren’t cautioning against holding such celebrations. Three years ago, as millions across the globe bedded into lockdowns, hanami parties were (unfairly) blamed for seeding the virus and causing the state of emergency that rocked the economy the following month. While such revelry was officially discouraged, with COVID-19 yet to really hit Japan, some still felt free to enjoy themselves.