Cherry blossoms are expected to start blooming in Tokyo on March 23 this year, slightly earlier than usual, and reach full bloom eight days later on March 31, according to a forecast by Japan Meteorological Corp., an Osaka-based weather-forecasting company.

The forecast, released Thursday, stated that flowering dates will be about the same as an average year across the nation. Kochi and Fukuoka prefectures have the same forecast flowering date as Tokyo, making them the first to blossom throughout the nation.

The cherry blossoms in Tokyo are forecast to flower three days earlier than an average year, echoing a trend seen for the past nine years, according to the company.

Forecasts for other locations are as follows:

  • March 28 in Osaka
  • March 24 in Nagoya
  • April 11 in Sendai
  • May 3 in Sapporo

Though the higher temperature in the late fall delayed the end of dormancy for cherry blossom trees, which is similar to hibernation for plants, the warmer winter allowed them to grow more quickly, enabling the trees to catch up with the average pace of flowering, according to the forecast.

When cherry blossoms flowered in major cities last year, many people gathered for annual viewing parties outdoors — raising concerns the tradition might have contributed to the spread of COVID-19. At the time, the numbers of new infections reported daily were showing a rising trend.

Japan’s first state of emergency over the pandemic was issued on April 7 in Tokyo and other prefectures, and later expanded nationwide.

The cherry blossom forecast covers 1,000 locations across Japan, and is prepared specifically for the Somei-Yoshino variety of cherry trees, which are the most common type found in the nation. The predictions, which are subjected to change, are made based on factors such as temperatures in the fall and winter seasons and the growth status of the trees.

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