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What Happened to All the Sakura Blossoms in Tokyo?

A warm winter and the return of cold weather are thought to be delaying Tokyo's sakura season, with the latest forecast predicting March 27 as the start date.



People walk in the rain along Inui Street of the Imperial Palace, opened to the public for a limited time. Some varieties of sakura have begun to open up. March 23, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. (©Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

During this time of year in Tokyo, sakura, or cherry blossoms, typically adorn the landscape with their delicate pink hues. However, in 2024, nature appears to be following a different rhythm, leaving locals and visitors waiting longer than usual for the iconic flowers to appear.

On March 20, JAPAN Forward released a sakura forecast based on predictions from the Japan Meteorological Corporation (JMC). It was anticipated that sakura in Tokyo would begin to blossom on March 24 and reach full bloom by March 31. However, the beautiful petals have yet to make their appearance.

On March 25, the private meteorological company Weather Map announced its latest predictions for the sakura season. According to its forecast, sakura in central Tokyo are expected to begin opening on March 27, reaching full bloom by April 5.

A few sakura trees were reported to have started blooming in certain areas of Tokyo, including those along Inui Street of the Imperial Palace. However, the official declaration of sakura season in Tokyo relies on specific criteria: the first day when five to six or more flowers have bloomed on the "sample" sakura tree in Yasukuni Shrine. Full bloom is announced when 80% or more of its buds have blossomed. As of March 25, none of the buds had opened.

Visitors look for flower blossoms along the Inui Street of the Imperial Palace on March 23. (March 23, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. (©Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

What's Causing the Delay?

Some experts attribute the delay to a combination of the second warmest winter on record and the return of cold weather. Sakura need a sufficiently cold winter to awaken from dormancy and a warm spring for their blossoms to grow.

Describing the anticipation of the season, The Sankei Shimbun quoted the words of Japanese author Yoshida Kenko (1283–1350): "Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless?" 

Indeed, there is beauty to be found not only in the full bloom of sakura but also in the anticipation of their arrival and the tranquility they leave behind after their petals have fallen. 

Nevertheless, there is nothing quite as exquisite as watching Tokyo bathed in soft pink while joyous crowds admire the season's splendor. Skies are forecasted to clear on March 27.



Author: Miruka Adachi

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