TOKYO - Spring officially arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday when Japan's weather agency announced the start of the cherry blossom season.
Forecasters watching trees at the capital's central Yasukuni Shrine said the city's first blossoms had appeared there, marking the beginning of two weeks in which Tokyo's parks, temple grounds, schools and streets will explode in pinks and whites.
"Cherry blossom is a good gauge to let us know that spring is here," a Japan Meteorological Agency official said, adding that this year's first blossoms had appeared at the usual time.
Japanese culture prizes the perfect but delicate blossom, whose transience -- they only last a week -- is seen as a reminder of the fragility of life.
Trees in Tokyo will be in full bloom in about a week's time, turning parks into huge picnic areas where friends, family and colleagues gather for sometimes raucous, alcohol-fuelled celebrations that can last for hours.
Much of the west of the country is already in bloom, while the north will see flowers as late as May.