Sakura to hit Tokyo March 26

Sakura to hit Tokyo March 26
PHOTO: Geoffrey Greene

TOKYO - Celebrations for the Chinese New Year are still in full swing and record numbers of tourists have spent the holiday season in Japan this year. But the country's hotels and restaurants will have barely a month to prepare for the next big influx, when tourists descend on Japan for the sakura, or cherry blossom, season in March and April.

Predicting the exact day that the sakura will start to bloom has always been a matter of national interest for the Japanese, and of paramount importance for the country's tourism industry. Now, that interest is spreading overseas.

This year, according to the forecasts from the Japan Weather Association, sakura is set to start blooming first in the southwestern cities of Fukuoka and Kumamoto around Mar. 25, followed by Tokyo and Nagoya around Mar. 26.

The ancient capital of Kyoto, one of the country's most popular tourist destinations, will see the bloom start around Mar. 29, while the northern city of Sapporo in Hokkaido will see it around May 2. It normally takes about a week for the flowers to reach full bloom.

The forecast is based on the temperatures recorded in the months leading up to the sakura season. Generally, low temperatures in late fall and early winter and high temperatures in early spring lead to an early bloom. This year's timing is consistent with the yearly average.

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