onsdag 30. mars 2022

‘We have waited so long’: a cautious Tokyo celebrates cherry blossoms in shadow of Covid

After two years of pandemic-related cancellations and restrictions, Japan is again observing the time-honoured ritual of hanami – cherry blossom viewing. As the delicate pink flowers reached their peak, people who had previously avoided the crowds – or had their local viewing festivals called off – have turned out in large numbers to view Tokyo’s sakura petals.

But a rise in Covid-19 cases in the capital since quasi-emergency restrictions were lifted at the start of last week has sparked concern that the long-awaited hanami season could help fuel a resurgence. At Chidorigafuchi park, a famous hanami spot northwest of the imperial palace, thousands of people viewed the flowers as they walked beneath rows of trees or from rowing boats on the palace moat.

The blossoms reached full bloom in Tokyo on Sunday – four days earlier than average but five days later than last year – when temperatures reached 21C, according to the meteorological agency.