On March 14, multiple open blossoms were observed on Tokyo's representative cherry tree, leading the Meteorological Agency to declare that the cherry blossoms have officially started opening in the capital.
Never have the blossoms opened earlier in Tokyo since the recording started in 1953. The previous record was March 16, set in 2002 and 2016. In the average year, the blossoms do not start opening until March 26. A very warm winter is responsible for the trees' fast pace this year.
Two days after the first opening, the trees were still mostly closed across Tokyo today, and you had to inspect them well in order to spot scattered open blossoms here and there. However, temperatures in Tokyo are forecast to rise well above average from Wednesday, which could propel the season into its best viewing state before the end of the upcoming weekend.
Elsewhere in the country, the season is not quite as advanced. As a matter of fact, Tokyo was the first city on Japan's main islands to see the opening of the cherry blossoms this year. The blossoms around Osaka and Kyoto and on the southern island of Kyushu are not expected to open for another 4-6 days. See the forecast.
Our first stop was Ueno Park which is the site of wild hanami parties and evening illuminations in the usual year. Due to the coronavirus. however, the authorities in Tokyo are discouraging parties under the trees, and the evening illuminations at Ueno Park have been cancelled. It is believed that the virus spreads more easily in places where crowds remain for extended time periods. The authorities added that enjoying the blossoms on a walk is much less likely to spread the virus and are not fundamentally discouraging blossom viewing activities this year.
Only scattered blossoms have started to open in Ueno Park so far. It is likely to take around another week until best viewing conditions will start at the park.
Koishikawa Korakuen is one of Tokyo's prettiest traditional landscape gardens. It features several weeping cherry trees whose blossoms open a few days earlier than the elsewhere more common Somei Yoshino tree variety. Indeed, the beautiful weeping cherry in the center of the garden had already around 30-40 percent of its blossoms open and should reach full bloom by the upcoming weekend.
Yasukuni Shrine is the site of Tokyo's representative cherry tree which we wanted to include into our first cherry blossom report of the year. Two days after the opening of the season had been declared here, the number of open blossoms was still very small and probably still below 20. However, many of the buds were quite well developed and should open over the next few days, motivated by the warm temperatures forecast from Wednesday.
Just a short walk from Yasukuni Shrine lies Chidorigafuchi, part of the moat that surrounds the former Edo Castle. The moat is lined by hundreds of cherry trees and offers rowing boat rentals during the flowering season. The annual evening illuminations, however, were cancelled this year due to the coronavirus. Just like in the other spots visited today, only a handful of blossoms have opened along Chidorigafuchi so far.