While the spring weather in New England has been unremarkably "normal", Japan has experienced a record warm spring. March was the warmest on record for 35 of the 140 weather observatories around Japan that have been recording weather since 1953. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised then that the cherry blossom season was record early. I know of no culture as fascinated by signs of spring as the Japanese, and the flowering of cherry trees is a greatly anticipated national event.
Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, is a popular Japanese pastime and has been for many hundreds of years. Each spring authorities attempt to predict the date of peak cherry flowering so that people can plan parties under the ephemeral blossoms. This spring, cherry flowering was 10 days earlier than predicted in Tokyo and was 15 days earlier than last year. Summer-like temperatures in March, including an astonishing 25.3˚C on 10 March, are to blame for the early flowers that are tied with 2002 for the earliest on record.
Of course this early spring did not stop large crowds of people from enjoying the flowers. Throughout Tokyo, parks and temple grounds were overflowing with groups of families, friends and co-workers eating and drinking under the dense canopy of beautiful blooms.