TOKYO (AP) — People across Japan are celebrating peak cherry blossom viewing season this week with no COVID-19 restrictions in place for the first time in two years. But many limit their viewing to strolling under the trees rather than drinking and eating in a traditional party style.
Trees are in full bloom this week in many parts of Japan. They peaked in Tokyo on Sunday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, attracting many people who had avoided participating in the national tradition for two years because of the pandemic.
In many areas, viewers have been asked not to gather under trees for binge drinking – a traditional way of celebrating the season – as part of ongoing anti-virus measures.
In Yoyogi and Ueno parks, areas have been marked off to prevent people from sitting down and partying. Many parks put up signs prohibiting parties with alcohol.
At Chidorigafuchi Park, a famous “hanami” or cherry blossom viewing spot northwest of the Imperial Palace, thousands admired the fluffy pale pink blossoms as they strolled under rows of trees or from rowboats on the palace moat.
Cherry blossoms, or “sakura”, are Japan’s favorite flower and usually reach their peak from late March to early April, just as the country celebrates the start of a new school and business year.
In Shinjuku Gyoen in downtown Tokyo, many people, including families, picnicked under the trees. The popular Nakameguro flower viewing area was full of people walking along a river lined with cherry blossom trees.
Japan lifted all official COVID-19 restrictions last week after infections slowed, but experts have raised concerns about a resurgence caused by people gathering and traveling during spring break.
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