April 4, 2023

Climate and traditions: sakura blossomed so early in Japan for the first time in the last 70 years

Mid–spring is the traditional cherry blossom time in Japan. At this time, locals and tourists together celebrate the holiday of admiring the flowers – khans. Hanami begins with admiring the flowering of ume – Japanese plum, which lasts 7-10 days.
After ume, sakura blooms. The sakura flower is an unofficial symbol of Japan. It symbolizes feminine beauty and tenderness, the transience of time and the pricelessness of every moment.

Since the climate in different prefectures of Japan varies greatly, sakura blooms from the end of February to the end of March. The season is considered open when the reference sakura tree of the Somei-yoshino variety blooms at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. It is the most common variety in Japan, accounting for 90% of cherry trees in the country. In total, there are about 400 varieties in Japan. The reference sakura is closely watched by the staff of the local meteorological center. As soon as the first 5 buds bloom on the control tree, the season is considered open. This is solemnly reported by the meteorological department of the country.
This year, cherry blossoms began on March 14, 10 days earlier than usual. This is the earliest flowering since 1953. Why is this important? The tradition of admiring flowers in Japan originated in the III century at the imperial court. Her first followers were the emperor himself, his family and courtiers. Now it is a special ritual for the Japanese. They gather in families, friendly companies and whole offices and go out to the park to have a picnic, have fun and admire the clouds of rose petals.
The most popular traditional picnic treats are dango, an appetizer made of rice flour, similar to buns strung on a stick with various sprinkles and additives, and onigiri rice triangles. Popular fun among Japanese men is ikki. In fact, this is a competition for who will drink more sake and stay on their feet.

There is a tradition of admiring sakura flowers at night. It is called iosakura – "night sakura", and looks very beautiful and unusual: special wright-appu paper lanterns are installed on the trunks, which illuminate the crowns from below.
The most famous place to admire sakura flowers is Shinjuku–geen National Park in Tokyo, where 1,500 cherry trees grow. A place there, and in other parks, must be booked in advance. An analogue of the armor is considered to be an abandoned rug or mat with a name. In some companies, if a corporate picnic is planned in the afternoon or evening, a junior or a new employee is sent to the place in advance so that he takes a place for the rest. There are even special agencies that will keep a place for you in the park while you are busy with your business.
In addition to local residents, thousands of foreign tourists come to admire the cherry blossoms and take part in the fun. The cherry blossom season is the most popular time to visit the Land of the Rising Sun. According to estimates for 2019, the number of local and foreign tourists during this period is 63 million people, the country earns about 2.3 billion dollars from them. Naturally, a whole industry is connected with this. Festivals are held locally, themed souvenirs, food sets, toys are sold. Travel agencies offer special tours to cherry blossom cities. Naturally, the dates of flowering are crucial in this case. And if it starts ahead of time, it can cause disappointment for people who have booked a trip in advance, and when they arrived, they found only fallen trees and a carpet of once pink petals on the grass.
According to the researchers, this earlier flowering is associated with global warming. Every year sakura blooms earlier and earlier. This year, the effect of southerly winds was added to the overall temperature increase, due to which the air in Tokyo warmed up above 20 ° from March 8 to 11. 18° is enough for cherry blossoms.
Environmentalists believe that, in addition to the damage to the country's economy, global warming and the associated early cherry blossom have an impact on entire ecosystems. Different plants, animals, and insects may react differently to an increase in temperature. This leads to a failure of their life cycles: flowers can bloom before insects are ready, and then there may not be enough food for insects, and pollinators for flowers.


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