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Cherry blossoms light up Tokyo

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WELCOME BLOOM: Cherry blossoms are seen out at Ueno Park in Tokyo on Saturday.
WELCOME BLOOM: Cherry blossoms are seen out at Ueno Park in Tokyo on Saturday.

TOKYO: The cherry blossom season for the year has officially begun in Tokyo.

The annual declaration by the Japan Meteorological Agency is closely watched as heralding the arrival of spring.

Symbol of culture

The flowers, known as “sakura,” are a symbol of Japan’s culture.

This year, the blossoming was spotted January 3 on the southernmost island of Okinawa and has been gradually travelling northward. Saturday’s announcement for Tokyo came about seven days earlier than the average, though just one day earlier than last year, the agency said in a statement.

Officials watch for blooming on specially selected trees at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine — a controversial monument for the war dead, including Japanese war criminals.

Japanese culture prizes signs of the changing seasons, including autumn foliage and rice-planting.

But the fluffy pale pink blossoms hold a special place in many people’s hearts as a symbol of a beginning. School years and many companies’ fiscal years start around the time the cherry blossoms bloom. — AP

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