Page last updated at 21:01 GMT, Thursday, 27 March 2008

In pictures: Cherry blossom season

Cherry blossom in Japan (photo James Cope)

Japan's Meteorological Agency declared the opening of the "sakura season" on March 22 - that's when more than 80% of a benchmark tree at Yasukuni Shrine came into bloom.

Graduates and cherry trees in Japan (photo James Cope)

Holding "hanami", or cherry-blossom parties, is a centuries-old Japanese tradition. These women wearing hakamas have just graduated from university.

People and cherry trees, Japan (Photo James Cope)

Parks fill up with workers taking time out from the office, students and old people who come out to see the delicate pink blossom.

People under cherry trees  (photo James Cope)

The season only lasts about two weeks, so people make the most of it.

Man under cherry tree, Japan  (photo James Cope)

This man is reserving a good spot for a hanami with friends or colleagues later.

Graduates and cherry trees in Japan (photo James Cope)

This is university graduation week in Japan, and students come to the park after their graduation ceremonies for parties or to take photos.

People photographing cherry blossom (photo James Cope)

This year's season began six days earlier than average, and one day sooner than had been forecast.

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