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Saturday, 23 March, 2002, 09:55 GMT
Spring blossoms early in Japan
Japanese drink to celebrate the blossom
Cherry blossom parties are often drunken affairs
test hello test
By the BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
line
For centuries it has been a national obsession in Japan - the arrival of the cherry blossom, signalling the end of winter.


I think the natural cycle is getting strange; but anyway by looking at those flowers I feel calmer

Cherry blossom viewer
Office workers have been heading to prime viewing spots for the traditional drinking session.

The big difference this year is that the blooms are out two weeks earlier than usual.

Parties such as these are not normally in full swing until April.

Flocking to see

"I thought that the blooming would not happen for another few weeks, but since I heard the news that the blossoms were appearing much earlier than usual I hurried to come here," said one woman.

Japanese women walk among the blossom
Japanese rush to catch the blossoms before they fade

"I think this early blooming is to do with global warming. I think the natural cycle is getting strange; but anyway by looking at those flowers I feel calmer," a man told me.

Each year weather forecasters plot the cherry blossom front as it sweeps from the sub-tropical south to the frozen north.

But this time everyone was caught by surprise - the legendary inflexibility of Japanese business put to the test as office parties are hastily rearranged.

It has been a dismal winter of recession in Japan, if an exceptionally mild one.

With the arrival of spring there are signs that the worst is over, although the recovery could prove to be just as fleeting as the blossom itself.

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


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Links to more Asia-Pacific stories