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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 18:39 GMT
Japan apology for blossom error
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Cherry blossom in Tokyo's Ueno Park (file image)
Families all over Japan turn out to view the cherry blossom
Weather officials in Japan have apologised on TV for a computer glitch that led them to forecast the start of the cherry blossom season incorrectly.

The short period when the delicate pink flowers bloom is keenly awaited in Japan and the Meteorological Agency is expected to give an accurate forecast.

But red-faced officials have been forced to admit that this year they got it badly wrong.

Many towns and firms plan festivals and parties for the cherry blossom season.

Computer bug

The bows from the embarrassed officials could not have been much deeper.

Predicting when the cherry blossoms will bloom is one of the Meteorological Agency's most closely-watched tasks.

They have blamed a computer programme used to analyse weather data for the inaccurate forecast. It had a bug, officials have admitted.

"We have disturbed those who relied on our information," they said, "and we apologise deeply."

This might not sound that important, but working out when the cherry blossom season will begin is a very serious business in Japan.

The forecasts are used to plan festivals. Travel agents use them to plan tours.

The appeal of the cherry blossom is said to be that the flowers remind people that life is short and should be enjoyed.

It is also an excuse for a party. Salarymen and office ladies, as they are known here, get drunk under the trees each night until the blossoms fall.

In Tokyo they now say the blossoms will bloom next Wednesday, three days later than they had originally thought.

"We haven't had many complaints yet," one forecaster said, "but I expect tomorrow we'll be overwhelmed by angry phone calls."

Japan on cherry blossom alert
04 Mar 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Spring blossoms early in Japan
23 Mar 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Japan
03 Jan 07 |  Country profiles

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