Cherry blossom viewing parties wither away due to coronavirus outbreak

Japan's famed cherry blossom season is in full bloom but parks in Tokyo are empty of traditional "viewing parties" this year, part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Cherry blossom viewing known hanami is a beloved part of the Japanese social calendar, with friends, family and work colleagues gathering for picnics, often with copious amounts of alcohol, beneath the picturesque pink flowers.
Japan's Meteorological Agency declared the start of Tokyo's cherry blossom season on March 14, the earliest ever for the capital and 12 days earlier than an average year due to rising temperatures.
But the Tokyo government has urged citizens to refrain from hanami parties given the crisis. Major cherry blossom festivals have been cancelled, ropes have been set up around the trees and signs reading "no parties allowed" have been posted.
"I think it's better to temporarily refrain from viewing parties," said Junya Shigemasu, a university student. "It's a burden on the people, but I feel it's important to stop the virus from spreading further."

© Thomson Reuters 2020.
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