Japan cherry blossom season begins, marking start of spring

A cherry flower blooms on a monitoring tree at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Cherry blossom season has officially kicked off in Tokyo, marking the beginning of spring for the Japanese. A Japan Meteorological Agency official counted at least five flowers blooming on the monitoring tree Tuesday at the shrine. (Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — Cherry blossom season has officially kicked off in Tokyo, marking the beginning of spring for the Japanese.

A Japan Meteorological Agency official counted at least five flowers blooming on a monitoring tree Tuesday at Yasukuni Shrine. He made the much-awaited announcement to media and visitors taking photos of a few pale pink flowers on the still mostly bare trees.

The announcement came about five days earlier than usual. Full bloom is expected in late March or early April.

While the flowers normally first bloom in southern Japan where the climate is warmer. Tokyo is the first city this year to announce the start of the popular flower season.

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