Parks in Tokyo welcome back cherry blossom picnics after 4 years

People in Tokyo are now allowed to gather under sakura trees for picnics and various events, though with minor restrictions still in play. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO – For the first time since the pandemic, people in Japan who longed to have picnics under cherry blossom trees will now be able to celebrate this beloved tradition.

Cherry blossom season in Japan draws huge crowds of residents and tourists, and the peak season is from late March to early April.

With the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, folk in Tokyo can now gather under sakura trees, though minor restrictions are still in play, reported the Asahi Shimbun.

In 2020, the Tokyo government asked people to refrain from eating and drinking alcohol in metropolitan parks due to concerns that this could increase the spread of Covid-19.

But now, major parks including Ueno Park and Inokashira Park, will begin welcoming visitors back to enjoy the full floral glory of the sakura after four years.

Since March this year, Japan’s Covid-19 situation has calmed, and it has since removed its mask mandate.

But local governments will continue taking measures to avoid crowd build-ups to prevent the spread of Covid-19 such as hand sanitising, said an official in charge of Tokyo’s metropolitan parks.

Restrictions still in place include Ueno Park’s Sakura-dori street, a famed cherry blossom spot, remaining a one-way thoroughfare to avoid crowding during the cherry blossom season, said officials.

They added that picnics will also not be allowed in the street, but in separate areas, and only until 8pm.

Inokashira park is permitting picnics only till 10pm, and officials of Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa and Akishima cities are asking people to hold parties for only a short time. 

“The risk of infection has not disappeared,” an official in charge of the park said.

The sakura season could help boost Japan’s bid to recover from the pandemic. In February, the Yomiuri Shimbun, citing a JTB Corp travel trend forecast, reported that the country will see a 450 per cent year-on-year increase in inbound tourism in 2023.

Since the easing of Covid-19 border control measures in October, visitor numbers have climbed rapidly and some 21.1 million tourists – 66 per cent of 2019 levels – are expected this year.

A woman poses for photos under blossoms as people come out to Ueno Park to see the early cherry blossoms in Tokyo, on March 14, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

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