Sakura Surprise: Japan’s Cherry Blossoms Flowering in October

Something strange is going on. While we’re all switching our spring/summer wardrobes over to autumn/winter, some of Japan’s sakura trees have fast forwarded to spring 2019 and are already starting to bloom.

Typically, the cherry blossoms only start to flower each year from the end of March to early May – a period closely monitored by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) which predicts the sakura blossoming season according to each prefecture. This year, however, a few cherry blossoms have unexpectedly arrived in October – months too early – much to the confusion and surprise of residents.

A Blooming Surprise

After conducting a survey, meteorological firm Weathernews reported that over 300 people across Japan have spotted cherry blossoms in their neighborhoods, even in the cold regions of Hokkaido. Hiroyuki Wada from the Flower Association of Japan told NHK, “This has happened in the past, but I don’t remember seeing something of this scale.”

According to experts, the flourishing pink phenomenon could be due to a series of typhoons as well as the unusually high temperatures that ensued. This year, typhoons including Trami, Jebi and Prapiroon wreaked havoc across Japan, causing floods, destroying properties and claiming lives.

The 2018 Pacific typhoon season also resulted in the sakura trees losing their leaves earlier than usual during autumn, a key clue to the puzzling cherry blossom appearances. During warm summer days, a protein known as FT, which aids the trees’ growth, is released. At the same time, the leaves release a type of hormone called gibberellic acid, which prevents the buds from blooming too soon. Without their leaves, paired with the warmer spring-like temperatures, the sakura trees have effectively been “tricked.”

What Happens in Spring 2019?

Cherry blossoms unfortunately only bloom once a year, meaning that the flowers that have prematurely bloomed can only be admired again in 2020. However, hanami fans shouldn’t worry, as Wada reassures: “Only a small number of [the blossoms] are being observed. I don’t think it will affect cherry blossom viewing next year.”

Main image: Shutterstock

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