Tourists who booked holidays in Japan to coincide with the blooming of the nation’s famous cherry trees may be in for an unpleasant surprise: they’re probably going to be late for the party. Japan Weather is charged with providing accurate predictions about when the delicate flowers – hanami – will bloom in different parts of the country. It has announced cherry trees will turn pink as much as 10 days earlier than usual. The company says higher temperatures in the latter half of 2018 have been followed by average temperatures since the turn of the year, although the forecast is for the next few weeks to be relatively warm again. As a result, buds on the nation’s cherry trees may begin to emerge from their dormancy 10 days early in eastern parts of Japan and a week ahead of schedule in western areas of the country. The forecast is for the blossoms to emerge in the north and in Hokkaido the same as in an average year. Blossoms of the Somei-Yoshino variety of cherry tree are expected as early as March 18 in Shikoku Prefecture and will be followed by trees in Fukuoka within 48 hours. Tokyo will witness its own explosion of pink on March 22, with trees in Osaka predicted to be in bloom five days later. Trees in Hokkaido will not be in bloom until May 4. The appearance of cherry blossoms is an annual spectacle in Japan that is welcomed as the harbinger of spring – and the progress of the opening of the blooms is closely monitored. Television news programmes and newspapers carefully chart the northwards advance of the flowers on maps and early or late blooming is a serious matter. In the two weeks the flowers are on display, families, visitors and even normally staid businessmen let their hair down at company parties beneath the hanami in city parks. Japanese cherry blossom season is here but trees could be wiped out by foreign species of beetle Japan’s legendary cherry blossoms also make spring the preferred time of year for many tourists to visit the country, with a record 2.6 million overseas travellers arriving in March last year. In total, 31.19 million foreign tourists arrived in Japan in 2018, up 8.7 per cent from the previous year – a record. Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii said the country is on course to reach its target of 40 million arrivals per year in 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympic Games, and the even more ambitious aim of 60 million arrivals by 2030.