Sunday, February 25

The cherry blossom defies the virus

Concern about the lack of control of contagion presides over this year’s ‘hanami’. / EFE

The Japanese take pleasure in observing the flowering trees, amid the concern of the health authorities about a rebound in the covid

Antonio Paniagua

Everything is for the pleasure of contemplating the pink mantle that dyes the branches of the cherry trees, a ritual that for the Japanese is a spectacle of disturbing beauty. By this time the cherry trees are already in full bloom. A reason for which lovers of this tradition are congratulated, but which worries Japanese epidemiologists. The observation of the fruit trees moves floods of people, which raises the fear that the cases of covid will rebound, when not ten days ago the restrictions imposed to control the spread of the virus were lifted.

The flowering of the cherry trees heralds the dawn of spring. An event that for many Japanese is cause for celebration, after two years in which the pandemic has prevented crowds. The cherry blossom or ‘sakura’ is the national flower of the Japanese and its light perch on the ground is one of the most delicate sights.

Even with the fright in the body, the health authorities do not want beauty to lead to the usual escalation of the infection curve. Hence, in many parks visitors are strongly asked to refrain from drinking under the trees, a rite that is deeply rooted in this season.

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Since mid-March, Japan has established a daily quota of people entering the country at 7,000, in order to ensure that all travelers undergo PCR and other measures to prevent infection. In addition, the authorities maintain the total veto on the entry of tourists from abroad, a measure that has been applied during most of the pandemic. There are no signs that the Government is going to loosen its rigor.

Due to this decision, it is estimated that 4.7 million foreign tourists have been deprived of the ‘hanami’ spectacle. The fervor with which this phenomenon is followed is of such a caliber that the Japan Meteorological Agency forecasts for each area of ​​the country when the flowers will bloom. There are even mobile applications that allow knowing from when and where the first petals will appear to the effect of atmospheric pressure on the fragile buds.

Depending on the climate of each region, the emblematic cherry trees or ‘sakura’ paint the Japanese archipelago in a soft pink, from the end of March to the beginning of May.

The tradition of ‘hanami’ dates back to the 8th century. The blossoming coincides with the beginning of the rice planting season, when in the past offerings were made to the divinities under the cherry trees to ask for a bountiful harvest. In addition, spring heralds the start of a new school, college, and fiscal year.

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