Japan's famed cherry blossoms make unexpected early appearance

Cherry blossoms across Japan have surprisingly bloomed six months early, in autumn instead of spring, after two powerful typhoons pummelled the country last month, stripping leaves, bringing a warm snap and turning the trees unseasonably pink.

"We get reports every year of cherry blossoms blooming early, but those are confined to specific areas," Mr Toru Koyama, a senior official with the Flower Association of Japan, said.

"This time we are hearing about it from all over the country."

The two typhoons, including the most powerful storm to hit Japan in 25 years, weakened chemicals that suppress the pink and white blooms by stripping the leaves or covering them in salt water, Mr Koyama said.

Air sucked up by the storms from the tropics then brought warm weather followed by colder temperatures that mimicked spring that signals the right time to bloom.

Weathernews, a meteorological firm, said more than 300 people across Japan had reported cherry blossoms were blooming in their neighbourhood, in a survey conducted last week.

Mr Hiroyuki Wada, a tree doctor at the Flower Association of Japan, said the freak flowering should not affect the hugely popular cherry blossom season, which draws tourists from around the world and sees Japanese flock to hold "hanami" (flower viewing) picnics in the shade of the blooms.

"The buds that open now won't blossom in the coming spring. But only a small number of them are being observed. I don't think it will affect cherry blossom viewing (next year)," he said. - REUTERS/AFP