TOKYO, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Cherry blossom parties involving food and drinks in Tokyo's public parks will be permitted next week, the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, local media reported Thursday.
According to Japan's public broadcaster NHK, the Tokyo metropolitan government plans to open its public parks for unrestricted cherry blossom viewing and parties from Monday.
The move by the metropolitan government comes as the Japanese capital has seen the COVID-19 situation improve, with the health ministry saying Thursday that infection cases in the capital were down by 158 to 794 new cases from a week earlier.
From Monday, people in Japan will also be able to choose whether to wear masks or not, although officials are continuing to urge people to take anti-virus measures and pay others due consideration.
With the nation set to fully re-embrace "Hanami" (flower viewing) and the associated festivities, including eating and drinking under the cherry blossom trees, the Japan Weather Association and a private forecaster said Thursday the buds are set to bloom earlier than usual.
With spring weather coming earlier this year and warmer climes expected to continue, the forecasters said the popular Somei-yoshino type of cherry blossom, the trees of which are planted all over streets, river banks and parks in the capital, will start blooming on March 16 in Tokyo. ■