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Q: I heard some of my Japanese co-workers griping that the people who predict when cherry trees will bloom were wrong this year. What’s up with that?

A: Yep, the head of the Japanese Meteorological Agency went on national TV last month to offer an apology and a verrrrrry deep bow for flubbing the annual blossom forecast. Instead of March 18, as the agency originally stated, the date was revised to March 23. A computer glitch was blamed for the mistake — and I’m guessing that computer wasn’t invited to the agency’s cherry-blossom party.

Planning for such parties — a rite of spring for pretty much any company, office or social group — is why the agency’s predictions are such a big deal. An inaccurate prediction of the blossoms’ lifespan may mean disaster in the form of a hanami, or cherry-blossom party, under bare or fully-leafed trees.

The mid-March blossoming the JMA first predicted wasn’t such a far-fetched idea. Scientists have noted that cherry trees have been blossoming earlier and earlier in recent years, and the finger is pointed at global warming, according to an article last month in the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper. When trees will blossom is determined in part by air temperature — and the average date for the sakura season’s official start has moved up by 4.2 days since records began to be collected, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In the grand scheme of things, a botched prediction and the resulting blossom-less parties aren’t the end of the world.

Just don’t tell that to anyone sipping sake under a bare cherry tree.

Got a question about goings-on in the Pacific? E-mail Stacy Chandler at:


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