Japan cherry blossom festivals canceled as coronavirus fears grow

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 29 2020 02:51 PM

This picture taken on March 27, 2019 shows pedestrians admiring cherry blossoms in the Japanese capital Tokyo. Major cherry blossom festivals, Japan's traditional spring celebrations, have been cancelled, organisers said February 2020, the latest impact of fears over the outbreak of the new coronavirus on events drawing big crowds. Kazuhiro NOGI, AFP

TOKYO - Major cherry blossom festivals in Japan have been canceled due to the deadly new coronavirus, the latest in a growing list of events quashed as the epidemic spreads globally. 

The traditional spring celebrations in Tokyo and Osaka, which attract millions of people wanting to seeing the white and pink flowers, will not go ahead as planned in April.

"We are sincerely sorry for those who were looking forward to the viewing... but please give us your understanding," the Japan Mint in Osaka said Friday. 

Other cherry blossom events -- feverishly anticipated by locals and tourists -- are likely to follow suit, according to local media. 

Organizers of Tokyo's Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival said people could still enjoy the blooming trees that grow along public roads. 

Trees in Tokyo will soon be in full bloom, with friends, families and colleagues typically flocking to parks for sometimes raucous, alcohol-fueled celebrations.

The cancellations come as authorities step up efforts to tackle the outbreak in Japan, which has reported more than 230 infections and 5 deaths.

Schools are closed and the government is urging people to work from home or commute during off-peak hours and avoid large gatherings. 

The operator of Tokyo's 2 Disney resorts -- Disneyland and DisneySea -- said Friday the parks would be closed for around 2 weeks due to the virus.

Universal Studios Japan in Osaka has also shuttered for a fortnight.