Cherry blossoms in Japan are opening and reaching full bloom at a hastened pace this year as a result of a warm spell.
Late March temperatures have surged 4.5 degrees Celsius higher than average, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
The blossoms, locally known as sakura, are already in full bloom in Tokyo, where temperatures exceeded 20C this week, drawing hundreds of people to the capital's Imperial Palace park to observe the mature clusters of delicate pink flowers.
In parts of the northeastern Tohoku region, where the season for cherry blossoms typically begins in early to mid-April, onlookers are surprised the cherry trees have already started flowering.
"Tokyo usually sees its first blossoms in the dying days of March, with full bloom falling around April 5. Kyoto follows a day or two later, while the mountainous areas around Takayama and Matsumoto bloom about two weeks later," reports Inside Japan Tours, a team of Nagoya-based Japan travel specialists.
The centuries-old tradition of celebrating the spring bloom with picnics and rice wine beneath the trees, known as hanami, this year perked increased interest from Chinese tour groups, who fully booked most tour packages through April, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reports.
But with the flower-viewing window shorter now, it is less likely that all of the travellers will be able to partake in the festivities that last year drew an estimated 19.73 million overseas travellers to parks nationwide.