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Japan cancels next year’s government-funded cherry blossom party

Japan cancels next year's government-funded cherry blossom party

Japan‘s famous annual cherry blossom party, that has taken place in a Tokyo park every year since 1952 to honor people for their achievements, with the great and the good of Japanese political life mingling under the world-famous cherry blossom trees, is always eagerly anticipated by locals and visitors alike.

But today, the Japanese government announced that it would cancel next year’s publicly funded event after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came under fire amid claims he invited too many of his own supporters.

Opposition politicians have taken aim at Abe, claiming he brought along 850 supporters from his local constituency for the festival, reportedly costing about 55 million yen ($504,000) from the public purse.

In a surprise announcement on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the government had “listened to various opinions” and as a result, decided to shelve next year’s party.

Suga also pledged that the government would “clarify the criteria for inviting guests and make the invitation process transparent”.

The number of guests invited to the event is steadily increasing and so is the budget.

Local news agency Kyodo News said about 18,000 people took part this year – up from between 7,000 and 10,000 from before Abe came to power in 2012.

The 55 million yen spent last year is also nearly double the budget from 2014.

Japan’s cherry blossom (or sakura) season is eagerly anticipated by locals and visitors alike.

The season is traditionally celebrated with hanami, or viewing parties, in cherry blossom hotspots, with picnics organized beneath the trees.

In general, blooms begin as early as March in the southern island of Kyushu and appear as late as May in northernmost Hokkaido.