Japan Makes Desperate Move to Maintain Social Distancing

Officials in Sakura canceled flower fest, cut at least 100K tulips so people wouldn't congregate
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2020 9:50 AM CDT
Japan Beheads Flowers to Keep People Away From Each Other
Children walk in gardens of tulips in Tokyo on March 18, 2010.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Who can resist an aromatic flower on a sunny spring day? Not many, is what Japanese officials are betting, which is why a popular flower festival has been nixed amid the coronavirus pandemic. Sakiho Kusano, a tourism official with the city of Sakura, tells Reuters that visitors flocked to the 75,000-square-foot Sakura Furusato public square over the weekend, turning things into exactly the type of "mass gathering" that Japan—which announced a coronavirus emergency earlier this month—wants to avoid. That, in turn, spurred the cancellation of the city's annual tulip fest, which Japan Today notes usually draws hundreds of thousands of people.

It also prompted another big move: the cutting down of at least 100,000 tulips, per Reuters; Japan Today says it may have been as many as 800,000. "We had no choice but to make the decision to cut the flowers," Sakiho tells Reuters. "This situation is now about human life," a local park official says, per India's Tribune. "It was a heart-wrenching decision, but we had to do it." Japan has been struggling over the past few weeks with a reemergence of the virus, after it initially seemed to have everything under control. At least the flowers found a sweet landing place: They were donated to kindergarten students. (Read more Japan stories.)

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