From a The Economist online article (March 23, 2020):
In this year of coronavirus contagion, however, the prospect of cheek-by-jowl hanami parties has alarmed the authorities. Tokyo’s government has urged people to steer clear of gatherings “that involve food and drink” to slow the spread of infection. To little effect.
EVERY MARCH and April trees along the banks of the Meguro river in Tokyo fleetingly erupt with fat pink and white cherry blossoms, heralding the arrival of spring. For a few glorious weeks, millions of people across the city flee the drudgery of the office and factory to spend an hour or two in places like this, eating and drinking under falling sakura petals. It is a ritual with ancient roots, with a chapter devoted to it in “The Tale of Genji”, a tenth-century work that is perhaps the world’s first novel.