MITO:- Japan’s cherry blossom season kicks off boozy parties across the country and draws tourists from far and wide, but the annual coming-of-spring ritual isn’t official until inspectors like Hisato Nishii sign off on it. Over the past few weeks, local weather offices have been sending civil servants like Nishii out to so-called barometer trees that signal when sakura - cherry blossom in Japanese - have bloomed.  It’s no small matter. Millions of Japanese celebrate the explosion of white and pink flowers heralding the change of season, with the Tokyo area expected to hit full bloom this week. Parks are full, restaurants are packed, and companies get in on the action with sakura-branded merchandise, from pink beer cans to flower-motif candy.

 The festivities come at a time when Japan kicks off a new business year, many university graduates start their first full-time jobs, and older colleagues shift into new positions.