Japan cancels cherry blossom party amid cronyism accusations

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (centre left) posing with entertainers and athletes during the cherry blossom viewing party hosted by the prime minister in 2017
The publicly funded event in a Tokyo park has been running since 1952

The Japanese government has cancelled an annual party held to admire the blossom on cherry trees, following allegations of cronyism.

The publicly funded event – which marks people’s achievements – started in 1952 and takes place in Tokyo every April.

But opposition politicians said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invited too many of his own supporters to the last event.

He was accused of bringing 850 supporters from his local constituency at a hefty cost.

What is the cherry blossom party?

Cherry blossom, or sakura as it is known in Japan, is a big part of Japanese culture.

The famous pink and white flowers are typically visible for about two weeks in the spring.

Media captionHow the cherry blossom season boosts Japan’s economy

People from all over the country celebrate the blooming of the flowers, by visiting parks and eating special blossom-themed food.

Held at a park famous for its cherry blossoms, the government-funded party is intended to honour members of the public for their achievements.

Why has it been cancelled?

The prime minister has come under fire from opposition politicians who have accused him of bringing 850 supporters from his local constituency to the festival at a cost of around 55 million yen (£393,000) in public money.

The amount of money spent on the event has almost doubled under Mr Abe’s administration.

In a surprise announcement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government had “listened to various opinions” and decided to cancel next year’s party.

The government would “clarify the criteria for inviting guests and make the invitation process transparent”, he added.

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