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Cherry blossom tourist hotspot Sendai worst hit by quake

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The devastated coastal regions around Sendai are some of the most popular Japanese destinations for the annual cherry blossom viewing season.

Many overseas tourists visit Sendai between March and the end of April, hoping their trips will coincide with the Japanese cherry blossom viewing season, traditional in the country for many hundreds of years. Although there are few cherry trees left in the disaster zone, the Japanese comparison to human lives of the brief but breathtakingly beautiful blossoms' week of glory before they fall will have a mournful impact on the annual ritual in the rest of the grieving country this year.

Specialist tour agencies catering for visitors to the Sendai area are closing their tours to the region, with one, Inside Japan Tours, having to evacuate its office in Nagano, 450 miles away in the foothills of the Japan Alps, due to a 6.3 earthquake the day after the major tremor struck.

The agency has 30 clients in Japan at present, although none are in the disaster zone, and are contacting 650 travellers due to arrive within the next four weeks, stressing that in regions unaffected by the cataclysm, conditions are close to normal. Itineraries are able to be changed if necessary.

Meanwhile, cautious advice from the French Foreign Office is suggesting its citizens in Tokyo and other marginally affected areas should leave, at least temporarily, until further earthquake risks and the nuclear emergencies subside. French authorities are quoting advice from the Japanese Meteorological Agency that another quake of magnitude 7 or higher was probable over the next few days.