After the recent earthquakes and nuclear melt-down in Japan, hay fever is perhaps one of the more insignificant issues on the minds of the Japanese people. However, it is still a very real, daily cause for irritation for many residents. The face masks that many Japanese people have been wearing have now (at least for the time-being in Tokyo), become a standard dress code for many more people and for those that don’t even suffer hay fever.
Whether you live in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya, Hosaka Sendai, Nagasaki or Yokohama, Allergies are quite a problem in Japan with hay fever affecting an estimated 1 in 5 residents, plus tourists. Although many factors may contribute to an individual case of hay fever, the most likely cause of the persistent problem in Japan is the uniform trend of pollen release from cedar and cypress trees. Forests planted after WWII to replenish depleted timber, as well as in the early 1970s, are mature enough to produce pollen at perturbing rates, especially in the spring. Because Japan imports wood cheaply, the vast forests remain, with the unfortunate side effect of creating lots of sneezing, runny, congested noses, and watery, itchy eyes.
Suffering from Japanese Hay Fever: What Can You Do?
Hay fever, or “kafunsho” in Japanese, is really an allergic reaction. The immune system responds to pollen particles with inflammation of the body’s tissues. Some of the most invasive methods of dealing with kafunsho symptoms include laser treatments on the mucous membrane of the nose, and hypo sensitization injections. Both are aimed at interfering with the body’s natural immune response to pollen.
Antihistamines are recommended if users can predict exposure a week in advance and begin taking the medicine then. Hosts of products like eye drops, nasal sprays, teas, candies, herbal products such as stinging nettle, and supplements such as C with bio flavonoids greet shoppers in town centers from Aomori to Seagaia. Experimentation with these products, coinciding with advice from a trusted doctor, is likely to be most beneficial. Many experts in holistic health point to diet and stress management as means to enhance the overall health of body and mind, and thus curtailing symptoms of hay fever.
Methods of minimizing contact with the offending pollen include goggles, masks, special screens for windows, and pollen-proof fabrics for clothing, coats, and bedding. Easily overlooked guidelines, such as changing air filters in heaters or air conditioners regularly, and then staying indoors on pollen plentiful days, may also help reduce suffering.
Japan’s Forestry Agency reportedly plans to log half of its cedar forests by 2017, and replace them with hybrid cedars that release less pollen. Government entities also provide data from numerous pollen count stations across Japan, where they measure grains of pollen detected per cubic meter per hour.
Regional forecasts are available as emails from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the Environment Ministry website kafun.taiki.go.jp/ allows users to see the pollen count in their area. A perusal of springtime maps suggests that people living near Kyoto, Nagoya, and Hosaka might experience a lot of hay fever. Clustered cities may contribute to more pollen due to the lack of surfaces where it can be absorbed. Within 60 kilometers of cities such as Sendai, Nagasaki, and even Tokyo and Yokohama, data shows some pollen detection stations detecting high levels of pollen, and some detecting none. Thus it may be difficult to plan outdoor time around these troublesome, mobile pockets of pollen.
There are certainly places that are considered low pollen retreats even at the height of pollen season, however. Some travel agencies have created pollen retreat tours to Okinawa and Hokkaido, where even on the forecast maps it is clear, pollen levels are low.
Other Countries and Hay Fever