What do you know, it’s sakura season again.
The cherry blossoms are sweeping up the the coasts of Honshu, they’ve already bloomed in Osaka and Kyoto, and a few hesitant flowers are starting to open their buds here in Kanazawa. In a week, the banks of the Saigawa river will be awash in petals and people. AJET will be hosting its own hanami – literally ‘flower viewing’ – on April 18th by the river, for those who fondly remember riverside picnics or just feel like getting tipsy under the pretty trees.
Unfortunately all such prettiness has its price. We’re finally, finally nearing the end of hay fever season.
Hay fever, or kafunshou, is the most common springtime ailment in Japan. The main culprit is the cryptomeria cedar.
Planted in great swathes during Japan’s post-war boom, cedars kept the construction industry flush with cheap timber. Then in the 1970s, the economy started to recover. Suddenly it was cheaper to import lumber, and all those cedar forests were left to fend for themselves. They not only flourished, they ran rampant. In Greater Tokyo alone, cedar accounts for over 70% of the city’s forests (that’s about 22,000 hectares). Now every March, as more and more of these trees seed and mature, massive clouds of pollen are released to torment those 20 million-odd unfortunates who suffer from pollen allergies.
Several JETs have reported, and I myself can confirm after a week and a half spent sneezing and sniffling and coughing like a consumptive, that sensitivity to local pollen tends to increase the longer you stay in Japan. So what can you do about it?
During this season of particle plague, most chemists and drug stores will have a special kafunshou display set up, prominently close to the front doors. Look for the kanji: 花粉症. Here you will find a wealth of pills, sprays, tissues, masks, eye drops, eye baths and anything else you could possibly imagine to treat this rather torturous ailment. Most medicines in Japan are quite good about illustrating the symptoms they treat on the box, however, here are some symptoms to look for if you want to be sure:
kyuusei bien – 急性鼻炎 – acute rhinitis (aka breathe in and suddenly it feels like your nose is on fire; I love kanji ^_^)
hanamizu – 鼻みず – runny nose (literarlly ‘nose water’)
hanazumari – 鼻づまり – blocked nose
kushami – くしゃみ – sneeze
namidame – なみだ目 – teary eyes
nodo no itami – のどの痛み – sore throat
arerugii – アレルギー – allergy
zuomo – 頭重 – heavy-headedness (literally atama ga omoi – 頭が重い)
pusoidoefedorin – プソイドエフェドリン – pseudoephedrine (for those who want to know when they’ll be falling asleep at their desks ^_~)
Dosage is usually clearly spelled out on the back of the box.
For example, the dosage for this particular med, Pabron (パブロン, worked very well at drying up my nose to the consistency of sandpaper), reads thus:
On the top line, １回量 (ikkai ryo) means one dose, which equates to two capsules. The second line, 服用回数 (fukuyou kaisuu) means ‘dosage frequency’, which states two doses in one day (１日２回, ichinichi nikai). Essentially, take two capsules twice a day. The little note at the top advises you to wait twelve hours between doses. The big red cross is for people under 15 years, so if you have kids, don’t give them Pabron.
If you’re still unsure, ask your supervisor to read over the information leaflet inside the box.
And if all else fails, there is a simple home remedy that I was told: find some local honey and start spreading it on your toast at breakfast. The idea is that by introducing the smidgens of pollen that remain in the honey into your system, a day at a time, you’ll slowly build up a tolerance. It might do you the world of good, and it certainly won’t do you any harm ^_~