Why so many people have a hay fever in Japan

If you’ve come from abroad and live in Japan, you have probably noticed that a lot more people seem to have pollen allergies here than in other countries. While only a somewhat small minority of people suffer from a hay fever in most places, this figure stands at almost half of Japanese people, and the number keeps increasing. Perhaps you have developed a hay fever here yourself.

Indeed, the number of people suffering from a hay fever has multiplied by several times in the last few decades, as it was relatively rare only half a century ago. Now, however, pollen allergies is the bane of many people’s existence here, and even if you don’t have it, you have surely heard countless people complain about having itchy eyes and a runny nose, and commenting on how much or how little pollen there is in the air on a certain day.

You might be wondering why this is the case. What would cause the number of people with a hay fever to skyrocket in a single generation, to the point where it one of Japan’s most common health problems? Well, luckily for you it’s not much of a mystery. It’s easy to point at certain species of tree as the culprits behind the spread of this ailment, but ultimately the blame lies with the Japanese government.

Shortly after World War II, the Japanese government initiated a nationwide reforestation program. Reforestation sounds great in principle, but the problem is that the government largely used a single species, the Cryptomeria Japonica, or, sugi, in the process. The sugi tree releases large amounts of pollen when mature, and the trees mature in a few decades. Following this it might take a few more decades for people exposed to this pollen to develop a hay fever. As a result, by the 1990s, the number of people with pollen allergies started to increase dramatically. The total amount of pollen released continues to increase, and in places like the Tokyo metropolitan area, with very little plant life and soil, the situation is even worse. The city’s concrete allows the pollen to keep rolling and spread more easily in the air.

I have been in Japan for eight years now, and so there might come a day when I too develop pollen allergies and suffer from its irritating, month-long symptoms. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, then know that your turn might come too. Small consolation as it is, at least we know who to blame.

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” sergio.dom.jpn@gmail.com “, by all means contact me about anything!


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