A mid-term resident of Tokyo reports – Part 8: Revenge of the Cedar

This is part 8 of what is intended to be a collection of overview reports on living in Tokyo by someone who is here for longer than a short stay but shorter than a long stay. Hopefully they will be helpful to others in similar situations.

Wars consume resources, and Japan’s forests were no exception. After the war a reforestation program was launched that resulted in large plantings of Japanese Cedar and Cypress across the country on the basis that these would be good trees for future construction lumber. For a variety of reasons this use has not occurred, and Japan has a very large number of mature cedar and cypress trees.

So far so good…. Except that these mature trees generate a huge amount of pollen in the late winter / early spring timeframe that is very effectively dispersed by the wind into the cities. This is problematic since it is estimated that 15 – 20% of the population of Tokyo has allergies. Despite having hay fever I never had any issues with evergreen pollen before, but I found out that I get to add myself to the affected percentage of the Tokyo population.

It was the worst round of hay fever I have ever had. My usual anti-histamines that have always kept my summer and fall allergies in check barely touched it despite taking the maximum dosage (and in the process running my supply down to the point that I needed a resupply, which brought about my first round of pharmacy counter charades). Desperate for relief, I opted for the Japanese approach of wearing a face mask; alas my face isn’t quite the same shape as the masks were designed for, and the end result was a gap near the nose that just seemed to concentrate my pollen intake. By that point the pollen counts had begun to drop, and at some point the anti-histamines started to become effective again.

The point of this story – if you are going to be in Japan during cedar and cypress pollen season, and you have any thought you might be susceptible to tree pollen, come prepared.

The forested hillsides.... they look so innocent.

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