- Field Trips
- Contact Us
Known in Japan as “Kafunshou” （花粉症）, hay fever in Japan is a problem for many people each spring. If allergic rhinitis is a problem for you, then you may be joining the crowd of about 20 million hay fever sufferers. The news broadcasts and newspapers even report the pollen levels. Some Japanese language textbooks have chapters about Kafunshou.
It is big business, particularly on windy days. There is an enormous variety of products on offer to help alleviate symptoms. Sales of tissue paper, face masks, medicines, goggles and even prescription glasses are available, and these sales soar as soon as hay fever season begins.
The biggest problem is cedar （杉/すぎ）and cypress （桧/ひのき） pollen. Mass deforestation during WWII (for the war effort, firewood, charcoal for automobiles, and to rebuild the cities) led to problems with erosion and flooding, a major problem for a mountainous country. To solve the problem as quickly as possible, a government funded reforestation program resulted in planting about 4.5 million hectares in the next 2 decades, and most of these were monoculture plantations.
These days, it is cheaper for Japanese companies to import timber from North America, Siberia, South East Asia and New Zealand etc, than to buy from local forestry companies. As a result mature trees are not being harvested, and in many places large numbers of trees are maturing at the same time, releasing large levels of pollen. Global warming isn’t helping hay fever sufferers either. As the snow line gradually rises, trees are maturing quicker and cedar and cypress trees are producing pollen in less than 15 years.
Apart from the current problem of pollen, the monoculture plantations led to a major loss of habitat for Japan’s wildlife. To this day, near major cities some of the best places to see birds and animals are in the natural forests of large Shinto Shrines.
Some efforts have been made to clear away plantations close to major urban centers, but it will be many decades before natural, diverse forest reclaims the land covered in plantations in the 1950s-70s.