Another Extra Season

Spring is in the air!

Back home, that’d sound like a good thing, but not in Japan. Japan has very distinct “events” through the year, and allergy season is one of them. Even though I grew up in an agricultural valley (a big one) I never had allergy problems. In Japan I do.

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

After WWII, Japan had to work hard to improve its economy. One thing was the production of paper. Someone in the government had the good idea to plant cedar trees because they apparently grow quickly. This would help Japan to have a supply of paper.

Nowadays, everyone in richer countries outsource things. Paper is one of those things. Because Japan is now an economic powerhouse in the world, things like paper are just too expensive to produce at home. I assume that the majority of the paper now comes from China.

So what does this mean for the cedar trees? Seems like a nice thing to let them grow old gracefully. The thing about cedar trees is that they produce a lot of pollen. And many people are allergic to that pollen. To make matters worse, cedar trees make more pollen the Oder they get. At least , that’s what I’ve read. So now well over 30 years old, these freeze produce so much pollen that you can see it! The mountains hide in a faint yellow haze.

But wait! That’s not all!

As China grows, its appetite for oil does too. Apparently a large part of their oil is refined at small, not very well regulated oil refineries. The bottom line: lots of pollution. And it blows to Japan. That along with pollution from many factories.

On top of that, there is the constant migration of yellow sand from the Gobi desert. Yep, it all blows over here. Actually, South Korea gets the worst of it. Just a few weeks ago, the air quality in South Korea was so bad, that the computer models couldn’t give accurate readings because the numbers went above the limits! It wasn’t pretty.

Invest in masks. It’s a growing industry!

When I came here, one of the things that creeped me out was all of the people wearing those ubiquitous, white masks. Mostly people wore them to protect against colds or from making other people sick. (Most of the time they are not very effective.) But now, you see the masks at times other than cold and flu season. The masks have grown finer and able to filter out molecules as small as PM 2.5. Wow! But it works as long as it fits well and you keep it on!

Hacking and sneezing

This has to be my least favorite season. Every year I have manages to get a sinus infection. This year, I’m hoping that I can avoid it. I have tried masks, medicine, air filter and a host of other things. Last year, I went and got my sinuses washed out on a weekly basis for about 2 1/2 months! So far so good.

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