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Japan: Hay Fever Season is Here

If only it was just love that's in the air. Spring is slowly dawning, and pollen from Japanese cedars is starting to make its way around. Kafunsho (hay fever) season has officially started in Japan. Leftover Valentine chocolates have been pushed aside in convenient stores to make room for kafunsho related items: tissues, surgical masks, mint drops, and more.

Old-timers solemnly stock up their mini pharmacies while the uninitiated examine each sneeze, wondering if this is the year for their own “kafunsho debut”.

“almost hay-fever season” by kalandrakas

There are numerous statistics on how much of the population suffers from kafunsho – the numbers range from 15-30%, with the percentage being higher in metropolitan areas. The effect of kafunsho on the economy is said to be quite serious: an oft-quoted report by Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc. states that kafunsho pushed down GDP growth rates by 0.6% in 2005. Individual consumption decreases because people try to stay indoors, while lowered ability to concentrate effect labor efficiency.

A week before the Meteorological Agency, on February 13th, announced the blowing of “haru-ichiban”, the first strong southern winds of the year that indicate the ‘official’ arrival of spring, a great many bloggers were watching the beginning of the kafunsho season with trepidation.

A blog post by eternal_name is a typical example:

今年もこの時期がやってきました。一年間で最も憂鬱になる時期が春、花粉症の時期です。目だけ、鼻だけ、両方の人といるみたいですが、俺は両方なんでかなり辛いです。また目薬、マスク、漢方薬、ヨーグルト、色々と買い集めないといけないな…。

It's that time of the year again. The most depressing season of the year for me – kafunsho season. Some people are only affected in the eyes or nose, but I get both and it's really tough. I must go out and buy eye drops, masks, medicine, yogurt…

Mizuka Yukizawa, a high school student who's studying for university exams laments:

もう花粉飛んでるのか・・・ずーん。
もし入試の日に花粉酷かったら泣きますよ。
花粉症の人はそれを考慮してもらえるとかないんですかね。
この世界で花粉症じゃないってもう凄いアドバンテージだろうな。

Pollen is flying around already… sniffle. I'll cry if it's bad on my exam day. I wish universities would take kafunsho into consideration. Not suffering from kafunsho would be such a great advantage in this world…

SOW is sad but accepting as he announces:

2年前からこの季節に外に出ると、目がしょぼしょぼすると思っていたのだが、今年も先日外に出た時に同様の症状になった。折しも花粉飛び始めの日。考えたくないので考えていなかったが、やっぱり花粉症か。

As of two years ago, whenever I go outside during this season I get bleary eyes. It happened again this year, and just on the day that the pollen started flying. I haven't thought about it because I didn't want to consider it, but I think now that this must be kafunsho.

Chiro Mama wonders if her dog has kafunsho. Yumeyume explains the logic behind the widely-believed power of yogurt. Usabuta introduces the medication that she's trying this year and promises to report on the outcome.

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