Friday was a lovely March night, and I was getting ready to teach my last class of the day. This particular class is comprised of students between the ages of twelve to fourteen. They have pretty high level English skills, and they’re all great kids.
The clock (we don’t have a bell, we have a singing Hello! Kitty clock) chimes, signalling the start of class, and my students shuffled into the classroom looking more zombie-like than usual. More than half of the class was sniffling like crazy, their noses puffy and pink. Their eyes were watery and red, and they couldn’t help pulling a sleeve over their hand to try and scratch away that nagging itch that has settled right at the corner. Every now and then a loud “ACHOO” was released into the air.
It’s officially “kafunshou” or pollen allergy season. Growing up in Canada, pollen allergies were definitely not uncommon, and on and off throughout the years even I had no choice but to succumb to the itchy eyes, sneezing, and runny nose. Hay fever is huge in Japan; so many people here are affected by it. Maybe it’s because there are just more people here, but it seems like every other person has it.
You also have to love the Japanese word for it.
I’ve always found it a bit odd how people learning English here always call it “hay fever”. I personally never even used the phrase “hay fever” until moving to Japan. To me, it was always “allergies” or “pollen allergy”. I’m not saying either one is wrong, it just surprised me.
Hay fever is one of those “sicknesses” that is just frustrating to deal with, and it seems like sometimes, there’s not much you can do except put up with it. If you go into any Canadian drug store, you can find handfuls of over-the-counter allergy medication. While you can find stuff in Japan, people tend to go to the doctor for prescription medicine. I figured pretty much anyone could use it, but one of my students said after getting some blood work done, the doctor told her that the medicine for hay fever isn’t suitable for her.
I found this image on a website of a company that offers treatments to help cure pollen allergies through acupuncture. Not sure if it actually works or not, but the picture shows how people often dress to protect themselves from the evil pollen. It’s true. I have seen people dressed like this in the spring, and never really put together why.
帽子 – Hat
めがね、または花粉症用ゴーグル型めがね – Glasses, or google-type glasses specfically for pollen allergies
マスク – Mask
スカーフ – Scarf
髪をまとめる – Hair pulled back
凹凸のない素材の衣服 – Clothes made of a smooth fabric
In both my post about the cockroach, and the post about cherry blossoms, I included maps found online that tell you the amount of roaches, or when the cherry blossoms will bloom. Curious, I checked to see if any such map existed for pollen… and oh yes it does.
This is Kafun-nau (花粉なう), a website that tells you what areas are at higher pollen risk. The picture with the older gentleman will lead you to the dojo (道場) where you can learn all about pollen and hay fever. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest causes of hay fever here in Japan is the sugi (スギ), or Japanese Cedar. If you click on the doctor, you can take a quiz to see if the symptoms you have really equal a pollen allergy. Although honestly, no matter what you choose, they do recommend seeing a doctor. Looking for a doctor in you area to help you with your allergies? Never fear, you can do that on the site as well!
Smart phones seem to have applications for everything nowadays, and I wanted to see if there were any apps that had anything to do with pollen. There are. There are actually a bunch; some free, and some that cost money. I downloaded one of the better looking free ones just to see what it did.
The one I chose is called 花粉チェッカー (Kafun Checker) and you can add up to five locations to monitor. I have Aichi and Kagoshima, just to see what the difference is. The worse the pollen, the more intense the colour.
>Of course, some people suffer from kafunshou for a good portion of the year, depending on what type or types of pollen you are allergic to, but early March, until about the end of April seems to be the absolute worst time for the majority of sufferers. A lot of the younger kids have it too, which surprised me.
This year I’ve been sneezing quite a bit, but I haven’t been plagued with the itchy eyes. I’m still trying to figure out if my runny nose and sneezes are left over from the cold I had a few weeks ago, or if they are indeed, hay fever. Either way, I’m all prepared with my maps and my app! However, a mask is one thing you will not see me sporting. They really just creep me out…
Good luck to everyone out there for the hay fever season! I hope it’s no too harsh on you, and that you can get some relief.