I have a love/hate relationship with spring in Japan. Spring marks the end of a very cold and depressing winter season. Life begins anew: it’s really the time for Mother Nature to show off her beauty. The cherry blossoms bloom and it’s nice to walk around under the trees, or go on a picnic with friends surrounded by cherry blossom trees. I can set aside my thick winter coats and go out with a light coat without freezing.
What I hate about it is the HAY FEVER (or 花粉症 in Japanese) that comes with it. Before I came to Tokyo, I never knew I had it. The only allergy I have is with alcohol. My first year in Japan, I can still enjoy spring without wearing any masks and taking allergy medicine. But after my second year here, I started showing symptoms such as eye irritation and a very runny nose. I went to an allergologist and she confirmed that I have it. She told me it’s not uncommon for people who didn’t have it to contract it eventually.
A lot of people suffer from hay fever in Japan, and most cases are attributed to the pollen from Cedar trees. Tokyo being a concrete jungle does not help alleviate the situation at all. And because a big number of people have it , there’s a whole industry devoted to this. For example, weather information websites (such as this one from Yahoo! Japan) provides information on how much pollen there is on a day, giving enough warning for people who have to go out that day.
There are also a lot of products being sold for this. During this time, you can see sections in drug stores and some department stores catering to medicine and other products designed to relieve you of the allergy. May it be special glasses designed to block pollen, special face masks (that are said to be effective in filtering them) and all sorts of medicines to clear your nose and relieve your eyes (nasal sprays, allergy medicine and eye drops).
It is hard to concentrate on your work when your eyes are very itchy or your nose is runny. Wearing a mask is not comfortable at all. However, I still consider myself lucky because I don’t have it as bad as other people do. Hay fever is not enough to make me dislike spring entirely. After all, spring also brings back a sense of cheer and life to everyone and everything.