March 25th, 2013 / by / in: travel / 4 Responses


Now that I’ve finally finished with posts about Okinawa, I thought I’d take some time to complain about ALLERGIES IN JAPAN. Now, I’ve never had allergies in my life, but here in Japan I’m a different person. A different person with allergies! I’m specifically talking about hay fever (花粉症, kafunsho in Japanese). It’s a big thing here. Apparently it has to do with reforestation after WWII — there’s too many trees now so pollen is out of control and everyone’s being smothered with it. According to Wikipedia, some 25 million people here suffer from hay fever and I guess I’m one of them.

I thought I just had a cold but then the “cold” ended up lasting for over a month so I realized that it wasn’t a cold after all. Anyway, it kinda sucks. Allergy season basically runs from February to May. Sigh.

At least the Japanese weather includes cute little faces (above) to show you how bad the pollen is going to be each day. (Clearly this week isn’t looking too good for me.)

Surviving in Japan has some good tips for dealing with hay fever. I didn’t bother with masks and sprays — I turned immediately to my local kusuri-ya (pharmacy). I’ve tried the foreigner favourite, Allerga (アレグラ, looks like this), and Contac ( コンタック, looks like this), but Contac has worked a lot better for me. Unfortunately it makes me feel both wired and sleepy. (Good thing I work from home.) Also unfortunate: allergy medicine is kind of expensive in Japan. Both Allegra and Contac are around $20 a box. So if you’re coming to Japan during allergy season I recommend BRINGING DRUGS. LOTS OF DRUGS. (But not anything containing pseudoephedrine like Sudafed, because it’s illegal here and you can’t bring it into the country.) Even if you don’t think you’re the kind of person who gets allergies (I wasn’t!), be prepared.

On a related note, I find it funny that the action word for sneezing (like “atchoo” in English) is ハクション, hakushon. I’ve tried saying “hakushon!” when I sneeze but it doesn’t make me feel any better.

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