Depending on where you live in the world you may or may not be familiar with the seasonal sniffles of hay fever, but hay fever in Japan is very common.

With distinct seasons comes strong flowers and lots of pollen floating around. You may find that when visiting Japan you start experiencing it for the first time. We’re here to walk you through the symptoms and the remedies of kafunshō (花粉症) or hay fever.

Hay fever or a cold?

Hay fever in Japan can be particularly bad for many not because of the sakura that many of us might assume is the cause, but because of two types of cypress trees (called sugi and hinoki) that release a lot of tree pollen in the spring months from around February through to May as it moves across the country.

Following the WWII, there was large scale planting of the two species to boost forestation and provide materials for the construction industry. Little did they know at the time it would have such an impact on the population and significantly affect so many costing up to 200 million yen.

If you’ve never experienced kafunshō before then you might not know that many of the symptoms are similar to that of a cold.

One of the best things to do is to head to the pharmacist or a clinic specialized in jibika (耳鼻科, otolaryngology) if your symptoms are particularly bad. Once you’re there though it will be useful to describe your symptoms so that you can get the treatment that’s best for you.

My eyes are itchy – me ga kayui (目が痒い)
I have a runny nose – hanamizu ga deru (鼻水が出る)
My eyes are red – me ga akakunaru (目が赤くなる)
To sneeze – kushami ga deru (くしゃみが出る)
Stuffy nose – hanadzumari (鼻づまり)
I feel bad – kibun ga warui (気分が悪い)
My throat is scratchy – nodo ga kayui (喉が痒い)

Kafunsho - hayfever in Japan

How to treat it

The otolaryngologist will be able to prescribe you stronger antihistamines than you are able to get in the pharmacy. There are a few other ways that you can battle the symptoms of hay fever in Japan:

Mask

Masks are incredibly easy to come by in Japan, as you might expect. They will help keep the pollen away from your nose and your friends and colleagues will appreciate not having to see your runny nose.

Eyewash

Everyone tends to be affected differently but the differentiating factor of hay fever from colds are the itchy eyes. Eyewash can be easily found at the pharmacy or drug store and will help wash the pollen out of your eyes.

Antihistamines

For those in the UK and the US, antihistamines are the go-to treatment for hay fever. Thankfully there are plenty available in Japan as well. This is fortunate given the restrictions on bringing medicine into the country. Check out our article here for more details. Some of the more common brands include Allegra (アレグラ), Claritin (クラリチン), Alesion (アレジオン), and Zyrtec (ジルテック).

If it’s really bad then you can even invest in a humidifier/air cleaner for your room or flat. Some very modern air conditioning units will have good air filters in them but if you find you have particularly bad symptoms, it might be worth the investment so that you can stop sneezing and find some comfort in your home even if you can’t outside.

Another useful way to help reduce your suffering is to keep an eye on the pollen forecast so that you can be prepared for a bad day. Just as you might follow the sakura forecast, the pollen forecast for the cypress trees can be monitored too.

Now know how to tell people how you’re feeling and where to go to get treatment if you find you have hay fever in Japan. So don’t worry, you don’t have to suffer.

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