When I first arrived to Tokyo, I noticed that, come the end of winter, weather forecast screens (in trains, on TV, wherever…) would start adding an extra line under the main sun/cloud/water-drop pictograms. Since the new icons usually depicted lovely little pink flowers or trees blowing in the wind, I naively assumed that this had something to do with upcoming sakura blossom (which wasn’t completely far off, considering most local newscast do have an official daily progress report around sakura season).
It is only a couple years later that I finally understood what this seasonal indicator actually referred to. The infinitely less enjoyable season of eye-puffing, nostril-irritating, headache-inducing, Japanese hay fever. The main reason behind these infamous surgical masks you see people wearing in every damn last “Nippon culture” TV reports.
However, it wasn’t until I moved to the Kansai countryside last month, that I started experiencing for myself what it might feel like. Apparently, my city-dwelling organism was sufficiently immune to Tokyo’s own brand of pollution-laden pollen to go through Kafunshō season unharmed, but much less happy about living in the middle of the woods. Woods no doubt entirely planted with deadly cypress and cedar.
If you happen to be walking in the hilly area surrounding Kyodai’s research campus in Ōbaku, these days, and spot a gaijin with puffy red eyes on the verge of tears, rest assured it does not [yet] have anything to do with feelings of sadness or elation at living more than 20 minutes away from the closest place selling proper balsamic vinegar or non-ersatz chocolate, it’s just the damn neighbouring conifers trying to copulate with my mucous membranes.