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Japan steps up battle against pollen season to help hay fever sufferers breathe easier

Cedar pollen has already been detected in Tokyo and eight surrounding prefectures, as well as parts of the far south of the country, heralding the earliest start of the widely loathed allergy season ever recorded in Japan.

According to Weathernews Inc, people who suffer from allergies were reporting early symptoms of the sneezing season as early as January 25. Last year, the first reports of pollen in the air did not come in until February 2, while the average of recent years for the arrival of kafunsho season is February 7.

A map on the website of The Japan Weather Association indicates that measurable levels of pollen have been detected by sensors across the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo and in Yamaguchi prefecture, on the far southwest tip of Honshu.

Yoko Tsukamoto is among the approximately 40 per cent of Japanese who suffer from cedar allergies every year, and admits that she groans whenever she hears the first warnings of pollen each spring.

“In many ways I’m fortunate, as I live in Hokkaido, and we do not have so many trees producing pollen every year, but I dread having to travel to Tokyo or somewhere else in Japan at this time of the year,” said Tsukamoto, a professor of infection control at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido.

“I get kafunsho really badly,” she told This Week in Asia. “I get terribly itchy eyes and a runny nose. It really is unbearable. I try to always wear a mask and glasses when I go out, but that is often not enough. I also take medicine, but it does not always work very well, and I still end up with itchy and sore eyes.”

Like the weather services, Tsukamoto says it is likely that the early start of the cedar pollen season is the result of a warm winter, pointing out that while