Thursday, March 13, 2008


Revenge of the Trees 2008 is well underway. This year's cedar pollen levels are forecast to be three times higher than last year due to high temperatures last August(?). It seems to be off to a later start, however. I only appear in public now wearing a surgical mask, in order to prevent nasal congestion/nasal incontinence and continue breathing through my nose. Yesterday's wind-driven pollen was at an eye-burning, tear-inducing high for the season so far, even inside with the windows closed. A quick check of a local environmental agency pollen measuring site (at 東邦大学) shows levels shooting off the top of the scale at 2000 grains per cubic meter. I guess they will have to make a new scale. Again. I'm not sure if this year is going to be worse than 1995 and 2005, but I vaguely recall that 1000 was once the top of the scale and that 1995 broke records with levels around 1400.

Pollenitis was virtually unheard of until the 1970s. There seem to be two reasons why this is a major health irritant in modern Japan. Cedar trees were used for mass reforestation of clear-cut slopes after WW2, and slopes were planted in 100% cedar. That made the cedar pollen levels many times higher, but it also turns out that in close proximity, cedar trees seem to produce ten times more pollen to compete with other trees. The second contribution is sanitation. The lack of intestinal worms and unsanitary conditions of modern life seem to leave people with more highly-strung immune systems that overreact to a mass infusion of cedar pollen.

Silver lining: my medication makes me drowsy so I can close my eyes any time of day and fall asleep. Very convenient during commutes.

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