Bless you!

Spring has arrived, even though it's still a little psychotic. For every warm, sunny day we have several with cold winds and enormous downpour. Nevertheless, the cherry blossoms are blooming, dotting the city with little bright pockets of pink again for the next couple of weeks and it heralds the annual season of people asking me if I'm okay with pollen or how my hay fever is.

The thing is, I have no hay fever and that, apparently, sets me apart from 25 out of every 10 Tokyo residents who, around this time of year, go through a period of massive mucus generation and sore eyes. I'm not quite sure what it is, possibly a lifetime in a smoggy major city, or if it's that the Japanese are genetically more indisposed towards it, but all of them show surprise when I tell them I'm perfectly fine and that, in fact, I recon in Europe hay fever sufferers are the exception rather than the rule. I have no idea if this is true but I know I am only acquainted with a handful of sufferers back home as opposed to being surrounded by the bastards in Japan.

The word used here is the wonderfully, if accidentally, onomatopoeic "kahunshou". You'll learn this word easily once you live here, as you will be asked about it all through March, April and May. It still surprises me that blowing your nose is a taboo in Japan. A quick, loud blow into a handkerchief, though briefly disrupting and not really disgusting, is considered rude, while incessant, wet sniffing can last all day and is hugely nauseating but acceptable. My workdays are spent in an environment that sounds as if it's inhabited by dozens of people desperately trying to suck those last few drops off the bottom of a thick milkshake.

Time will tell if prolonged exposure to the Tokyo biosphere will harm my olfactory passages enough to become a sniffer too. I hope not. It's almost impossible to blow your nose and keep your ears closed to drown out the sound of soppy nasal inhaling at the same time. Needless to say, during the springtime I usually avoid bringing lunchboxes to work to eat at my desk. Even on an empty stomach it's difficult to suppress the gag reflexes.


  1. After world war 2 the Japanese mountains has all its trees cut down. The soil layer was in danger of getting washed down in the ocean so they planted the fastest growing trees the could think of. Unfortunately this species of tree produces great amounts of pollen that even non-allergic can become affected by the effects.

    It has been reported that at times of severe production the mountains can look like they are on fire.

  2. Waitwait... blowing your nose is considered to be rude, while sniffling for hours is acceptable? How does this make sense? The only drawback to the former is that you have to find a place to put the result.

    What sort of cold/hay fever remedies do they have over there, anyway? Something solid like pseudoephedrine?

  3. I never got either side of that whole thing. When I was growing up I suffered from alergies and my dad used to get upset if I sniffed. He'd be like "BLOW YOUR NOSE!!!"

    The thing was, it was so runny that blowing it only lasted like 30 seconds and I needed to either blow it again or sniff.

    Just be glad you don't have them, it sucks ass and blowing or sniffing both suck.

  4. Never had a problem with Hayfever until 2 years ago - after 4 years in Tokyo. Still not as bad as some people but enough that I get the throat tickle, coughing and pleasant yellow mucus. So it can be acquired - and it does seem to be because of the exceptionally high pollen count here.

  5. How about stuffing a piece of paper tissue in each nostril?
    Unless the mucus accumulates or the tissue gets soaked it should be worth a try.

  6. Apparently, it's even frowned upon to go round the office stuffing paper in people's noses. :( You live and learn.

    Gman, I appreciate it's nobody's fault and that it's quite a pain for the sufferer, but that doesn't really disguise the fact all this wet sniffing sounds disgusting...ugh...

  7. `My workdays are spent in an environment that sounds as if it's inhabited by dozens of people desperately trying to suck those last few drops off the bottom of a thick milkshake.`


    I`ll take an iPod sample in the office sometime, orchestrate it, and it might make for an interesting mix :p

  8. To anonymous, yellow mucus isn't a symptom of hayfever. Hayfever gives you white mucus whil infections give you yellow.

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