In every Japanese office, in the period going from February to May, there is at least one colleague who cannot help but keep sneezing, coughing, nose-blowing, and generally feeling pretty bad every day. The cause is the feared kafunsho season, the hay fever problem that every year affects millions of people in Japan.
The reason why so many people suffer from these symptoms is the high number of Japanese cedar and cypress trees in the country, which produce a high amount of pollen every spring. The reforestation policies of post World War II brought the allergy to go from being a rare condition in Japan to being a “national problem“, as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida defined it last 3rd April during meeting of the House of Councillors’ Committee on Audit. The Japanese PM also added that relevant ministers will work on effective countermeasures in order to achieve results.
Kafunsho does not only affect those who suffer from it, but also for the companies and the employers, who each spring see their employees take sick leaves and the productivity of the office decrease. Kafunsho also has an impact on the National Health System, with a lot of time and money spent on visits and medicines prescriptions for millions of people. And the problem seems to be getting bigger and bigger: experts said that the 2023 Kafunsho season not only began 2 weeks earlier, but is expected to be the strongest (in terms of pollen quantity) of the last 10 years.
While it might be still early for Japan to solve this issue, in the past years there has been an improvement in how people deal with it. More and more companies have improved their policies, with measures such as “hay fever allowances” or the coverage of some of the treatement costs being introduced. Defeating hay fever in Japan is definitely an enormous and challenging goal for the Japanese Government, but the potential rewards make it a worthwhile endeavor to continue seeking out for new solutions.