Feb 27,2012

Apparently, that's the technical term for hay fever. I first encountered it several years ago in a student essay at a conversation school where I was employed during that long dark tea-time of the soul when I worked in the eikaiwa business. The essay, in its entirety, read:

I suffer from pollinosis. Terrible this year. I am very bitter. And very horrible.

All jokes about the student's English pragmatic competency aside, pollen allergies, particularly the allergy to cedar, are so ubiquitous to life in Japan that susceptibility to the ailment was featured in Japan Talk's 101 Signs You've Been in Japan Too Long, the punchline being that a number of years in the country will, without necessarily turning you into a native, endow you with a plethora of inscrutable traits and quirks perceived as peculiar to Japan.

Of course, we can all appreciate that certain populations are at greater risk to certain bodily discomforts than others, after thousands of years of evolution in a particular environment with genetic drift in conjunction with interaction with indigenous flora and fauna and what not. What I can't for the life of me figure out is how anyone manages to suffer from it when daily temperatures have been consistently hovering around 0°and regular flurries should surely forestall even the most diligent efforts on the part of the trees to spew forth anything remotely resembling pollen. Doesn't pollen come from buds, which have to actually exist before any pollen can be produced?

Not so, says my better half, who claims that her recent bouts of sneezing are due to the notorious cedar allergy, and not in fact to the copious amounts of dust we've endured while moving furniture from the old home to the new. February, she says, is when most people start taking their hay fever medication. Yes, I contend, but isn't that because by this time of the year the snow has normally melted and the plants are beginning to do what they normally do in early spring? With the layers of snow covering the trees, the snow which continues to fall even as I type this, how could anyone perceive anything coming from the frozen and buried plants at all?

Perhaps it's simply another mystery, like the presence of different lengths of tongue and intestine despite science's failure to discover these differences through objective study of anatomy, that separates the gai from the nai.

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