Pollen projection: Japan’s hay fever season, already underway, to be worse than last year, forecaster says

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Spring may still be a few weeks away, but if you are experiencing red, swollen and itchy eyes it could be because this year’s hay fever season has already begun — with meteorologists saying that cedar and cypress pollen counts could be twice as high compared with last year in some parts of the country.

The unwelcome news for many is a result of higher temperatures combined with longer sunshine hours and less rain last summer, according to the Japan Weather Association, a privately run firm that has been releasing information on pollen dispersion since 1990.

“(We predict) the level in Aomori Prefecture will be at least double that of last year,” an association spokeswoman said, adding that many other areas stretching from the Tohoku to Kinki regions — including Tokyo and Nagoya — are expected to be hit by more pollen than the previous season.

However, aside from the Tohoku and Tokai regions where it will be roughly 10 percent higher than the yearly average, this year’s pollen concentration will not exceed the average for the past decade in most parts of the nation.

Kanagawa was the first prefecture to see pollen dispersal this year observed on Jan. 23 according to the firm, which attributed the spread to a strong southerly wind after heavy snowfall in parts of the Kanto region.

The firm later confirmed pollen in Okayama, Ehime, Tokushima and Wakayama prefectures, as well as Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo.

Cedar pollen dispersal is expected to peak in Fukuoka Prefecture from late February through early March and will later spread throughout the cities of Hiroshima, Osaka and Nagoya through mid-March. In Tokyo, the peak is likely to be from early-March to early-April.

The Tokyo-based firm also said pollen counts in Hokkaido will be half those of last year and lower than usual, and that the sneezy season there will start in around late April.

Nationwide, the Japanese cypress season is expected to start around late March and peak in April.

This year’s pollen dispersal comes later than usual due to heavy snowfall and low temperatures seen across Japan in January, it said.

The association makes its estimates based on weather conditions in the summer of the preceding year, observation of growth of floral buds and pollen sampling in designated areas.

Separately the Environment Ministry has confirmed pollen dispersal in other areas, including the Kyushu region and Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures.