Japan has pledged to reduce cedar pollen — the root cause of a seasonal allergy that afflicts 40% of the country — by revitalizing the country's shrinking forestry industry.
A package of policies released Wednesday includes boosting demand for cedar tree products in buildings through the revision of the Building Standards Law, which takes effect next April, as well as greater use of foreign workers in forestry. The government will also subsidize firms buying high-level logging machinery, as well as push for more people in the farming and construction sectors to enter the forestry trade.
Pollen carried by the wind affects many allergy sufferers living in cities. As such, during this fiscal year ending in March the government will designate “high-priority areas” near major urban areas where measures such as cutting cedar trees and replacing them with other tree varieties that produce less pollen will be carried out ahead of other areas, officials said.
“We will aim to resolve hay fever, which is a social issue, and revitalize local communities through the promotion of forestry,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a ministerial meeting.
In May, under Kishida’s initiative, the minister-level meeting decided to halve the nation's pollen count in 30 years by broadening the logging of artificially planted cedar trees from 50,000 hectares per year to 70,000 hectares.
A significant boost to the nation’s forestry industry is needed to achieve such an ambitious goal. The industry has been in constant decline for decades, with workers numbering a mere 44,000 in 2020 — less than a third of the level in 1980. As a result cedar-producing trees have not been utilized as timber and have been left to release allergens every year during the spring pollen season.
Through the new measures, the government wants to prevent the number of workers from decreasing further, officials said.