• Tokyo


The Feb. 20 editorial “Japan’s ecological catastrophe” impressed me with the copious amount of detailed and deep thought that goes into Japan’s hay fever allergy problem. It’s not just a health problem, but a domestic economic and environmental problem, too.

It is a problem of policy — in this case the decision of past governments to plant forests of trees that, coincidentally, are also heavy pollen producers. The whole hay fever situation here is frustrating and irredeemably silly. Instead of letting people suffer every season, why don’t Japanese doctors just administer allergen immunotherapy injections (“allergy shots”)?

I have been suggesting this to my Japanese friends, colleagues and wife for years, and the usual reaction is awe at the idea of exotic foreign lands devoid of hay fever’s effects. There is plenty of hay fever in foreign countries, of course. It’s just that most sufferers get their shots for it.

My father was a family doctor and I remember him regularly giving allergy shots to his hay fever patients. Allergy shots are not for everyone, especially sufferers who have other medical conditions, but for many it is a simple and (temporarily) effective measure. Why can’t Japan, which has so often excelled at imitating foreign things, do the same on this one, too?

Maybe pharmaceutical companies here block the idea of immunotherapy injections because they have too much money at stake selling face masks and other assorted, useless over-the-counter remedies. As a revenue source, allergy shots cannot compensate for that loss.

Or maybe the health ministry keeps some arcane legal impediment on the books based on an anachronistic idea of drug safety. Or maybe a deep cultural disposition to stubbornly endure suffering and the morally purifying effects of perseverance lead people to accept the unacceptable.

Yeah, the bushido spirit!

grant piper

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