It’s “Hay Fever.”
Hay fever is called “Kafunsho (花粉症)” in Japanese, and it’s caused by pollen from Japanese cedar (Sugi) and Japanese cypress (Hinoki), two native Japanese tree species.
Approximately 25 million people suffer from hay fever and seasonal allergies in Japan every year. So, you know there’s a huge market for Japanese goods and products that help sufferers during pollen season.
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Why is Hay Fever so Significant in Japan?
In Japan, many people started to suffer from hay fever due to cedar pollen from around the 1960s. During that time, the Japanese government ordered a large number of quick-growing and affordable trees, like cedar and cypress, to be planted for urban development and post-war recovery after World War II.
It is assumed that the significant increase in pollen is due to this vast number of cedar and cypress trees, causing an increase in the number of people who suffer from hay fever.
When is Hay Fever Season in Japan?
The hay fever season in Japan is usually from mid-February to mid-April, and during the season, there are a lot of products sold in shops to fight against annoying hay fever. In many drugstores in Japan, you can find a dedicated section for anti-hay fever products. If you’re living in Japan, you know most of these products are available all year. But they are front and center in the weeks leading up to spring.
Kafunsho season 2023 will most likely be from mid-February and peak in early March. This pollen forecast map shows the approximate dates but you do need to know a little Japanese or be prepared to use a translation app.
Hay Fever Symptoms
For those who’ve never experienced a pollen allergy in Japan, symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, congestion, and itchy eyes. It might be hard to tell if these symptoms are from hay fever or from something more like a cold or even Covid. While you should always be cautious by avoiding crowds and wearing a mask if you especially if you have any symptoms there are a couple of differences between hay fever and coronavirus.
- Itchy eyes. Itchy eyes almost never almost never a symptom of coronavirus.
Not Hay Fever:
- Loss of smell or taste. If you lose your sense of smell even though you don’t have a runny or stuffy nose, you may have Covid.
- Fever. Fevers are very rare for allergies but one of the main symptoms of Covid.
- Headache. Headaches aren’t common for hay fever or allergies but could be coronavirus or another seasonal virus.
Products to Fight Hay Fever in Japan
Most of these products can be purchased when you arrive in Japan. They can be found at convenience stores like 7-11, or Lawson, at larger stores like Don Quixote, Loft, Tokyu Hands, and Drug stores. In Tokyo especially, it’s hard to walk down the street in spring and not find products designed to fight hay fever. Some of these products will have English writing or directions, but in case they don’t, especially in the case of medications, don’t be afraid to ask the pharmacist, they’ll help as best as they can or point you to someone who can help.
In this article, I would like to introduce some useful products that could help you to survive the hay fever season in Japan! These items are great for preventing or fighting kafunsho symptoms but could also be useful to prevent yourself from catching other viruses or illnesses.
Unicharm Cho Kaiteki Mask
Surgical masks are the essential item during the hay fever season. There are a lot of surgical masks sold in Japan with various price ranges, but the one I recommend is Unicharm Cho Kaiteki Mask (ユニ・チャーム 超快適®マスク), because it fits very well on the face and firmly blocks pollen and other pollution and virus. Also, they provide comfortable fits that don’t hurt your years after wearing it for a long time. There are two sizes available (small or large), so you can pick the one that fits better on your face.
Despite being far more stylish and being available in a larger range of colors, the “Pitta Masks” are actually cheaper than either of the newer two mentioned above. You’re likely to see a number of people around Japan wearing this type, as they are super easy to adapt to almost any outfit. This is actually the mask I wear every day in Japan and I have been since early 2020. They’re super comfortable, really breathable, and inexpensive.
With a total of 13 types, including single color and three-color sets, these ones are perfect for when you want to look your best while beating that pollen. They even have special masks for children!
MoriLabo Pollen Barrier Seal
MoriLabo Pollen Barrier Seal is a product of Japan’s popular deodorant and insect repellent brand, ST. Simply apply this patented sticker item to protect you from airborne pollen. It contains aromatic components extracted from the Todomatsu tree, known for its air-purifying effect.
“This is perfect for kids who don’t like wearing masks. It protects against pollen, and is easy for them to stick on by themselves,” says Muraki. Children will enjoy using these stickers! Effects last about 5 to 6 hours. They are made with thinned Hokkaido wood.
IHADA Aller Screen
IHADA ALLER SCREEN (イハダアレルスクリーン EX) is a spray that can be applied directly on your face or hair and helps to block pollen, virus, and PM 2.5. The spray is made with Shiseido’s original “ionic repellent technology” which prevents pollen from sticking on skin or hair, and it also contains natural thermal water which is gentle on your skin. It can be applied even on top of makeup, and it’s recommended to apply every 4 hours.
Aller Block Kafun Guard Spray Moist Veil
I’d like to introduce one more pollen block spray, Aller Block Kafun Guard Spray Moist Veil by Earth Corporation (アレルブロック花粉ガードスプレーモイストヴェールアース製薬). It contains not only the functional ingredients that fight against pollen, but also high moisturizing ingredients (Hyaluronic acid, Ceramide, Placenta, and Argan Oil). You can apply it to your face, hair, and clothes. The scent of rose geranium is also very pleasant. The spray can be applied on top of makeup, too.
MoriLabo Pollen Barrier Stick
Sometimes, wearing surgical masks is not good enough to prevent yourself from getting pollen as they can enter the mask from a very tiny space. MoriLabo Pollen Barrier Stick (モリラボ花粉バリアスティック) is an epoch-making invention that can defend against pollen by the scent. The stick contains an extract of Todo Pine Tree from Hokkaido, and by applying it on your mask, it can prevent pollen from getting around the mask. It’s a small stick just like a lipstick so it’s very portable. It has a refreshing scent that reminds you of the forest.
Fumallika Aller Shut
Aller Shut by Fumakilla (アレルシャット花粉鼻でブロックチューブ入 30日分フマキラー) is cream that can create a filter inside the nose to prevent pollen, pollution, and dust entering the nose. You can apply it inside your nose, so if you don’t have a mask or can not wear one, this item is highly recommended. Sometimes, I am worried that my makeup might come off while wearing masks, so I think this cream is very useful. In fact, it is even more effective if you wear a mask and use this product at once!
AG Eyes Allercut C
One of the worst symptoms of hay fever is eye irritation, especially for women who wear eye makeup. But itchy eyes can be eased by using eye drops. AG Eyes Allercut C (エージーアイズアレルカットC) is an anti-allergy eye drop that gives eyes refreshing and cool feeling as well as relief the itchiness from pollen. It also moisturizes your eyes and protects the corneal.
Kafun Plus Nose Throat Candy
Kafun Plus Nose Throat Candy (花粉プラスはなのど飴) is the delicious way to get away from the annoying hay fever as it can ease your runny nose or itchy throat for a while. The candy contains ingredients that are effective for hay fever symptoms and strong mint flavor and vitamin C. It’s assorted of three flavors (lemon, grape, and peach).
If you end up experiencing hay fever symptoms after all of your preventative measures, don’t fear, there’s plenty of kafunsho medicine in Japan. While you can buy over the counter brands such as アレグラ (Allegra), アレジオン (Alesion), タリオン(Talion), and ジ ルテック (Zyrtec ), for the really good stuff you’ll have to head over to an Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic or Jibiinkouka (耳鼻咽喉科) in Japanese.
Japanese doctors prescribe a variety of antihistamine brands. The type that I take is フエキソフエナジン (Fexofenadine). It’s a powerful one but unfortunately not as powerful in Japan as it is in the UK or US. The maximum Japanese dose for this medicine is 120mg but I used to receive 180mg. For those of you who also have this issue don’t worry, there are ways around it. If you have the prescription for a larger dose from your home country a doctor can sometimes give you that amount.
Be sure to read all labels on these products to ensure they’re safe for you or your kids to take. If you’re unsure, ask the pharmacist.
This Japanese allegra is very similar to the American product. It can help treat indoor and outdoor allergies for 12 hours, non-drowsy.
Another popular option in Aneton. It helps to relieve allergy symptoms.
Contact Z has the same active ingredient as Zyrtec and can be used to help indoor and outdoor allergies.
Tips for Fighting Hay Fever in Japan
- Shower/Bathe before bed. Remove the pollen from your skin and hair to help clear your body of pollen that might be sticking to you and to avoid bringing the pollen into your bed where it might remain until you wash your bedding.
- Change clothes when you arrive home. Like above, it’s a good idea to remove outer clothing that might be holding onto pollen. Bringing pollen into the house will prolong your symptoms.
- Find an Air Purifier. If you are living in Japan, especially in an area with a high concentration of cedar trees, look into getting an air purifier for your home. They’re available at most home or electronic stores. Hotels and Airbnbs often supply these.
- Watch pollen forecasts. Pollen levels can rise and fall on a daily basis so keeping an eye on them will help you decide if you should stay home or indoors that day or if you want to venture out.
- Plan ahead. If you know you want to head out to events like a cherry blossom festival or hanami party but you’re going to suffer from a runny nose or watery eyes, you’ll obviously have to pack your supplies. Take medicine, bring your kafunsho eye drops, and hope for the best.
Thanks for reading! I hope you have enjoyed my list of useful Japanese products for hay fever! Most of the products can be found at drugstores in Japan, so if you are suffering from hay fever symptoms while you travel in Japan, have a go with these items
Are you ready for Japan?
- Book Your Flights– To find the cheapest flights, flexibility is a must. Some great options are Google Flights for the calendars to find the cheapest options, Skiplagged, and Skyscanner. For more options see our resources page. For Japan, check flights for both Tokyo Airports (Haneda and Narita), as well as Osaka (Kansai).
- Find Transportation- Buy your JR Pass for your bullet train and inter-city travel before you leave home. Research a Suica card, the public transportation card you can either buy before or as soon as you arrive.
- Book Your Accommodation– Look at Booking.com, Hotels.com, or Expedia for hotels in Japan. You can also look at AirBnB or VRBO as we’ve had great luck finding inexpensive, large, and clean homes to rent.
- Book Tours and Experiences- Check Klook or Viator for some of the best tours and attractions for a great price for experiences like Tokyo Skytree, TeamLab Borderless, and Universal Osaka. For Tokyo Disney Resort, check my guide here.
- Stay Connected– Order a pocket WIFI for airport pickup if you’re with a family or group, or order a SIM card just for your phone. Check out our guide to staying connected here.
- Buy Travel Insurance- I always recommend World Nomads for insurance. It’s better to protect yourself in case of mishaps. Learn more about World Nomads in this FAQ post.
- Pack Your Bags– Check out my packing lists, or my favorite travel gear to help you remember all of the essentials.
- Learn About Japan– Learn about Japan with guidebooks like Lonely Planet, or, shameless plug, search around my site for more info.
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