Apparently Tokyo’s yellow rain on Wednesday March 23rd got a few people worried because of a similar phenomenon that was observed after the Chernobyl meltdown. The Japanese government has said it’s pollen, tin foil hat types have said it is radioactive particles and that it is no coincidence that the yellow rain fell on the same day as extremely high radiation readings were recorded at Tepco Daiichi in Fukushima.
I have lived in Japan for a little over ten years. From late February to mid-June I suffer tremendously from seasonal allergies. The Japanese cedar, the pollen of which about a third of the country is allergic too, starts throwing up pollen early-mid February and peaks mid-late March. You know when the Japanese cedar is active in these parts because you can literally see it in the air – a pale haze over the mountains. It sticks to pretty much everything it touches.
I dread spring each year because my symptoms are a little more severe than most. I wake up several times in the night so congested that it can be difficult to breathe. Occasionally the symptoms become exacerbated and I actually get a fever. I cough, sneeze, splutter and abuse nasal sprays like they are going out of fashion. I once heard someone refer to Japan’s kafunsho as less hay fever than particle plague. Particle plague is what it is, you can see the stuff in the air.
Japanese scientists have gotten pretty good at predicting what the annual pollen output will be each year. At the start of last spring, we got the good news that we were going to be hit with about a tenth of the pollen of the year before (which had been a fairly heavy year). Sure enough spring came around and symptoms were bearable for the first time since I could remember. After an incredibly hot summer last year we were warned to expect around ten times as much pollen as last year – and I have felt every single day of that prediction.
So back to the cedars, there are 22,000 hectares of them around Tokyo pumping out more pollen than they have in a long while and it rains – are people really that surprised that some of it is going to stick to cars and houses? When the rain comes down, pollen comes with it and sometimes it looks yellow – it has happened before, it will happen again – it really is that simple.