Japan to reduce cedar forests near major cities to curb hay fever

TOKYO, Oct 12: The Japanese government said it plans to step up the reduction and replacement of cedar and cypress trees, a source of pollen known to trigger hay fever which causes allergies for millions of people in Japan.

The government would initially focus on areas ringing major cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka, and cut down 70,000 hectares of forest annually over the next 10 years, higher than the current annual removal rate of 50,000 hectares, according to a hay fever-themed ministerial meeting held at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The package compiled at the meeting also included initiatives to introduce machines that can chop down trees more efficiently, improve cedar timber distribution facilities and create a system for releasing data regarding the use of domestic timber among home builders within fiscal year 2023, Xinhua quoted a report by Japan’s Kyodo national news agency.

Regarding the use of immunotherapy medicines for alleviating allergy symptoms, the government will work on securing raw materials and help increase production to ensure sufficient supply for 500,000 people from 2025 onward, up from the current 250,000, the report added.

Earlier in May, the government unveiled measures against hay fever consisting of allergy prevention, pollen forecasts and treatment. It plans to reduce the total area covered with cedar trees by around 20 per cent in the next 10 years.

Hay fever, referred to as “kafunsho” in Japan and in most cases cedar pollen allergies, has been a long-standing seasonal concern.

Cedar trees, primarily Cryptomeria japonica, release copious amounts of pollen during the spring months, leading to allergic reactions and respiratory issues in many people.