Spring is a time of warmth, rebirth and beauty in Japan, with the highlight being those magical few weeks when the sakura trees bloom.
And I hate it.
Even as one part of me marvels at the ethereal otherworld Japan becomes during sakura season, the other part of me loathes spring. It’s an eyesore–literally. My eyes are sore and itchy, my nose becomes runny and I’ve been known to sneeze up to 10 times in a row without breathing.
Hay fever in Japan is out of control! And I actually thought that I would be escaping the seasonal allergies that plagued me back home.
There are all kinds of cures out here that I’ve never even heard of before. Nose sprays and face sprays (to deflect the pollen) and eyedrops. But it’s all futile. I’ve been forced to do something I swore I never would: become one of those foreigners that wears a mask.
In Japan, people often wear surgical masks when they’re sick, or to avoid getting sick, or I suspect when they want to look like ninjas. But I’ve always hated wearing those things, I feel like I can’t breathe through it, And if I breathe through your mouth, you know like when my nose s full of mucus, my glasses fog up. Plus there’s a slight stigma in the non-Japanese community against (visible) non-Japanese who put on masks. It’s like we’re trying too hard to fit in or something. But I’ll do whatever it takes to stop the sneezing fits, the burning eyes and my leaky-faucet nose. The mask is the only thing that makes a significant difference.
And teaching with hay fever is so much fun! I love trying to to hide the snot running out onto my upper lip. It’s rude to blow your nose in front of someone in Japan, so I’ve just gotta time it so that everyone’s looking at their books and then swipe at my nose with a tissue. (I don’t wear the mask in class because then students can’t see how my mouth moves.) I love when I have one of my signature sneezing fits. I swear I have to sneeze at least three times before I can stop. After the first couple sneezes the students always politely say bless you. Hell, maybe they even think it’s cute. But then it drags on into sneeze number four, five, six, ten…and they’re looking at me like…
This goes on pretty much until rainy season in June. So for 2-3 months I’ve just gotta…ACHOO! ACHOO! ACHOOACHOOACHOOACHOOACHOOACHOO! *sniff*
Excuse me. I’ve just gotta ganbaru: Try my best to get through the season without sneezing any brains out.
Wish me luck!