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Okinawa a haven for hay fever sufferers

Date Posted: 2005-05-19

Tourists are flocking to Okinawa in droves, with travel agents hyping the island’s clean, fresh air.
It is hay fever season, and high levels of pollen in the air are sending countless thousands of mainland Japanese to Okinawa for relief. Okinawa does not have the Japanese cedar and cypress trees, which release pollens which irritate those prone to hay fever.

The pollens were expected to be at their strongest during the Golden Week period, but doctors say the irritations will continue into next month. They say this year’s pollen count is dozens of times higher and stronger than last year’s levels in most areas of Japan, and add that this has been one of the worst years on record for hay fever sufferers.

Travel numbers to Okinawa have risen more than 30% in recent weeks, since mainland travel agent Hankyu Express began advertising an Okinawa tour as a healthy destination free of the hay fever pollens. Reservations, the company says, has increased more than 35% as the inquiries continue. The company says the second travel boost has been in tours averaging 5-7 nights, rather than the typical three-nite Okinawa trips. Okinawa has few cypress or cedar trees.

Pharmacies across Japan have reaped benefits of the severe allergies and hay fever season. One pharmaceutical chain which operates 58 stores across the Kanto region in central Japan, says sales are up sevenfold over a year ago, with its allergy resistant eye drops selling very well.

Officials say they’ve sold out the eyedrop products in some stores, and note they’re selling out many types of masks that cover large parts of the face. A pharmacist watching the sales expressed surprise, saying “since they have a unique shape that covers the whole lower part of the face, many people said they look embarrassing and we hardly sold any of them last year. I guess people have chosen effectiveness over appearance.”

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