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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

MUFA Day#16: President Obama at Jiro's, Ah Choo....and on to Aomori

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pours sake for President Barack Obama last night at Jiro's.  Yes, that's Ambassador Carolyn Kennedy in this photo.  Read about my exploits at Jiro's exactly two years ago.  I paid $350 for 18 sushis and a large bottle of beer, and I was out of there in about half an hour.  Some of you have seen the movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  Jiro Ono, at 88, is the world's oldest Michelin 3-Star chef.

I'm now on My Ultimate Fantasy Adventure Day#16 and will bullet train to Aomori for a couple of days  Today I will report on a problem plaguing Japan that was perpetrated with good intentions.  The cherry blossoms have largely peaked in those cities I have visited.  Aomori might be different.  Anyway, the Sakura and other Spring flowers cause you to sneeze.  However, and this is a surprise to most, at least 70% of the problem is man-made and comes from trees.  After World War II, the Japanese government intensified plantings of sugi, or Cryptomeria japonica, which is to the left, and another, hinoki, Japanese Cypress, to the right, to cover the war torn landscape and provide building material.    Bad idea.

At one time in their history, hay fever was rare in Japan.  However, in the 60's two things happened.  The timber industry was largely abandoned because of cost and these trees began to mature, sending off just the wrong kind of pollen (which has an effective radius of contagion of 200 miles), exacerbating respiratory allergies.  Up to a third of Japanese suffer from March through June, with the worst month being April, from kafun-sho, or pollen illness.  Here are 15 ways to survive this vexation.

You will see masks on the street, air purifiers at home and businesses, and a whole assortment of other remedies, including a battery-powered Kafun-Blocker, which sells for $40.

The worst part to the above is that it is too expensive to cut-down those trees, so suffering will continue through the Spring.  The "good" part is that airborne sugi pollution may peak around the year 2050 and will be definitely eliminated in a century or two.  And you thought Japan was only in trouble with Prime Minister Abe, their largest annual trade deficit on record and the Fukushima nuclear debacle.


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