Friday, March 28, 2008

"Dust & Pollen... Sniffle"

For the past few years, every spring the media cranks up the "the tree pollen this spring is worse than before..." reports, and - this year in particular - I do believe they're right. Pretty much non-stop for the past three weeks or so I've had itchy and/or sore eyes, runny nose, sneezing fits, etc. The story is that after the war, they planted a fast-growing type of pine tree ('sugi' in Japanese) forming near-mono cultures in the mountains, and now these trees dump massive amounts of pollen into the air every spring.

And something I hadn't picked up before, but hear isn't new - apparently, there is an increasing amount of dust blowing in from China's deserts - and one sand storm I even witnessed myself. I wouldn't have though that sand from deserts in China would ride the winds all the way to Japan, but the winds are strong, the sand particles are small....

And so it was that - on the way home - I dropped by a park to see the cherry trees in blossom, armed with a towel in one hand and a camera in the other. It was a typical experience for this time of year, except for one detail.

At the entrance to the back side of the park (where most of the cherry blossom trees are) , I noticed a sign saying that cherry blossom viewing ("hanami") was only allowed until 9:00 p.m., and it warned people not to sing karaoke (good, good) or play music, and - get this - not to talk too loudly! I looked over at the large pricey houses bordering the park and thought "What's this? Did one of you guys complain to city hall about the noise? Do you think this park is your personal property or something?".

An over-reaction I suppose, but I remembered an article I'd read about a park in Nishi-Tokyo-shi that had some sort of sprinklers for kids to run around in the summer. Great idea. But they shut them down. Why? One neighbor complained that they could hear the sound of children playing and it disturbed them.(!!) What blows my mind is that one deranged lunatic is listened to and the sentiments of thinking people are ignored. A person can't stand the sound of children playing in a park? They they should move to the Sahara Desert, or Mars, or something.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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