Thursday, 3 March 2011

hay-fever


Today I will make an attempt to move into the less-pretentious. I've always been embarrassingly wordy, and I have no intention of curbing my verbal instincts, but I have human instincts too so I'm going to try to let them take centre stage a bit more often.

So I'm currently living in Japan, losing my idioms to the world of eikaiwa, and spring is coming. Some aspects of this I recognise: more daylight in the evenings, bi-weekly glimpses of a future summer (interspersed with cold, sharp reminders that winter hasn't left us yet) and a sometimes overwhelming sense of possibility. In Japan this is accompanied by fanatic anticipation of the coming cherry blossom, a wealth of advertisements beckoning you to invest in the new you before it's too late, and a national hay-fever epidemic.

I didn't know hay-fever until I was seventeen, when suddenly my body decided to be intolerant to everything and the pollen of Crete was no exception. Plenty of people I know suffer from seasonal sniffles, but I guess in England we accept that there is a price to pay for a bit of good weather. The entire population of Tokyo, however, seems to be disproportionately overwhelmed by this minor ailment, to the extent that hay-fever now tops the weather in the small-talk ranks. This is particularly notable in a nation so schooled in endurance that they have a one-word reference for the phenomenon of 'working-oneself-to-death', and I can't help but wonder if it's all a subconscious extension of the national preoccupation with 'the seasons'.

I recently discovered that when a bug is going around, in Japanese you say it's 'popular' or 'in fashion' (流行っている).

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