Japan Aims to Reduce Area of Cedar Forests by 20% in 10 Years to Combat Hay Fever

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of ministers concerned with hay fever at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Tuesday.

A ministerial meeting on hay fever on Tuesday decided on measures to be implemented over the next 10 years.

A pillar of the measures is to reduce the area of pollen-producing cedar forests by 20% from the current total of 4.31 million hectares — about 680 times greater than the area of central Tokyo enclosed by the JR Yamanote Line — in the coming decade. The government aims to halve the area in 30 years.

“The issue of hay fever is not something that can be solved overnight. It is necessary to steadily implement necessary measures with an eye to the future,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the meeting chaired by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno. Kishida instructed the ministers to implement the measures in a timely manner.

The countermeasures to be promoted will battle the seasonal scourge of hay fever on three fronts.

One front is measures to address the source of pollen. The area of man-made forests where cedars are felled will be expanded from the current level of about 50,000 hectares per year to about 70,000 hectares by fiscal 2033. The use of cedar wood for housing will be encouraged, increasing the demand for cedar wood products by an envisioned 40% in 10 years.

Currently, seedlings of species that produce less pollen account for about 50% of all cedar plant shipments, but this will be increased to at least 90% in 10 years.

A second front is measures against pollen dispersal. Development of an agent to prevent trees from dispersing pollen will be promoted, with the aim of putting it into practical use in five years.

The third front is medical measures to prevent the onset of hay fever. The production of sublingual immunotherapy drugs will be quadrupled within five years.

These measures will be incorporated into the Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform, which is expected to be adopted by the Cabinet in June.