Tis the sneezin'! This apocalyptic looking mask & goggles combo may look cumbersome (not to mention scary) but demand from Japan's growing legions of allergy sufferers has been so brisk retailers can't keep them in stock.
How do you know the news report you're watching features a story from Japan? Easy: it'll show lots of people wearing surgical masks. People wear masks for many reasons, such as protecting themselves from windblown dust, seasonal germs & viruses, and the arrival of the dreaded spring cedar pollen season which is about to make millions of Tokyo's citizens miserable – and this year's sneezin' season may be the worst one ever.
Rural areas west of Tokyo are lush with mature stands of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) trees planted in the mid-1950s. Governments of the day expected strong and continuing demand for hardwoods from the construction industry, and Japanese cedar trees seemed to be the ideal choice: they grew quickly, produced useful wood, and had a pleasing scent.
Today about 20 percent of Japan's forests - more than 10 million acres – are Japanese cedar. Trouble is, imports of tropical hardwoods from southeast Asia are cheaper and Japan's legions of private landowners are reluctant to chop down what they consider to be an investment for the future.
A half century after widespread planting of Japanese cedar trees began, forests of 40m (130 ft) tall trees dominate the hills west of Tokyo and the area around Mount Fuji. When these trees blast clouds of pollen into the air each spring, everyone knows... or “nose”. The Japanese economy might not be doing all that well but the allergy relief business is bucking the trend, big time. Indeed, the Japanese market for anti-pollen health care has never been healthier.
This brings us to the spring of 2011 and Japan's growing numbers of allergy sufferers are preparing for a massive influx of cedar pollen following last year's record-breaking hot summer. It would seem the time is right for the Glass & Mask Hyperclear model SPGM2505 from SP Japan!
The device is designed to protect the wearer's eyes, nose and mouth by blocking the entry of up to 99 percent of windblown pollen. The mask portion features a three-layer filter and the top edge is shaped to conform with the goggle frame. This solves the problem of gaps between the eyes and nose.
The polypropylene plastic goggle frame is lined with soft foam to better conform to the wearer's facial features, and the googles have been treated with an anti-fog coating.
The whole kit & kaboodle weighs about 36 grams (1.3 oz), which is lighter than it looks at least. SP Japan lists the retail price of the Glass & Mask Hyperclear model SPGM2505 as 2,800 yen, or around $33... if you can find it.
Between the arrival of the spring pollen season and demand for face masks following the March 11 Great Tohoku Kanto Earthquake, Amazon Japan is dealing with stock and availability issues. Allergy sufferers should keep trying, however. Billy Crystal's SNL 'Fernando” character may have famously said “It's better to look good than to feel good,” but obviously Fernando never spent time in Tokyo on a windy spring day.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you're looking for glasses that can help with allergies in the U.S., try these EyeDefend Allergy Glasses.