Oh you naïf you. You thought you'd gotten off lightly this year. Then you went for an extra long walk on a perfect spring day, and … it attacked viciously, gleefully and voraciously.
Hay fever. I get it every year, but I really thought this year might be better.
Not. I got ill about two weeks ago, despite the fact that I was already on hay fever medication!, and it took me several days to get it under control. When I get hay fever, I'm sicker than most flu victims; when it's really bad, I have to use an inhaler to prevent a hacking cough.
This year it also affected my voice: I sounded like Tom Waits choking on mochi. It was during a period in which I had to address a seminar of roughly 200 people at the university where I work. I got their attention, though, and they had to pay careful attention to understand me, so mission accomplished.
To relieve my misery, I read about sneezing in Japanese folklore.
If you sneeze once, someone is speaking well of you.
Sneeze twice, and someone is saying bad things about you.
Sneeze three times, and someone is in love with you.
Sneeze four times, and … you have a cold. That's what you call pragmatism.
I'd like to add this: Sneeze non-stop, and you have hay fever thanks to a government that planted sugi forests around Tokyo.
We use atishoo in English to represent the sound of a sneeze; in Japanese it's hakushon (ハクション). The word sneeze itself is translated as kushami (くしゃみ).
I greet you with a sneeze, a sniffle and a snort.