Wood Smoke Stories

A growing problem in Japan

Wood-burning stoves have become a problem even in residential areas of Japan. It was a nightmare that suddenly began in February of 2016.

From that moment on, soot attacks began on nearby residents. [A person in the family with the wood-burning stove] is surprisingly a civil servant. Those who are civil servants who work for the residents and for the taxpayers are oppressing their neighbors.

After they started using wood-burning stoves, ventilation was impossible between October and May of the following year, and it was impossible to hang laundry and bedding outside (a practice that used to be commonplace in the region).

In addition, there are several asthma patients living in the area, and their symptoms are worsening. Heavy smoke and stench filled the entire area. However, the inhabitants of this wood-burning house are so arrogant and feared that the neighbors put up with it without anyone being able to complain.

However, I stopped putting up with the horrible smell of soot and smoke. First of all, I informed the local government’s environmental staff of this fact and asked them to deal with it. However, in Japan, the person in charge of the local government replied, “There are no laws and regulations regarding wood stoves, and complaints and problems should be resolved between the parties concerned.” Nevertheless, I asked various government agencies and many legislators to start a fact-finding survey of air pollution caused by localized soot in the living environment, and to visit the site first, but all of my requests were refused.

As of March 2023, the situation has not changed. Many other victims have also suffered in Japan, and the number is skyrocketing. The majority of the population in Japan thinks that smoke from burning wood is harmless. Civil servants and legislators do not understand the harm of smoke at all.

And I complained to the wood-burning stove user. The user says. “I’ll take measures, it should be fine, I’ll install a chimney filter.” Four months later, she didn’t keep her promise. The device she installed is just an air blower and has no function to purify the smoke. Of course, I and many of my neighbors have had to purchase and use air purifiers.

Her family had the money to replace several cars with new ones, but they [balked at] the price of this chimney filter at only 1 million yen. And she has made incoherent rebuttals. “I didn't make any promises like that, don’t make careless accusations.” “Nobody complains, no one is in trouble.” “I’ve never been told it smells bad—it smells good, so you have to put up with it.” “If you are suffering from smoke damage or health hazards, provide objective evidence.” “If I can’t use the wood stove and it’s cold and I get sick, you’ll take responsibility." She has been threatening me with such terrible words. This is a good example of how wood-burning stove users are extremely self-centered.

In addition, to prove that smoke from wood stoves is causing severe localized air pollution, air quality measuring devices (IQAirs) have been installed in several locations in the region and data on polluting particulates has been continuously automatically measured and recorded. This action is to collect “objective evidence.” In addition, I thought that I could not change the situation simply by disseminating information on social media, so I started posting my own research reports on Agora, a speech site that many people read (especially politicians and intellectuals). The aim is to convey the negative effects of wood stoves on neighbors and to society as a whole.