Why Japanese People Wear Masks
I was asked ‘why Japanese people wear masks’ by one of my friends recently, and suddenly I had a flashback. Since I had worked for a company in Tokyo for almost 2 years and dealt with tourists all day long, you would think I would have been asked ‘Can you recommend some places to see in Tokyo? However, the most asked question was ‘Why do so many Japanese people wear masks?’
Before I came to Japan, the only time I saw someone wearing a mask was my dentist! Yet, this was a proper surgical mask.
So here I’ll explain the 9 major reasons why people wear surgical masks in Japan (and other Asian countries).
REASON ONE: Feeling Ill
This one is the most self-explanatory, but believe it or not when you’re sick with a common cold or a cough you’re expected to wear a mask!
Imagine being on a crowded train and you’re coughing away, without a mask on, it can come off quite rude to the people around you as they don’t want you to spread the germs!
If you enter a doctors clinic or hospital you’re actually required to wear a mask if you show up without one, the medical staff will soon make sure you’re wearing one!
REASON TWO: Not Wanting to Catch a Cold
Similar to my first reason, others wear a mask to protect themselves from colds and any other potential nasties they think they could pick up from others!
It kind of makes sense, catching a crowded train is part of most people’s daily routine here in Japan and being physically close to other people may encourage this!
REASON THREE: Hayfever
Springtime can is also a common time for masks due to the spread of 花粉症 (かふんしょ or Kafunsho), which means hayfever in Japanese.
I do remember on the first day of spring I came into the office and realized all my colleagues were wearing masks, and I thought to myself ‘Ohhhh gosh, I’m coming home with a cold today’, but after asking everyone they simply replied that it was a case of ‘Kafunsho’.
REASON FOUR: Too Lazy for Make-up or Shaving
Sometimes if you don’t feel like putting on make-up or shaving your 2-day stubble you can easily put a mask on and duck out to the local Convenience Store.
Or maybe you have a pimple or like my case; woken up with a face that just didn’t look right after a big night out (Every Saturday for instance).
REASON FIVE: Fashion Statement
Who would have thought?! This is the one I find the most fascinating!
In Japan, not all surgical masks are white! They come in a range of colours and some even come printed with your favourite Anime characters on them!
Happening to be wearing a Pikachu onesie out? Why not wear a matching Pikachu mask?! Entirely acceptable, particularly during Halloween!
REASON SIX: Wind resistance
Yes, you read that correctly!
Many Japanese people, while riding bicycles, scooters, motorcycles or especially go-karts (lol), you’ll often see them wearing masks to stop the wind from drying out their skin out! They also help with… aerodynamics! (Kidding)
REASON SEVEN: Smell
Sometimes places just smell really bad, imagine in the afternoon after a hot and humid day and it’s time to catch a crowded train, full of perspiration and all the rest …
Or maybe at the bar, maybe a place that you like a lot, but they allow smoking inside…
REASON EIGHT: Don’t Want to be recognized
Sometimes people don’t want that chance of running into someone they know, so to reduce those chances they’ll wear a mask. They may even be a famous idol or celebrity, and so hiding their face is the best way to get around unnoticed.
REASON NINE: Air Pollution
Japan doesn’t really struggle that much with air pollution, however, sometimes the smog from China can blow over! Up to the point where you can even see it!
In these cases especially, you see on the news ‘We suggest wearing a mask today’. There are even masks specifically made to protect from air pollution up to PM2.5.