So, as I am looking through my media for pictures to post for my next article on Tokyo, I am reminded how many people in Japan wore surgical face masks. The above picture is taken at Shinjuku station at 8:30AM. At first it can be quite unnerving. Is there a mass epidemic that I don’t know about? What is going on? This is weird! After talking to some Japanese people this is what I have discovered.
1. People don’t always wear the masks because they are sick. Yep, they wear them for other reasons. Like, they need to go to the store to get something quickly and they haven’t washed their face or brushed their teeth. Or that they have a pimple that they are not happpy with etc. Its a way of getting out of the house when you don’t look your best and not getting recognized. CRAZY, you may say but I know lots of people here in Canada who will not leave the house until they are fully groomed and this takes hours 😉 For them, this strategy may actually be quite efficient.
2. People wear them not only when they are sick but to prevent getting sick from others. I will never forget getting on the train at Shinjuku station at 6:00AM bound for the fish market and the train was standing room only. Not packed like at 8:00AM but as full as the subways get in Toronto during rush hour and it was 6:00 AM! In Tokyo, you get pretty close to strangers and I guess people feel they are protecting themselves from germs by wearing the mask.
3. People are sick and are polite and do not want to spread their germs.
4. Apparently, it helps protect against season allergies.
5. I was told that some people wear it as a way to shut themselves off from the world and not have to make pleasantries. This is kind of like how I wear headphones sometimes when I am working at my computer as a signal to others not to come and talk to me because I can’t hear them due to my music.
So there you have it, another weird and wacky but kind of sensible Japanese topic that you have to see to believe. If any of my Japanese readers have anything to rebut or add please let me know…. and now …back to writing 5 Days in Tokyo.