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Why People wear masks in Japan

Ewa Nowogorski 

 

It is the year 2020 and the world is in the middle of its latest coronavirus pandemic. The mask-wearing culture has always been popular in Asian countries such as South Korea, China and Japan, but now the trend is more prominent than ever. The effectiveness of them to prevent the spread of airborne diseases is questionable, but they are popular nonetheless and their use goes beyond just personal protection. 

 

As just stated, masks are not exactly great at protecting yourself  from a catching a sick person’s cold or virus if they sneeze on you, but it does a great job at preventing a sick person from spreading  disease if THEY are the ones who wear it. It is the assumption that you are sick and want to keep yourself from passing that sickness onto other people that justifies wearing the mask. With the novel coronavirus, symptoms can take weeks to surface in infected people, and some people are asymptomatic throughout the entire illness. BUT that doesn’t mean it isn’t transmittable to other people. So, you expect the worst and hope for the best when wearing this mask. 

 

It is expected that you wear a mask when you are sick, and it’s  actually considered very rude if you don’t. Your coworkers and friends will hate you for it. 

 

Other than preventing the spread of disease, masks have many  other uses as well. Some people feel safer when they wear a mask in public. They want to keep their identity hidden from other people, and a mask is a very common accessory, so it doesn’t even look like an obvious or cliche disguise. Women who want to conceal their face if they are not wearing any makeup and feel self-conscious also wear a mask quite often. I have seen women wearing quite a lot of makeup but still feel too shy to not wear a mask as well. 

 

Some jobs require wearing a mask. In kitchens, wearing a hairnet is common in America and other countries. In Japan, a mask is more popular so that food preparers don’t sneeze into or even breathe  directly into the food they are working with. 

 

The mask-wearing culture has been around for a long time now, and with the increase in commonness of super viruses and other potentially deadly diseases, the custom is only likely to become stronger and more ingrained into Japanese culture.