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The masking of Japan

Dotanbatan

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The masking of Japan !!!

Everyone who lives here in Japan cannot help but notice the ever increasing percentage of the population who wear surgical type masks on a daily basis.

Current annual sales of these masks in Japan run to more than $230,000,000.... which is just astounding.

So not including the people who need to use a mask to perform their work, as far as I can gather, the wearers of these masks fall into one or more of these categories.

1. Those who have a cold or other infectious illness that they don't want to spread to others.

2. Those who suffer from hay fever or an allergy and want protection or relief.

3. Those who want to protect themselves from pollution and toxins.

4. Those who want to protect themselves from other people's germs.

5. Those who want to hide behind the mask and avoid interacting with others.

6. Those who want to conceal their face due to vanity or lack of self-confidence.

7. Those who want to accentuate their attractiveness by highlighting their eyes.

8. Those who wear the new fashionable versions of masks as a trend.

I have worn these types of masks on 2 occasions - once for #1. and once for #3. I didn't like wearing them (and won't any more).

I know a lot has been written about this phenomenon, but I’m interested to hear the opinions of other forum members on the popularity of these masks in Japan.

Personally, I hate them. I think they are anti-social …… You cannot see the expression on people’s faces or hear their voices clearly if they wear masks. It’s hard enough to begin with to read the body language of Japanese people, but this makes it next to impossible.

I can accept those who use them for #1 and #2, understand #3 and #4 for occasional use, but feel like tearing them off the faces of those who wear them for #5 to #8.
 

Mike Cash

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9) Women who have to dash out on a quick errand and haven't done their make-up

10) People who haven't brushed their teeth and want to hide funky breath

11) Male transvestites out for a bit of cross-dressing fun in public but not ready/able to be recognized while doing it (Sort of doubles your #6)

I'm of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I despise the overuse of masks, particularly among two groups: 1) police officers on patrol and 2) women who have obviously spent a great deal of time, thought, effort (and sometimes money) on assembling a very a) sexy b) elegant c) stylish d) beautiful e) some combination thereof ensemble and fail to see or consider how the mask just tosses the whole effect into the toilet. On the other hand, my company hauls oodles and oodles of surgical masks and I have at least an indirect financial interest in their continued widespread use.
 

WonkoTheSane

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I use them for 1, and am deeply annoyed by my coworkers who don't. Yes, it's uncomfortable but sacrificing a little of one's own comfort so others aren't unnecessarily exposed to bacteria and viruses seems reasonable and courteous.

The only time it bothers me when people wear them is when it makes communication difficult. I had a Japanese teacher for a short time who wore them, and it was pure torture to try to understand her between not seeing her mouth and the obstruction of sounds.
 

Mike Cash

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I use them for 1, and am deeply annoyed by my coworkers who don't. Yes, it's uncomfortable but sacrificing a little of one's own comfort so others aren't unnecessarily exposed to bacteria and viruses seems reasonable and courteous.
Don't you work in what is by definition a building full of sick people?

The only time it bothers me when people wear them is when it makes communication difficult. I had a Japanese teacher for a short time who wore them, and it was pure torture to try to understand her between not seeing her mouth and the obstruction of sounds.
But good practice for when you have to use Japanese over the telephone. (That used to scare the crap out of me!)
 

WonkoTheSane

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Don't you work in what is by definition a building full of sick people?
Although I'm USNH I actually provide educational developmental services for the birth -36 month population, so mostly 2 year olds with autism or other developmental delays and disorders. So my physical office is in the elementary school and I perform my practice by doing home visits.

But good practice for when you have to use Japanese over the telephone. (That used to scare the crap out of me!)
Scares me silly, I avoid it whenever possible. My biggest success with that so far has been trying to get an allotment from my pay direct deposited into my Bank of Yokohama account. Managed to get the Japanese questions answered over the phone (what takes the place of the routing number, which bank address to use, etc.), but the Navy side is more difficult...
 

Uncle Frank

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Working as a nurse over the years , I had to wear them while with certain patients. I hated the feeling they gave me. I always thought they were a great place for germs to multiply with the heat and moisture going into them.
 

Majestic

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I put one on yesterday when I was cleaning out the vacuum cleaner...dust flying everywhere.
I've also worn them twice in an airplane because I was paranoid about catching a cold from the germs flying around the cabin. Maybe it was during one of the avian bird flu episodes, I can't remember. I don't know how much good they did. I'm still alive, so that's something. I have a stash in my medicine cabinet from some such event in the past, and there they stay, mostly untouched, except for the rare occasions mentioned above.
The longer I'm here, the less the mask fazes me. I know a lot of people are bothered by pollen, and it seems to be a sensible way to reduce that misery. Same for the yellow-sand from China, and the much-hyped PM2.5. I think wearing them is a considerate gesture for people who have colds, and are concerned about spreading their germs to others, even if it is undermined by the fact (?) that just as many germs are transmitted via the hands. But yes, there does seem to be an almost superstitious belief in the power of the mask.
 

Mark of Zorro

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I am impressed with how many aspects/ reasons you hit on Dotanbatan! Just don't let it go to your head!

From the germ perspective, either way, giving or taking, unless you are in an otherwise sterile or controlled environment, I believe they are worse than useless. I have seen people touch the doorhandles and everything else everyone has touched, walk in, use those hands to fiddle with their mask, actually putting their hands to their face more than they would normally, walk back out, and then contaminate the door handle with the same hands that were just fiddling with their masks and faces.

Frankly, Japan has some minor to medium psychological sicknesses going on, and many are displayed by general public general use of these pseudo-surgical masks. One of the more disturbing is this "germs are evil" concept, which I believe has led to excessive washing which has given kids atopical dermatitis, anti-microbial coatings and over-use of anti-biotics which are making people's immune systems weak which also increases rates of atopical dermatitis and also helps create superbugs.

I always thought they were a great place for germs to multiply with the heat and moisture going into them.
Bingo! And this highlights the absurdity. Its typical Japanese formality over function bull pucky. Even in controlled environments you have to change those things in hours at least. Japanese wear the same one for days. Its beyond brain damaged!

Rather than spell all that out, I just ask Japanese for the data they used to determine that this mask use by the general Japanese public as reduced cold and influenza rates and then listen to the crickets chirp. Occasionally I also hear mental gears start to grind.

As for allergies, those masks never did a thing for me. Instead I made sponge inserts for my nostrils out of black sponge and I had limited success even with those. This year, I actually bought a proper dust mask like a carpenter would wear. I wore it in the house and in the car sometimes. Can't say if it helped or not as I was not consistence in use.

Personally, it annoys me so see so many ladies that may be quite lovely, but I have no idea. Texting and other uses of cell phones destroying the chance for eye contact was already bad enough. Now, I don't even know if I want to make eye contact. Its hard to believe that nampa was ever a thing in this country.

Anyway, in summary, I am sick of this country becoming more socially sterile all the time while the goal of actual sterility is successful where its bad, and unsuccessful in the few areas where it might be good. The masks are not just a visual clue, but also a leading cause in themselves.
 
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