Ever wondered why Japanese people wear masks all the time in public? While wearing surgical masks has become popular all over the world due to the recent COVID pandemic but this isn’t a new trend in Japan. The Japanese people have been wearing masks in public places way before the coronavirus came into the picture.
To protect themselves from common allergens and pollution is obviously one of the reasons why Japanese people wear masks. But another reason why Japanese wear masks is also to protect others from any pathogens that the mask wearer might be carrying.
Over the years, seeing Japanese people wearing surgical masks in public on the streets, in the subway or even at the grocery stores has become a common sight. It has become such a popular trend that not wearing a mask out in the streets in Japan is weird.
Eventually, a potential business opportunity was recognized and fashionable masks with designs or brand logos flooded the market. After which, more than a health safety measure, these masks are considered a fashion accessory.
Metal fan? You’ll find lot’s of studded black masks.
Want a cute look? You can easily pull off the cute Lolita girl look with the adorable pink masks.
Or if you’re an anime fan, you’ll also find popular anime-themed masks as well.
Coming back to why Japanese people wear masks, there are a couple of other reasons as well and they’re not related to health!
Let’s explore all the reasons why Japanese people wear masks everywhere!
Why Japanese People Wear Masks
In the Western culture, when someone is seen wearing a mask, it’s often considered that they’re sick but in actuality it’s now just become a part of the Japanese culture. And the reason behind why Japanese people wear masks is more than just for health safety reason, though health is also a major concern behind wearing masks. Here are 5 reasons why Japanese people wear masks.
#1 — Health is one of the primary reasons why Japanese people wear masks
If you think that the Japanese wear masks, majorly, to protect themselves from viruses or diseases, that’s not entirely true. A bigger reason is to protect others by preventing the spread of one’s own germs. The Japanese will wear a mask more often if they have even the slightest flu.
The Japanese people are born and brought up in a culture where they are constantly taught to be considerate towards others’ comfort. And wearing a mask to protect the rest of the public is just an extension of that mentality.
The Japanese take personal hygiene very seriously. In fact, kids in schools are taught and made aware of this early on. If you walk through the halls of Japanese schools, you’ll see charts and infographics plastered all over the boards advocating the importance of personal hygiene.
Students who volunteered to serve lunch to their classmates at school were requested to wear masks. Wearing masks wasn’t considered rude at all. Moreover, if you’re slightly sick and you’re not wearing a mask, now that’s considered simply disrespectful in Japan!
And plus Japan is a densely populated country. And with so many people all boxed in a small area, risk of spread of diseases is way higher. Which is why they take personal hygiene so seriously.
#2 — Protection from Dust and pollen
Masks are also a good way to protect yourself from pollen dust. I have pollen allergy and it gets worse especially during the spring. Pollen particles are quite large so a mask does a fairly good job of filtering it out.
If you suffer from asthma or have pollen allergies like me then wearing a mask is a good idea. In fact, Japanese news shows that run in the morning hours actually have a particulate matter reading on days it is especially high, warning people to wear masks.
#3 — No time for makeup? Just wear a mask
Apart from health-related reasons as to why Japanese people wear masks there are more simple reasons as well. Some people in Japan also wear masks on days they don’t have the time to wear makeup or simply to cover up some bad acne. You can easily cover up acne scars, pimples, rashes by wearing a mask – I mean, it is a super simple fix. And I’d be lying if I said I haven’t done the same on SEVERAL occasions.
#4 — Some Use It A Fashion Accessory
The Japanese have been wearing masks for so long that it soon became a fashion accessory! For a lot of people in Japan, wearing a mask has nothing to do with health or pollution – it’s now become a fashion statement. According to a 2011 survey by News Post Seven, a Japanese news site, 30 out of 100 people in Tokyo said that wearing a mask has nothing to do with protecting themselves against pollution.
You’ll see all sorts of high-fashion masks in the market now. Like the 3-D mask that protrudes, these are fashionable and functional at the same time – one stone, two birds – you know what I mean?
Other than this, there are various themed masks as well. If you like a particular movie or show, you’ll find a mask with the movie’s or show’s themes. Like this Batman-themed face mask for example:
Some people even say that they wear masks because they like the mysterious look it gives them. For some others, it hides half their face so they like wearing a mask.
Whatever the reason, the point is that, more and more people, today, wear masks for fashion-related reasons than health-related reasons.
#5 — Best way to avoid interactions
Japanese people, in general, are reserved and very conscious of how they are judged. If you’ve interacted with Japanese people, you’ll notice that most of us are quite shy in nature.
Social anxiety is also one of the reasons why Japanese people wear masks. It’s a simple way to create a separation between yourself and the rest of society. You can easily pass by someone you know without being recognized and avoid the unnecessary small talk.
This is actually one of the reasons why I wear a mask!