Behind the mask

The Mystery of Masked People in Japan

There once was a Japanese band called YMO, one of their hit songs in Early 80’s is called, “Behind The Mask”, which later was covered by the likes of Michael Jackson and Eric Clapton.

This post is NOT actually about the song though…

How many people can you spot in this photo wearing masks? Taken in Shinjuku, Tokyo

If you have visited Japan you may already have wondered:

“Why are there so many people wearing masks on?”

You may have also thought to yourself

“There are so many sick people in this country!”

Well… You are not too right but not too wrong either.

Basically there are 2 reasons in Japan why they wear masks in public.

  1. When they are getting sick that they don’t want to spread the germ
  2. When there are so many other people being sick that you don’t want that to be passed on

In my impression I think the first reason is way stronger a reason why they do it.

You will be frowned upon if you cough or sneeze without covering you nose and mouth in public place in winter when the illness has got stronger hold of people with dry air and cold temps.

Particularly a place like at your workplace or in your class at school, you are expected to wear them when you’ve started having a cold with coughs.

For the second reason, especially in cities where the crowd is so dense, you’ll never know what you’ll get from it.

So as a prevention to get something passed on, there are people wearing this masks.

In the end, I think it comes down to,

  • A fact that this country is densely populated
  • Plus, a fact that there is a strong social code as to how to behave in public

I hope now you have a better understanding to what you see when you visit Japan.

Today’s Phrase

Kaze Wo Hiki Mashita 風邪をひきました = I’ve got a cold

It’s not ideal but it will be useful to learn just in case…

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