In Western countries, if you saw someone walking around wearing a surgical mask, you might be surprised and assume they have some sort of illness or just came from a hospital! But in Japan, and many other countries in Asia, wearing a surgical mask as you go about your daily life is completely normal. Here’s a look into why Japanese people wear surgical masks.
1. Preventing The Spread of Germs
Just like the role surgical masks play in Western countries, in Japan, the first and foremost reason that people wear masks is for health. However, while people (typically doctors) in the West wear surgical masks to protect themselves from outside germs, in Japan, it’s often the opposite. If Japanese people have a cold or other illness, they will usually wear a mask to prevent the people around them from also getting sick.
A big part of this is due to Japan’s incredibly high population density. The cities especially are quite crowded; Tokyo, for example, reported a population of 37,435,191 in 2018. Having that many people in such a small space can of course increase the spread of germs, and lack of personal space on public transportation is inevitable.
Japanese people are taught to be considerate of those around them, so wearing a mask to prevent the spread of germs is normalized from a very young age. Many public schools have signs encouraging children to keep clean, wash their hands, and wear masks if they believe they are getting sick. And, when the students are serving the daily kyūshoku (給食) school lunches to their classmates, they are required to wear masks for this reason as well.
These habits are carried into adulthood, and therefore it is quite common to see someone wearing a mask if they have a cold or other illness.
2. Protection from …continue reading