Why do Japanese people wear medical masks in public?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/10/27/why-do-japanese-people-wear-me.html


I thought it was to avoid the Xenu cooties.


“without make-up, my face looks ugly” (said by a man).

Yup. In Tokyo especially, men wear makeup. It’s NBD. I recall hearing about it, but still being very surprised at the fairly colorful eye shadow some guys wore in my training class, when I went there on a business trip.

Also, I’m sure some people like how they look. Just like some people like to watch videos of high heels stepping on things, and some people like to watch cute girls playing ukulele.


They sell these at our local anime convention.


If it were socially acceptable in the US, I’d wear one in public all the time.

And latex gloves. Especially on public transportation.


I lived there 28 years ago, and noticed that as well. My first impression is that there were a lot of doctors walking around.

Though I like the idea that you decrease the spread of germs by sneezing or coughing into your mask rather than into somone’s face, especially since the commute is always so crowded. It really should be adopted here too, unlikely for car commuters though.


Abe Simpson onion belt


I think you’ll see a small number of people on the subway in Toronto wearing them. Not a lot, but enough that it doesn’t seem strange to see.


I was vacationing in Rome and Prague two weeks ago. I saw Asian, presumably Japanese, people wearing masks in those locations.

A quick interweb query reveals that this practice probably doesn’t do much to decrease the spread of colds. It’s more of a cultural sign of consideration for others.


I noticed that as well in Toronto and Vancouver. I suspect they were all Japanese, with the high Asian populations there.

A lot of America has a weird view of Japan and acts like it’s some whacky repressed nation that doesn’t understand how strange it is. So I love it when in an effort to understand why Japanese culture does something “strange” the answer ends up being “because we want to”.


I first saw it in Toronto in the 2003 SARS outbreak, so maybe it spread from here? (The masks, not SARS.)


Could be. Anecdotally I’ve heard this is a thing in China as well. Some articles out there suggest SARS brought the trend to immigrant populations.

Because people are filthy. Also more and more facial recognition.


I wear one while I’m at work. and I’m not Asian. but I do work in Silicon Valley with a very high percentage of Chinese and Taiwanese coworkers. If people are cough and sneezing at work it’s rude of them NOT to wear a mask.

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It’s a thing in Korea and Hong Kong, too.

I started carrying some masks with me when I travel on planes. If anyone near me is coughing or sneezing I’ll wear it on the flight. Helps me stay healthier with all the traveling and I’ll never see those people again so I don’t care how I look.


Tokyo isn’t known for men wearing makeup any more than London or New York or Paris. Sure, some men wear makeup, but in a city of 40M on any given day, there are probably a few hundred running around in gorilla suits as well.

Therefore, “Yeap, people in Tokyo wear monkey suits.”


I mean, I met a dude in London wearing makeup. But it wasn’t 30% of the IT guys in my training class… so…


I’ve always been a Kelly Freas fan. I haven’t visited the Merril Collection in a while, from back when it was the Spaced-Out Library. Hmm. I should visit. From a friend who asked Judith Merril about it, she and Fred Pohl were present at the NJ convention when the infamous “L. Ron Hubbard Bar Bet” was made. It wouldn’t have been safe to publish that story, but I wonder if she left anything in her personal papers?

I deleted my initial comment in case it might be doxxy for you, but I see it isn’t :slight_smile:

You should visit; it’s a huge collection at this point (fellow Torontonian here), and they do have some other Freas pieces. The previous Collection Head was a big fan of his.