I’m sick. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a bad winter for me and illness.
As I sit on my couch coughing, I’m reminded of the face masks in Japan. It is very common to see people wearing masks over their noses and mouths. The students in the schools did not seem to think it was a big deal.
From an American perspective, I thought it was strange. I’m not used to seeing face masks, except sometimes on cafeteria workers.
I wondered why people wore these masks. At first, I thought I should stay far away from these people, because they might have some kind of rare contagious disease.
In the end, I decided to ask some of my Japanese friends — why do Japanese people wear masks? They told me that people in Japan wear masks for three main reasons:
1) If they are sick, to avoid infecting others
2) If they want to avoid getting sick (for instance, right before a big exam)
3) If they have bad allergies, and want to keep pollen and other allergens out of their system
I asked if people felt ashamed to wear a mask. I think I’d be embarrassed to show up to school next week with one. My Japanese friends told me that it wasn’t considered weird at all. In fact, it would be considered rude to show up at school or work sick, without a mask. Japanese culture is very focused on care for the collective good, so wearing face masks is totally normalized there.
Would I be healthy today if Americans wore face masks like the Japanese? I don’t know, but right about now, I wish I could visit this nurse’s office at Akan Junior High School in Kushiro.
What do you think? Japanese friends — Please comment below and tell us what you think about face masks. American friends or those in other countries — Please comment below and tell us if you’d ever wear a face mask. What can we learn from each other’s cultures?