At the season between the late autumn and the early spring, you may see lots of people wearing a mask in Tokyo. I heard that people in other countries seldom use a mask unless having serious illness, so that the scene seems to be a bit bizarre among foreign tourists. Of course, it is very common for us and a mask is must-have item during the season.
We have several reasons for that. One of the reasons is to protect from giving a flu / a cold to others and from infecting them from others at the same time, especially when we get on trains. There are so many passengers who live in Tokyo and suburb cities. They are commuting to the offices in the center of Tokyo by trains and subways almost every day. The time zone from 7:00 to 9:00 in the morning and from 5:00 to 7:00 in the evening is called “Rush Hours” and so many passengers are packed into the small space in a train vehicle for a while. Naturally, our personal space between people is very narrow and sometimes too close, so that it is quite easier to infect a flu/a cold under the situation. In fact, I believe that trains are the most dangerous place in Tokyo to infect something from others due to a narrow personal space. You might be stared at people around you if you have terrible cough in a train without wearing a mask or even covering your mouth by your hand. You had better be more sensitive at the point as etiquette while you are staying here! (However, it may not be always applied to local areas where there are less people compared to big cities.)
The other reason is for hay fevers in early Spring, which is one of serious modern diseases. There are so many people who have suffered from hay fevers of cedar pollen and the number of patients has been growing in these days. (After World War II, the demand of timber rapidly increased in Japan, however, the supply of domestic timber was not enough. So, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries decided to replant so many cedar and Japanese cypress which are rapidly growing and valuable as timber for building materials. Because of that, the amount of cedar pollen tremendously increased, which resulted in growing the number of patients who have suffered from hay fevers in Japan. To make matters worse, cheaper timber was imported from other Asian counties, logging and thinning of cedar trees in Japan were stagnated and they just have left in mountains for a long time.) Roads in Tokyo are covered by asphalt, so pollen keeps rolling up in the air all times without being absorbed in the earth. Once we inhale pollen, we cannot stop sneezing due to our nose’s itchiness. So that is a must item for patients to protect from pollen and to relieve symptoms although it is not a complete solution. My husband and I have also suffered from it and are paying attention that the mask is not out of stock at home.
(By the way, other than these 2 reasons, a mask is sometimes useful for women. When you don’t have enough time to make-up before leaving home due to getting up late, you can conceal a half of your face by a mask. Moreover, the mask helps your face to moisturize by your breath. 😊)
If you visit to drug stores, you can find a wide variety of masks selling there in terms of size, form and function. Masks made in Japan are high quality and the most important function is to shut out any small particles by high performance filters. In addition, some masks have 3 dimensional structures so as not to feel stuffy and use flat rubbers for ear parts so as not to feel pain despite you are wearing on it for long hours. Furthermore, there is a wire and/or pad on the nose part in order to fit and to prevent glasses from being cloud by your breath. As for size, there are several different sizes were prepared, at least normal for adults and small for women and kids, so you can choose the one with the best fitting. For more relaxation, there are products which have the scent of natural herbs and put ingredients extracted from silk into the fabric for sensitive skins to keep moisture.
However, we don’t have many color variations and most of them are mainly white, even pale pink or blue at best. In other Asian countries such as Taiwan and Vietnam, we can see people wearing on very colorful masks like polka dot and illustrations while they are riding on motor cycles. But masks with colorful designs are not so popular among Japanese somehow. Probably, fashionable aspect is not so important for Japanese and white color reminds us much more cleanliness.
Finally, my favorite mask product now is “Beauty Fit Mask” from Iris Ohyama Corp, a Japanese consumer product maker. This is used soft fabric with silver iron treatment of anti-bacteria, a nose fit wire in the center and wider flat rubbers. Even better, the price is reasonable, and the shape of the mask has the effect of making the face appear smaller. So, I am going to keep using the product in this season!