Photo: Pakutaso
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Foreign tourists react to mask-wearing in Japan, and Japanese people react to foreign non-maskers

45 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

How true does the old adage “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” stand up today in modern society? That’s something that’s currently being put to the test in Japan, as the first influx of new tourists enter from abroad after two years of being banned from the country.

Over here, people in Japan do things differently to other parts of the world, and that’s part of the huge appeal of coming here. However, when it comes to mask-wearing, a lot of foreigners don’t want any part of it, according to news reports being broadcast around the country.

▼ This news report showed interviews with foreign tourists at Asakusa’s famous Sensoji Temple in Tokyo.

In the report above, foreigners expressed their views at the high rate of mask-wearing by people in Japan, even outdoors. While the first couple expressed respect for the practice, wearing masks themselves and saying they didn’t mind in the slightest, the second person in the clip expressed surprise that it wasn’t just elderly people but children as well who were covering up, saying it was their first time seeing anything like it. As for the third person, they said mask-wearing was meaningless and takes one back to a time already forgotten.

In recent weeks, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been telling the public that mask-wearing outdoors is not required, in principle. It’s the word “in principle” that’s causing confusion with so many, who’ve long been told to wear masks in “three Cs” environments: Closed spaces with poor ventilation; Crowded places with many people nearby; Close-contact settings such as close-range.

Minster of Health, Labour, and Welfare Katsunobu Kato spoke about mask-wearing at a press conference last week, saying that while the government is attempting to get its messaging out about having dropped the recommendation to wear masks outside, shifting the public’s opinion about mask-wearing is a hurdle that’s proving harder to budge.

That’s likely because the government’s rule is at odds with societal rules — people in Japan have long been taught to wear masks as a way of protecting oneself and others from the spread of illness, and it’s a practice that’s become even more entrenched in society during the pandemic. Walk down any street in Japan today, and you’ll likely see people of all ages, from the elderly right down to young elementary school students walking to school without adult supervision, all wearing masks over their mouths and noses.

▼ Oh, and people running, cycling and doing physical exercise outside? You’ll see many of them masked too.

Screen-Shot-2022-10-19-at-9.10.37.png
Photo: Pakutaso

It’s not necessarily because people in Japan like wearing masks — in fact many of them find them as uncomfortable to wear as the next person — but it’s something you do as part of the culture, like taking your shoes off before entering a house, not sticking your chopsticks into a bowl of rice, and washing your body before stepping into a communal bath.

Wearing a mask when there’s the possibility of infection about is a sign of respect and consideration for others that’s so tied up with customary etiquette in Japan that people will do as they do, no matter what the government says about it.

Add in the fact that the current “no masks outdoors in principle” requirement is so vague that there’s a lot mixed messaging, especially at outdoor events where people don’t have to wear masks as long as they’re not talking, but have to wear them when shopping at stalls or having conversations, and it becomes easier to just leave them on rather than risk breaking the rules.

Even in some office environments in Japan, people no longer have to wear masks, but it’s only as long as they’re not talking. And that’s the underlying principle of the “in principle” requirement. When people don’t wear masks in everyday outdoor environments, they’re likely walking on their own down a street, to and from the shops or the station, with their mouths closed. If they are talking, it’s done discreetly and quietly, with consideration given to others around them.

Do overseas tourists give the same consideration to others while walking past people in crowded areas? It would be nice to think that they do, and they will, and maybe that will help to allay the concerns of locals who are fearful of seeing unmasked people in their midst.

As one Japanese woman in the news report above commented, she was half scared and half jealous of the way foreigners were seemingly throwing caution to the wind by not masking up. 

Which brings us back to the old saying, “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” Here in Japan, people are still wearing masks, even outdoors, and despite the government telling them they don’t have to. Mask-wearing is so engrained in the culture, especially now when coronavirus cases peaked at record-high levels in August and is on an upward tick again, that anyone who doesn’t wear a mask stands out and their behavior is scrutinised.

Mask-wearing outdoors, or even indoors, may be a thing of the past in your home country, but here in Japan it’s still a very present thing. So when in Japan, will you do as the Japanese do? The choice is ultimately up to you, but if you really do want to express your love for Japan and its people, it’s best shown with respectful actions rather than loudly spoken words.

Source: Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

45 Comments
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There's no need to wear a mask to show your respect for Japan. Japan needs to be encouraged to take the masks off, especially the children. Japanese society does so much right but when it comes to fear-based knee jerk reactions, like we've been seeing with covid, society can easily tend toward mass hysteria. In this case mask hysteria. Let's take them off.

13 ( +44 / -31 )

More oddly written articles about “doing as they do in Rome”…

In Japan we have a lot of insecure people who lie to wear masks, and don’t wanna take them off.

Any mention of that? I don’t think it’s necessary to pretend it’s some deep thing that needs to be understood.

8 ( +32 / -24 )

Wearing a mask when there’s the possibility of infection about is a sign of respect and consideration for others that’s so tied up with customary etiquette in Japan

That's fair enough.

However, does this mean that the Japanese people not wearing masks have no consideration for others?

11 ( +25 / -14 )

It is interesting that this kind of story is all the rage in the Japanese media. This is against them theme that they like to peddle. It's strange.

-10 ( +8 / -18 )

It's a bit of a trap. They have admitted that masks do little to stop the wearer from getting infected, due to the high pathogenic capture of the mask itself. They claim that they DO help from getting others sick. So in Japan, where your mere desire to breath fresh air is considered 'meiwaku', people feel trapped in the downward etiquette spiral.

-10 ( +10 / -20 )

jeffbToday  

Japanese society does so much right but when it comes to fear-based knee jerk reactions, like we've been seeing with covid, society can easily tend toward mass hysteria.

I've seen zero of what could be described as "mass hysteria". Hyperbole to push your own belief?

7 ( +23 / -16 )

“ Walk down any street in Japan today, and you’ll likely see people of all ages, from the elderly right down to young elementary school students walking to school without adult supervision, all wearing masks over their mouths and noses.

..

Here in Japan, people are still wearing masks, even outdoors, and despite the government telling them they don’t have to. Mask-wearing is so engrained in the culture, especially now when coronavirus cases peaked at record-high levels in August and is on an upward tick again, that anyone who doesn’t wear a mask stands out and their behavior is scrutinised. “

I don’t know about you guys, but lately (I’d say in the last couple of months) in Tokyo, I’m starting to see more and more people without masks. Tokyothat means that there’s a lot of people out there without masks; and I’m guessing that they do not care about what other people think and they’re not afraid of having “ a different opinion “. But maybe the media doesn’t want you to know that.

10 ( +19 / -9 )

The elementary children in our location do not wear masks. I do not wear one outside.

9 ( +16 / -7 )

I don’t know about you guys, but lately (I’d say in the last couple of months) in Tokyo, I’m starting to see more and more people without masks.

Yes I have the same experience during the last weeks.

Also this morning on my way to work, I see more people without mask walking around...even in the crowded station.

Also in my office now, more people are taking of their masks during working at their desks.

Before it was strictly mandatory to wear mask in the office and it was even controlled by the health division, but this rule is now released.

People are recommended to continue to wear mask at the office, but more and more people take them off at their desks.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

Pre-pandemic, I sometimes wore a mask in Japan, if I was travelling in a packed train or had a dry throat that was making me cough. It's what a lot of people have always done in Japan. In winter it was common to see up to a quarter of people masked. Plus the fear of 'gaijin flu' featured in most guide books. I flew home masked all the way once with quite a bad chest infection. I wore one for the entirety of my last trip, before returning home early on a very full plane, not many masked, but lots with coughs, shortly before the border was closed.

One project Fear later and I wouldn't be surprised to see cats wearing masks in Japan.

I would wear one throughout any trip to Japan if I was there now. Why? Because when I'm abroad I avoid doing anything that might upset the locals. It's their country and I'm a guest in it. I don't want them to feel uncomfortable on their own turf or that I'm in any way a threat to them. So I turn the politeness up full and try not to break any of the local customs. I also quite enjoy turning the tourist off every now and again, masked, with a JP flip phone, skimming the wallet-housed suica card nonchalantly over the metro exit barriers before heading back to my apartment with my groceries. Fitting in, however briefly, is cool. That's what AirBnB is such a big part of. Living the Jdrama, even if only for a short while.

It doesn't really matter what Kishida or scientists tells the Japanese about masks because I wouldn't be visiting Kishida or scientists. I'd be around ordinary Japanese, and they may all be masked for a few years yet, and nervous of unmasked tourists.

Masks were never a big political thing in the UK, like they were in the US. I always thought they would be useful in stopping winter flu and wished Britons would wear them for that. They really should have been the default in the pandemic, rather than social distancing, which caused so much damage to education, retail and separated families from ill loved ones.

You are in someone else's country. That matters. Lose the arrogance and moderate your behaviour accordingly.

-3 ( +19 / -22 )

So when in Japan, will you do as the Japanese do? The choice is ultimately up to you, but if you really do want to express your love for Japan and its people, it’s best shown with respectful actions rather than loudly spoken words.

What a victim mentality really....because your neighbor decided to throw his garbage by the window due to his mental illness, you have to do the same, to show him love ? Masks are useless, get your 4th or 5th vaccine if that makes you feel better, and leave the normal people alone, especially kids. Japan is a free country ? Then when in a free country....

-11 ( +13 / -24 )

Just because something is done but lots of people in a culture, that doesn't automatically mean it's a good thing to do. I have totally ditched the mask outdoors and indoors, and will only put one on if the owner of an establishment insists I do as a condition of entry. Apart from a visit to the doctor, nobody has said a thing regardless of what they maybe thinking.

While the number is small, I'm seeing more and more Japanese maskless or putting them under the nose/chin as if to half-heartedly comply for the sake of having something on their face for show. I hope the influx of maskless tourists will give Japanese the courage to ditch these wretched things.

-1 ( +16 / -17 )

Japanese society does so much right but when it comes to fear-based knee jerk reactions, like we've been seeing with covid, society can easily tend toward mass hysteria.

I've seen zero of what could be described as "mass hysteria". Hyperbole to push your own belief?

I never saw mass hysteria over Covid in Japan either. Most of the hysterics I saw came from the anti-mask /anti-vaccine types who are often prone to hysterics on many issues.

Not the most useful people you come across.

6 ( +22 / -16 )

The Govt needs to be more forceful in their comments about masking! Remove the "in principle" confusion from the sentence all together and just come out withy NO MASKS OUTSIDE!

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

It is not a legal rule either! It is a recommendation and peer group pressure thing

7 ( +15 / -8 )

It's funny. On the Japan times articles about daily case load now they always have a picture of foreigners outside not wearing masks...trying to blame them for the recent increase?? what a joke!

-4 ( +12 / -16 )

Myself and family do not wear masks outside unless we start talking to an acquaintance. If we run into friends we regularly hang out with, we don't bother masking up and neither do they.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

In my experience, after the opening of the borders the japanese people that I interact most with are the ones who are starting to wear masks less frequently, specially in open spaces, which makes sense.

The last news I knew about said that we're already above the 90% of herd immunity, so I believe that we will gradually take off the masks more and more until we reach the pre-pandemic normality.

I also believe that the only difference that will remain is that we will use masks more often when we feel a little sick, just in case, which is also fine in my opinion.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Which do you like, stare of death of wear a mask????

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

This is only news because Japan sees itself as something special and therefore deserving of more respect. There is no rule that says you HAVE to wear a mask so leave the stupid condescending "When in Rome..." clichés at home. For the record, I always wear a mask when outside of my home if I'm not eating or drinking but I don't think you absolutely have to do it.

-3 ( +10 / -13 )

There are many peer-reviewed studies which also show masking is not effective

Yes you never present any of them.

The consensus of science is clear, the best available science proves masks are a very efficient part of the measures that decrease transmission and evidence comes from experimental and epidemiological studies, at this point there is no room for a rational doubt about this, it has been one of the paradign shifts resulting from the pandemic.

 I only need to look at the experience of many highly masked and vaccinated Asian countries with high rates of infection, including Japan.

And that is where you are wrong, because you also need to look to equivalent populations that share the same demographics and factors except for the use of mask (which is very different from the presence or not of mask mandates) and prove the infections rate do not change.

Without that evidence you are looking only to one side and arbitrarily saying it is the same as the other.

2 ( +12 / -10 )

There's no reason to wear a mask anymore. One cases are low and the strains are so weak it doesn't matter. Children shouldn't be wearing masks. I had over 15 kids in my schools have heatstroke from playing outside in the summer with a mask on. Japanese people will always think foreigners are different anyway. I'm not willing to follow every unnecessary rule for a small level of acceptance and gratitude.

4 ( +13 / -9 )

After reading stories of very ill people being denied any medical care in Japan last year, being driven around in ambulances for hours, dying alone at home or in hotels, I can understand why at risk such as elderly continue to wear masks at all times.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

I was thinking that Japan was belong in to the world and therefore, when in the world, do as the humans do.

Masks are absolutely unnecessary and terrible for the environment.

What about Japan's commitment to SDGs?

Is this just a mask to save face?

-4 ( +10 / -14 )

Masks and the massive amounts of single plastic protective clothes have damaged the environment.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

Can't wait for the day that they come off en masse here, but when and if that day will ever come still remains to be seen. Not a big fan of the face masks at all. Think the time is now to grow some but well, you know.... safety faaasto!

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

i hope the gyms stop making masks mandatory soon.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

What’s the fuss, masks are only uncomfortable if you’re wearing the N95 etc. The Japanese are mainly using surgical masks, which is not uncomfortable. Anyway some people really should cover their face.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

I don't blame Japanese for being worried about tourists being dis-respectful. Watch the cases rise as the tourists come in. Many countries have a far more selfish and less respectful culture than Japan does, unfortunately.

The ones refusing to wear masks are likely from countries that killed off many of their elderly, and they really don't care. In my country I've often heard people say "oh, i'm not worried about covid, it's ONLY killing old people".

Seriously, who thinks like that? Too many.

You'll see them by the number of thumbs down this post gets.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

As for the third person, they said mask-wearing was meaningless and takes one back to a time already forgotten.

Say it louder for the people in the back! It's like Japan is perpetually stuck in 2020. You want to wear a mask for your own health and safety? Fine. But wearing mask just because of social pressure? Because everyone else is wearing one and you don't want to stand out? Madness. Just madness. It's just utterly ridiculous at this point.

As one Japanese woman in the news report above commented, she was half scared and half jealous of the way foreigners were seemingly throwing caution to the wind by not masking up. 

I hope the influx of tourists to Japan will be the much needed kick to the behind when it comes to masks. We. Don't. Need. Them. Anymore. Think of how much waste people are generating with these disposable masks, which is what many Japanese people are using. You're contributing to the destruction of the planet. Stop it.

-5 ( +7 / -12 )

I like my mask. Never been sick since started wearing one. Keeps me warm in winter too. I take it off when it's safe to do so.

Stopped wearing them ages ago, and neved been sick either. Was never really sick before masks though. Only vaxed (just twice) due to immense social pressure. Got really sick from the vax. No more vaxes or masks for mefoe past few months and have been fine. Loving the fresh autmun air and the vitamin D accumulating on my maskless face.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Watch the cases rise as the tourists come in

And also this. I'm sorry, but Japan had unbelievably high infection rates not so long ago and this was nothing to do with tourists, as nobody could come in.

The Japanese however were off galavanting around the world. Nobody suggested blaming the Japanese for other countries rising rates.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I feel like masking up is only effective if it's done properly, which it frequently isn't. One good thing though may be that they help against coughs and sneezes (if their masks are actually covering their mouths and noses), which many people here seem very lax about covering up.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I would wear one throughout any trip to Japan if I was there now. Why? Because when I'm abroad I avoid doing anything that might upset the locals. It's their country and I'm a guest in it. I don't want them to feel uncomfortable on their own turf or that I'm in any way a threat to them. So I turn the politeness up full and try not to break any of the local customs. I also quite enjoy turning the tourist off every now and again, masked, with a JP flip phone, skimming the wallet-housed suica card nonchalantly over the metro exit barriers before heading back to my apartment with my groceries. Fitting in, however briefly, is cool. 

I agree with you, and am getting my cloth masks out so that I can take several with me when I return to Japan for a month in November. I will follow the lead of the Japanese friends I am hanging out with. If they take off their masks, so will I. Otherwise, I will have mine on, too. It is like using keigo, I will speak courteously and at a high level with people I don't know, and with friends, until they drop to regular language levels, at which time I will do the same. Fitting in goes a long way to fitting in, and not being the ugly foreigner. It opens many doors that otherwise remain closed.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The ones refusing to wear masks are likely from countries that killed off many of their elderly, and they really don't care. In my country I've often heard people say "oh, i'm not worried about covid, it's ONLY killing old people".

I am now one of the old people. I don't obsess about masks, and I don't want to be killed off either. I appreciate people who are concerned about COVID. While I am not concerned about others' wearing of masks as some, I am concerned about people who know they have COVID and decide not to stay home for a few days instead of risking spreading it to old and immunocompromised people. Long covid is not a fun thing to have.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

2Bob

Oct. 20 07:19 pm JST

I don't blame Japanese for being worried about tourists being dis-respectful. Watch the cases rise as the tourists come in. Many countries have a far more selfish and less respectful culture than Japan does, unfortunately.

> The ones refusing to wear masks are likely from countries that killed off many of their elderly, and they really don't care. In my country I've often heard people say "oh, i'm not worried about covid, it's ONLY killing old people".

> Seriously, who thinks like that? Too many.

What you posted is utterly ridiculous and unscientific. How do countries kill off their elderly? Someone sanctioned by the government and has covid walks up and seeks out old people to cough upon? It also stands to reason that when more people come to occupy a place, the likelihood of crime, infection, accidents, etc increases. Only Japan spends all day always trying to point fingers and see themselves as innocent victims.

One more thing: many people from a certain country that I know really well have stated to me ditectly that their friend/mother/parents don't like foreigners. Seriously, who thinks like that? Hating the everyone who happens to be unlike them. Too many.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

It us up to you to educate and decide what is best, the Universe gave us grey matter for a reason

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I encourage my family taking masks off as much as possible. Mask wearing has nothing to do with bothering others..

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Can't blame the foreigners coming her so much, because first, they are not in Rome, they are in Japan.

And different advice was given to those places concerning use of masks. In Asia, medical experts advised the use of masks early in in the pandemic, while in the West, the WHO agency, for example, gave contrasting advice.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/30/world/coronavirus-who-masks-recommendation-trnd/index.html

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

And different advice was given to those places concerning use of masks. In Asia, medical experts advised the use of masks early in in the pandemic, while in the West, the WHO agency, for example, gave contrasting advice.

Experts everywhere advice was the use of mask for symptomatic people and specially in hospitals dealing with positive cases, and that is justified because at the time that was the only use with scientific evidence of efficacy. This advice was also repeated by Japanese experts.

https://www.adachiku-med.or.jp/public/pdf_data/event/22/event1582681638.pdf

https://www.city.neyagawa.osaka.jp/organization_list/kikikanri/syouhiseikatu/sinngatakorona/1581558660432.html

https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Coronavirus/Mask-sales-soar-despite-doubts-they-block-coronavirus

As usual, misrepresenting a perfectly valid recommendation as wrong based on information that was not available before the pandemic is a very transparent attempt of disinformation. Prioritizing scarce resources where they have at least some evidence of efficacy is the best course of action.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Geo

Today 05:11 am JST

"Wearing a mask when there’s the possibility of infection about is a sign of respect and consideration for others"

> That is something the Americans will never be able to comprehend.

What bs. There's ALWAYS a possibility of infection.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

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