Before the sweltering summer heat kicked in, the Japanese government relaxed its guidelines for wearing masks, advising people to remove them where possible to avoid heat-related incidents. For some people, this was music to their ears. No more sweaty chins or running back home when you were halfway to the station and you realized you could feel the breeze against your face. For others, this news incited a whole new level of hidden anxiety.
In Japan, the social pressure of wearing a mask may just be the reason why many are hesitant to remove it. It’s not an uncommon sight to be walking down an empty street in the Tokyo suburbs and see people walking or riding their bike while wearing a mask (and not even as a chin hammock, actually wearing them as a nose and mouth covering).
At the beginning of the pandemic, we were told to wear masks to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the virus. It became a reassurance, almost a safety blanket. It offered a sense of control over a situation that we had little control over, so it’s easy to understand why people aren’t ready to ditch masks completely, especially as coronavirus is far but gone.
However, after almost three years and three vaccines, can this reluctance purely be down to concerns over catching the virus? Or are the masks covering a deeper issue?
Mental health is not a widely discussed topic in Japan. For many, it’s easier to blame fear of the virus rather than opening up about what other factors may be contributing to their anxiousness.
So, we have to ask, by keeping the mask on, are we just prolonging the anxiety? Wrapping ourselves in cotton wool instead of tackling the issue head-on?
What is ‘mask fishing’?
The term “mask fishing” was coined during the height of the pandemic, and as defined by Urban Dictionary, is “the phenomenon where a person appears to be more attractive because they are wearing a face mask.” If you cover the lower half of the face, the mind automatically constructs an image of what the rest of the face looks like under the mask, which has led to claims that people’s insecurities have justifiably been heightened.
Another slang term coined during this crazy period was “maskne”—acne from wearing a mask. With all these terms being brandished around, is it any wonder that people worry about removing their masks?
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