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lifestyle

It’s time to talk about no-mask anxiety

31 Comments
By AMY ELLIS

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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© Savvy Tokyo

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31 Comments
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It became a reassurance, almost a safety blanket.

Kinda like the thing Linus carries around all the time.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

Stopped wearing it years ago. Best decision ever.

-7 ( +8 / -15 )

Never worn one. Not been a problem in the UK. We always had a number of exemptions, and thus were able to live our lives as we considered best.

-13 ( +5 / -18 )

Talked about this with a bunch of students just this week.…most said it was because of what “hito” (“other people”) might think. 100% social pressure. Virtually none of them think masks do much good, particularly with Omicron variants. It came down to two main scenarios:

1) Some didn’t want to make other people feel unsafe, especially old people.

2) Most don’t want to the only ones not wearing them…and assume that everyone else thinks we need to wear them.

And 3) A few very shy students like to hide behind them/don’t want to wear makeup, etc.

So even though a majority of them think the masks are useless, they will wear them until a majority of people aren’t wearing them. Meaning forever.

I think Japanese will wear them permanently, because imagined social pressure is the most powerful force in Japan, and is essentially unchangeable.

This will certainly impact tourism, as Japan opens up visa-wise, but still requires masks. I doubt it will ever be the prime destination it once was.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

a person appears to be more attractive because they are wearing a face mask

Possibly because the mask is covering up some moldering teeth. I wonder how effective masks can be when many wear them under their noses or chins, on their wrists and the odd hipster on their heads.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

The mask culture is sad. Honestly it feels as if people are ashamed of their faces. Covid has exacerbated it. Now it’s not even about covid it’s just about feeling more confident wearing it. I missed seeing faces. And thank God masks aren’t mandatory here. I’ve ditched it months ago, while I always have one, I never wear it. I don’t even wear them on the trains. People look at me a lot. I see the men staring… some giving the nodes.. maybe to say I’m cute or whatever.. some squeeze their mask tighter because I could infect them with the deadly covid.. but I don’t mind it. Do what makes you comfortable.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

The pandemic has given rise to so many nonsensical things, but the ubiquitous mask wearing outside is up there with the most ridiculous. Especially given we are 3 years into this and it's been over elsewhere for half of that time.

It's nothing to do with "staying safe". The masking simply hasn't worked as we all know. It's 100pc social conformity. And it's harming so many in the process, not least tens of millions of children.

Embarrassing. We can surely do better.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

I still get told off for not wearing one from time to time. Was told I couldn't enter a certified cultural facility without one. So it's unfortunate but many institutions are taking it upon themselves to enforce arbitrary rules where otherwise many people would start to feel comfortable without the holy face shroud.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Forgot to mention, I think anyone who wants to wear a mask has every right to do so and doesn't deserve any shame or judgement. What is shameful is the schools enforcing children to wear them. It's disgusting and amounts to child abuse imho.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

It's been 84 years...ok only 3; but at this point I doubt Japanese people will do away with the masks. It's become such an intrinsic part of their daily uniform that they don't know how to function without it; while the rest of the work has moved on and resumed some semblance of normalcy. At this point, they're wearing it because everyone else is; not because they're trying to avoid getting ill. Sad really.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

What is shameful is the schools enforcing children to wear them. It's disgusting and amounts to child abuse imho.

'Child abuse' is going a bit far and you should calm down. That said at some point Japan does really need to stop wearing them in situations where they are of no use. I've seen people climbing mountains alone wearing them, familes in the park all wearing them. There has to be a balance and better messaging by the govt.

The masking simply hasn't worked as we all know.

How do you know? Define 'hasn't worked' please. Do you mean that because many people have caught the virus that they don't work at all?

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Its very rare in the UK to see anybody wearing a mask even in hospitals. Besides the cost of living worries England is back to normal and has been for quite awhile.

As a couple we are fans of Japan having visited 4 times, however we will not visit if we have to join a tour group, its not the way we travel, having to wear a mask inside we could accept but to wear one in the open air will stop us from visiting.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

The government should take the lead by confessing to the country, that as they have just come out of the worst infection rate in the world, despite wearing masks 24/7, the evidence provides that this simply did not work in stopping the spread of the virus.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Well winter in coming so there will be another wave and I will be wearing one...had covid once but haven't had the flu cold ect in the covid years so for that at least it worked...

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Masks definitely have a 'beer googles' effect, regardless of your gender.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It's rough seeing kids running laps outside in the heat while wearing masks correctly (covering both nose and mouth). Then, in the crowded supermarket, every other guy is warming their chin.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Health and safety at work. Students no masks in classrooms. Teacher gets c19 from class, goes to staff room, gives it to others teachers, teachers go home... teachers, their kids, partner, parents get sick from c19. No teachers. In school.. Big trouble.

2020 just called. It wants its debunked argument back

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

As most people in Japan, I’ve been wearing a mask most of the time too. This past two or three years I’ve had more bouts of cold and flu than any time I can remember. I also had COVID a few weeks back, so it didn’t stop that either. Total waste of time at this point. One reason everyone continues to wear them is that many places still require them - workplaces, public transport, most shops and department stores, restaurants and public buildings are all still asking people to wear a mask. Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s at least another year before people slowly stop wearing them, and it could be a lot longer.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Here in the USA, anyway where I live...99% wear no mask at all...it IS required to enter a hospital or nursing home otherwise no one has one on....With Japan and other countries with high covid counts daily wearing the mask,,,I assume it does help the spread of covid, but,,just saying...Japan has more covid cases daily in the past 3 weeks than the entire USA did....and we don't wear masks...soooo UP TO YOU...

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

never worn mask anywhere since March 2020. never been been sick in the past 3 years either, configure ! this is a 100% peer pressure. I love it when some people after seeing me, remove theirs. get your 4th orb5th dose if you like it, but leave normal people, and kids (!!), live normally.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Wearing a mask inside is a habit I will struggle to break. I will not wear one in outside areas. It just feels safer to wear one inside.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I will happily wear one when I come to Japan in November. When you are in Rme, do it as the Romans! To all my British friends boasting here not to wear a mask: Why do you think did we see so many infections over the past two years? I have always worn a mask and I always will. Common sense prevails! Greetings from Wales!

2 ( +6 / -4 )

At the beginning of the pandemic, we were told to wear masks to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the virus. 

The Japanese government was criticized globally for its initial approach to dealing with the outbreak, butJapan health experts were very wise to recommend wearing masks from the beginning, based on scientific studies and scientific guidance in dealing with the flu and the other coronavirus--SARS,

Amazing that the WHO gave incorrect advice at the beginning though, to not wear masks:

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

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

The Japanese government was criticized globally for its initial approach to dealing with the outbreak, butJapan health experts were very wise to recommend wearing masks from the beginning, based on scientific studies and scientific guidance in dealing with the flu and the other coronavirus--SARS,

the recommendation was the same as what the WHO said, to use them when dealing with symptomatic patients in hospitals, which is obvious because that is the what the evidence indicated at the time.

Amazing that the WHO gave incorrect advice at the beginning though, to not wear masks:

The WHO gave the same recommendation, so were all other scientific or medical authorities of international importance because, once again, that is what the evidence indicated at the moment.

There is no merit in pretending for scientific insititutions to act unscientifically and recommend things not supported by evidence, much less to pretend they should have know things that were found out months in the future.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I wear masks in public places and enclosed areas like elevators. I was on a train, had a one time dry mouth cough, and the lady beside me had a sideways look of fear/disgust and proceeded to scurry off the train at the next stop.

Her actions were somewhat over the top, but typical mind set of the Japanese mask paranoia. A culture which wore masks before COVID is now 100% with many. I do feel sorry for children who believe they must wear masks from pre school on, that'll leave a mark in their heads, for their entire lives.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Healthcare professionals around the world have been wearing masks since the beginning of time .!. To protect themselves and the patients .!. My 1st trip to Japan … in Aug 1998…. I boarded my flight from SFO - Kansai and was mortified at the number of passengers masked up .!. Being a nurse from California, I knew if someone in the general population was wearing a mask, it was because they were sick with an infectious disease! Not in Japan … long before Covid ever came along … the Japanese people have been wearing masks all year long! So I’m not quite sure about all the anti masks talk as it pertains to the Japanese people! I’m yet to hear a single Japanese person complain about mask anything … only foreigners whining ! Scientifically speaking , masks and masks alone have and continue to save lives daily ! I’ll concede that no mask in a closed setting is gonna save you from Covid ! So my advice…. Avoid closed settings and mask up when social distancing is not possible!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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