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Japanese school bans non-white masks for students

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

It’s not uncommon to see people in Japan wearing surgical masks while they’re out and about. While some overseas visitors mistakenly think the practice has something to do with air pollution in Japan’s urban areas, that’s not the case. The primary reasons people in Japan wear masks are to avoid pollen during the country’s severe hay fever season in spring and to prevent catching colds from coworkers or classmates when spending extended periods inside enclosed spaces in the winter.

In a country where workers and students alike are constantly busy, no one wants to have to take a sick day, and so wearing a mask isn’t seen as a sign of hypochondria, but one of admirable dedication to your work or studies. However, Japanese schools, being Japanese schools, can’t help but want to regulate every possible aspect of their students’ conduct, which brings us to this tweet from Japanese middle school teacher @barbeejill3.

“In our afternoon meeting today at work, we spent 30 minutes talking about whether or not students should be allowed to wear masks that are a color other than white…

‘Are light blue or light pink masks too showy and fashionable? Are black ones?’

In the end, the decision was ‘Only white masks will be allowed, because they’re middle school student-like.’

Personally, I don’t care what color mask the students wear, and I wish we’d stop wasting entire half-hours on stupid topics like this.”

This isn’t the first tale of a heavy-handed dress code at a Japanese school, as it comes after other educational institutions dictated the color of students’ underwear and banned “lust-inducing” ponytails. Still, the fact that wearing a mask is widely thought to have health benefits had many online commenters echoing @barbeejill3’s frustration:

“This is so dumb…What’s the baseline for determining if something is ‘middle school student-like?’”

“Isn’t this just a case of middle-aged school employees reacting negatively to colors they’re not used to?”

“Masks are masks.”

“You hear these government studies that say how busy teachers are…so why are they wasting energy checking and enforcing pointless things like this? Shouldn’t they have more faith in their students?”

Then there was the Twitter user who pointed out that even professional-spec masks used by medical professionals are sometimes a color other than white, and it’s not like such vivid hues are leading to improper patient care.

Still, it’s likely that in the school’s opinion, masks, by default, are white. That’s the color most prevalently stocked in stores and worn on the street, and there are indeed some people who choose other colors for aesthetic reasons (which may be why plain white masks were considered the least “attractive” in one survey). From that perspective, maybe it’s not so surprising that the school came to the conclusion “white mask=health equipment, colored mask=fashion accessory,” and since Japanese middle school students aren’t allowed to wear necklaces or earrings, the school wouldn’t want them to wear discretionary fashionable masks either.

Of course, it’s also worth considering that because students are all facing the same way when seated for class, all they see if the back of their classmates’ heads, which should really limit how much of a distraction a non-white mask could potentially be, since the offending color would be almost entirely invisible during the teacher’s lecture. Unfortunately, the decision is out of @barbeejill3’s hands, but his incognito online griping about it is a reminder that when Japanese teachers enforce baffling regulations, it might not always be by choice.

Source: Twitter/@barbeejill3 via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Why do Japanese people wear surgical masks? It’s not always for health reasons

-- Wearing a white mask will make you less attractive, according to Japanese researchers’ experiment

-- How tired of allergies are you? Thanko hopes enough to wear this giant USB-powered mask

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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They should ban all masks. They're ugly, and make Japanese people, as a whole, look paranoid.

2 ( +14 / -12 )

Not a big fan of the masks to be honest, and all the reading I have done seems to indicate they are of limited effectiveness, especially the way most people use them. (for example once you touch them after putting them on with clean washed hands, if people bother to do so, they are no longer effective, and a used one being pulled out of a pocket and put on again obviously even less so)

16 ( +17 / -1 )

Seriously, I believe it was a fad one which has gone mainstream in Japan! Now this the crazy thing I see drivers wearing these all the time, might get pulled over or shot if you did this stateside. Its really stupid to wear these things in Public do they not know they look out of place and funny. Yea Makes me laugh when I see this.

Its become more fashion now than what it was initially thought of as a deterrent.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I believe you usually catch a cold by touching something with your hand and later subconsciously touching your face (mouth, nose, etc.) Masks may be useful for preventing the spread of germs/viruses in this way.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Always thought it was funny watching all the Japanese of a flight to Hawaii from NRT wearing masks during the flight, but once the plane sets down in Honolulu the masks come off while in the airport.  Then on the way back to Japan all the Japanese begin to put the masks on at the gate and wear them in the airport back in Narita.

Never mind the entire time on vacation, no mask was worn.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

A mask is useful when the yellow sand is bad but I think they are mostly worn now for people to hide their faces in public, and that is certainly their prerogative. Hiding your face in public is however anti-social.

3 ( +5 / -2 )


"Surgical masks are not designed or certified to prevent the inhalation of small airborne contaminants."

It has long dismayed me that so many people put so much faith in a thing that does not do what they think it does. Surgical masks are designed and intended to stop large particles of blood and other bodily fluids, not germs, viruses, or pollen. Masks help, but do not guarantee protection by any means. During surgery, they can protect the wearer from blood splashes, and they can protect others from oral bodily fluids emitted by the wearer.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The annoying one is when you take your kid to the doctors and the receptionist or nurse tells you off for not wearing one.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wearing them is largely symbolic. Some years ago the Mexican government handed out bright yellow masks. When it was pointed out that the masks were of unproven value, the government reply was, yes, we know that, but the masks show we are taking the issue seriously.

In Japan, I suspect their prime function is to show others that you are making an effort not to spread your germs around even if the masks are ineffective.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Its become more fashion now than what it was initially thought of as a deterrent.

A lot of mothers at my kids' kindergarten wear them I notice as a substitute for the make-up they didn't have time to put on in the morning.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

賛成です!I feel sick when I saw people wear non-white mask. 泥棒見たい。

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Personally, I don’t care what color mask the students wear, and I wish we’d stop wasting entire half-hours on stupid topics like this.”


No surprise that any hints of individuality are stamped on, mind.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Citizen 137,724,456 you must go to reprogramming you are showing individuality, which is totally unacceptable behavior in school. You will also need to spend a whole day in an ever looping chorei as punishment.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Sorry Casey Baseel, most people wear the masks for fact they are sick and don't want to spread it.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

For those who are pointing fingers and laughing at those wearing masks, I have to ask, why are you putting aesthetics ahead of the real benefits that the stated health reasons for wearing the masks provides? Are people really that lacking in compassion to worry about aesthetics over health benefits regardless of whether or not the benefits are actually realized? Getting sick is a fcking serious issue, mmkay? It's not 'paranoia' to be worried about it. And it's simple decency* to recognize that.

Also, for those who are smirking behind their hands over how those who wear masks aren't actually doing anything to protect themselves, you didn't actually read the article did you? They were primarily used to prevent POLLEN from entering the lungs during hay fever season. That is another serious issue, because my brother had allergies and nearly DIED because he had an extreme allergic reaction to the pollen. And, no, just because they don't wear the masks everywhere doesn't prove anything. My brother would only need to wear masks in dry climes, not humid ones (most people are the opposite, BTW), ktbn.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

“You hear these government studies that say how busy teachers are…so why are they wasting energy checking and enforcing pointless things like this? Shouldn’t they have more faith in their students?”

Because, alas, the vast majority of teachers have something in their DNA which prompts them to compulsively waste energy checking and enforcing pointless things. Details about masks, shoes, hair cuts, hair ornaments, hemlines, stockings, piercings, hair dye, nail polish, make up.

Please, notice how many of the restrictions apply to females rather than males. Please, also consider how many of the world's most brilliant minds did not do well in school.

The inspirational, creative and intelligent teachers who do not waste their time on such drivel are rare. Each of us who has ever had one of those knows how blessed we were.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

35 years teaching here ... from pre-school to Ivy-League (Waseda) ... and this only reinforces my grim conclusion. The highest goals of education here are not (contrary to homepages and glossy ads on the trains) corporate success or personal growth.

'Compliance' is the operative word in an obsessively authoritarian society.

'One size fits all' is simply a reinforcement of the status quo of most institutional hierarchies here — educational, business, politics, or otherwise.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Steve Martin - spot on!

Wen it all becomes too much in Japan, and you no longer have the courage to face people, you can always hide yourself behind a mask-sunglasses-and-UV-protective-sleeve veil of anonymity. You can even get one of those ridiculous visor hats that look like a welding mask. Heaven forbid you have to look someone in the eye...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Wearing one of these masks helped murderer Tatsyuya Ichihashi elude the police for quite some time. They should not be worn except by surgeons or if you have uncontrollable coughing and are either on the way to or on the way back from the hospital or clinic.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My point is that while masks can help with pollen, pet hairs, dust and dander, they will not stop viruses, which are the common cause of many illnesses, such as the flu and colds. Furthermore, surgical masks are not designed to filter all air going in and out of the face, as the edges are not sealed. Masks are specifically designed to stop surgeons from getting contaminated with bodily fluids during surgery. It is a good idea for people who are contagious to wear masks, or for people who are near coughing people, since particles in cough can be contagious. However, masks are not perfect protection devices, they do not stop particles from entering the eyes, for instance, and were not intended to be used the way they are commonly used in Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Masks have also become a fashion accessory for the face:


0 ( +0 / -0 )

make Japanese people, as a whole, look paranoid

Too true. I'm now overseas, and when a group of Japanese appear, all in surgical masks, from grandma to the children, they look like another species of human.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Among my teaching gigs in Japan Inc. was about 10 years as biology lab co-ordinator / instructor at Temple University Japan ... and one of the labs, covered single-celled organisms, viruses, and why correlations are more salient than cause-effect relationships in real science.

The wearing of face masks in Japan was part of that 10 year recurring lab discussion. As firefox and 1glenn rightly pointed out, one is more likely to catch a cold in urban Tokyo through the hands touching something, such as the strap of a commuter train, and then inadvertently bringing that hand close to your face ... not through the airborne bugs that the masks are often marketed as an effective filter.

On the other hand, masks sometimes serve other health purposes that I have not seen in comments yet.

1 - They do offer some barrier between the commuter train strap and the hand.

2 - In the winter when masks are more often used, they serve to conserve moisture escaping from the nostrils and mouth. A drying out of the moist membranes due to the low humidity of Tokyo winters more than likely has a direct correlation with chances of cold or influenza.

3 - Masks can be effective in keeping out pollen during the hay-fever season (kafun-sho)

4 - Though probably not many, there are some people who wear the mask out of courtesy to prevent others from being subjected to their own coughing, sneezing, and spreading of airborne viruses or bacteria.

All of this being said, I stick by my earlier post. More than likely none of the above scientific reasons have any correlation with a 30 minute Jr. High meeting regarding regulating the color of those masks.

It is all just another of the endless stream of power plays to keep the young 'soldiers' in line by letting them know who makes the rules. The over-riding purpose of institutionalized education here in Japan has little to do with creative, collaborative problem solving such as avoiding the flu or a common cold.

It is all about compliance to authority, raising the next generation of 'shiji-machi ningen' (people waiting to follow orders).

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Better off banning these stupid items.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@JeffLee You would think that when Japanese go abroad and they see no one else wearing masks, they would realize it's not necessary...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Sounds like masks have become a cultural psychosis.

To maintain order and a good learning environment a shool needs to be authoritarian to a degree, but sounds like this has gone too fer. Within the authoritarian structure you then need to allow and encourage creativity and critical thinking.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Are people really that lacking in compassion to worry about aesthetics over health benefits regardless of whether or not the benefits are actually realized?

Yes. Given that there is no evidence that the masks have any health benefits, all it does is lead to a false sense of security and is unscientific. This behaviour should be discouraged, because it places the appearance of taking actions (the aesthetics) over actual real benefits.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

AlphaapeJan. 7  09:29 am JST Always thought it was funny watching all the Japanese of a flight to Hawaii from NRT wearing masks during the flight, but once the plane sets down in Honolulu the masks come off while in the airport.

Just transited through Honolulu last Thursday. Saw lots of masks in the airport.

They are stupid and due nothing to promote health.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I wear a mask when I'm coughing and sneezing so my germs aren't spreading all around the train or over my colleagues at work. It's considerate to do so.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Creamy...well, that is considerate, I guess. I wish everyone else who is not sick and coughing would just not wear those things. Feels like I am in zombie land. Hope this fad goes away soon.

My real point is, "What did people do before masks were marketing into becoming this useless fad?" Why, they used towels, handkerchiefs, and wore mufflers. All much more "fashionable" and more effective, too. Can everyone please stop wearing these masks (of any color)? Show us your face!

I also do not want to go into a restaurant or any shop and have the staff disguised as faceless zombies. It is creepy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This article and thread shows you everything about Japan.

Non-Japanese will debate the scientific merits of masks in terms of usefulness. And then maybe the psychological/sociological reasons why so many Japanese use them.

Meanwhile those educating the nation’s youth will waste a combined dozens of hours discussing why the masks must be white.

There you have it.

But, can you imagine actually bring in that’s teacher’s meeting and trying not to laugh, scream or bang your head against the table?

I’m actually surprised they came to a decision in 30 mins. Though you’ll probably find that the principal had already decided and so the meeting was just a formality.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh, and that 'purpose of education' thingy as being 'compliance'.

As current top news headlines show, that holds true only for those not at the top of institutional hierarchies.

At the top, it's all smoke and mirrors.

Notice the name of the school at the center of this article is not mentioned?

Thank goodness, considering the consequences for barbeejill had that school been named.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thanks for your input Steve Martin.

I've said it before, but I think "authority" in Japan rests in being the rulemaker who makes the rules. It does not rest in being talented, wise, and experienced, things that enable actual leadership. Lots of things in life are collective efforts that require leadership. Simple obedience to an incapable leader however achieves nothing.

The school in the story is making the rule to show the students who is the boss. It doesn't matter if the rule is nonsense. It's purpose is to reinforce the unquestioned hierarchy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Retired RN-me for the masses out there: For those virulent "anti-mask" folk, I've got one word for you. Asthma. I must wear an AirPop mask (more for Asian bone structures), not because I want to be cute, or different, or scary. Live somewhere (California) you can cut the air with a fork, I dare you. Have your asthmatic kids live in bad air. Forest fires, vog (volcanic ash air), pollution, etc., aggravate it. Your neighbors burned brakes. Someone getting their roof tarred. Smoke from a fireplace. And TB is still endemic in certain countries. Masks like the Vogmask (~$50), AirPop (~$35-50), or Freka (~$100) are more form fitted. N95 and PM2.5. Not medical grade, but they help.

For the "it's not proven to help" folk, do you REALLY want your surgeon and the staff breathing on your insides without one? Gold standard is still to wear a mask. I would wear one because arterial sprays, pus sprays, etc., also happen. Staff do get regularly tested for TB and other lovelies, but still, in an age of increasing antibiotic resistance...

The old medical masks keep sneezes out of the surgical incision...(Staff are taught to just sneeze directly into the mask because the outburst goes out the sides of the mask. NO turning your head because it will come out the sides towards the patient. If the mask is damp, you change it immediately.)

If a mask leaks, it sucks...literally--usually around the sides. To work with TB isolation or other types of patients, you MUST have a form fitted mask. (OSHA) Molds were taken of my face to ensure fit. Sadly, I was exposed before this "mask fitting" occurred. (TB+, but not active.) You can't see the danger in an open environment like malls, theaters, air plane compartments, etc. When was your last test? Remember, microbes=microscopic.

As far as multicolored masks in the school, rich kids can afford the expensive colorful masks. Poor kids can't. Administrators are trying to level the playing field for everyone as they do with school uniforms. (As a dirt poor kid, I remembered some of the popular bullies rubbing it in. Personally, it gave me more drive.) If kids are going to be conformist milquetoast, they are going to be milquetoast any way. Remember your Nietzsche. (Y'all, they's some folks with real issues out there.)

Let's fight the sociology of ignorance. Peace.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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