lifestyle

Japanese tourists in flu masks frighten British supermarket shoppers

108 Comments
By Evie Nyan, RocketNews24

Flu masks are a part of everyday life in Japan, and they’re worn for a plethora of reasons, including avoiding catching/spreading colds, warding off hay fever-inducing pollen, keeping one’s face toasty warm in winter, hiding makeup-free faces, simply giving a sense of anonymity and comfort to the wearer, or to look more attractive.

But in the UK, nobody would wear a mask like this unless they were very, very sick, or there was otherwise something terribly wrong afoot. So when a group of masked Japanese tourists hit up an ASDA supermarket in the Merseyside town of Southport, England, their fellow shoppers were decidedly alarmed.

According to an article by local news site On The Spot News, the group of tourists were spotted making other shoppers uncomfortable, with one witness to the scene stating:

“I have never seen anything like this before. I immediately thought that this was some sort of terrorist operation in place and could see other people were getting really anxious. My family were genuinely frightened.

“I asked a member of ASDA staff what was happening and was told that it was probably some type of ‘cultural thing’, which did not answer my question or allay our fears. The masked people were pulling big cases on trolleys, which could have contained anything.”

The tourists were identified as Japanese by a redditor who recognized them as friends in the UK attending a music event. They were snapped shopping casually with their masks on, probably completely unaware of the kerfuffle they were causing amongst British supermarket patrons. One savvy shopper did suggest the masks were worn to avoid pollution, but pointed out how odd that was in a town known for its seaside breezes.

The writer of the article, perhaps unaware of the myriad of uses Japanese flu masks have, moots the suggestion of “diseases” being the cause for the mask-wearing, but also states that: “This did not seem to be the case here as they were pulling them off and on regularly as they shopped. None of the group seemed ill in any way.”

In our opinion, we reckon the tourists were simply wearing their masks out of habit and to keep themselves warm during a chilly British season.

Nevertheless, we can sympathize with the reactions of the British shoppers as wearing personal flu masks does not exist as a concept in British society. We only know them as something surgeons or possibly hazmat teams wear. As a Brit myself, I always make sure to take off my in-flight mask (a great idea when you’re breathing recirculated air) when traveling from Japan as soon as we touch back down in the UK.

What would you think if you saw someone wearing a flu mask in your home town?

Source: On The Spot News via Reddit

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Wearing a white mask will make you less attractive, according to Japanese researchers’ experiment -- Why do Japanese people wear surgical masks? It’s not always for health reasons -- The eyes have it — do Japanese girls’ makeup skills hinge on one essential feature?

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108 Comments
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"When in Rome....".not a phrase that Japanese tourists are familiar with! Can't blame the locals for feeling uneasy.

9 ( +25 / -16 )

silly masks! the japanese DON'T wear them for the reasons they say they wear them.

13 ( +26 / -13 )

Dislike the mask thing intensely, they way they are used by most people offer no protection from flu or pollen.. its just an anti-social thing.. what I will say is that there are some older chaps Im glad wear them because when they take them off it smells like something died in their mouths.

15 ( +25 / -10 )

I like mask culture in Japan and I hope it catches on. Either that, or better oral hygiene.

-15 ( +16 / -31 )

It is bit of both NZ2011. Here many people do wear masks whenever they have a cold, whenever the pollution is higher, or against things like pollen and allergies. If you were to come from a place where only doctors wear it, it would seem ridiculous. But I do agree that a lot of it has to do with the shyness that's so cultural here. After running programs in kidz schools for 15 plus years I have noticed there are definitely children who come and just slip on a mask because they are more comfortable that way. Those children often have similar parents, and I can't imagine that being healthy for them in life. But it's totally fine here.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

It is becoming known in Japan that there are quite a few people, not only teenagers that wear the mask year round as some sort of barrier to separate themselves from the rest of their surroundings. It helps them feel "secure"...

11 ( +16 / -5 )

thepersoniamnow.

Perhaps my initial post was a little lacking in nuance.

Having had the conversation a number of times I have done a fair bit of research into the efficacy of these masks, and they, again in the way they are used by most people, offer almost no additional protection for viruses or allergies (much like the gargling myth).

It is "good" advertising by companies making a lot of money from people and I worry it encourages lack of self confidence and the idea you need to hide who you are.

Now if you are sick and wishing not spread a flu thats fine and the reason it seemed to gain popularity initially.. but the sales have more than tripled in the last 15 years, that isn't "cultural" historically thats indicative of a larger social issue.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

"When in Rome....".not a phrase that Japanese tourists are familiar with!

The Japanese proverb 郷に入っては郷に従え means exactly the same.

7 ( +16 / -9 )

Sometimes I throw on the mask to cover my face when I don't feel like wearing makeup. But the polite Japanese who must be out about with a cold or flu is right to think a surgical mask might protect strangers from picking up a pathogen. In other words we do it perhaps out of politeness because it's rude spreading your cold to strangers. After all the masks were originally designed to protect patients from coughs and sneezes of a surgeon. So if you're sick wearing a mask can be a good idea.

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

. what I will say is that there are some older chaps Im glad wear them because when they take them off it smells like something died in their mouths.

Masks don't help against the smell of bad breath i found.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I have never understood what's so bad about not wearing make up and the need to cover up if you're not. I have never worn it in my life, and don't ever intend to. Ladies, peel off those masks and stand proud.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I wonder how they get on in France where Muslims were prohibited from covering their faces?

3 ( +10 / -7 )

@Novenachama ... if people are seriously sick then just stay home instead of wearing a mask and roaming around in the train! @papigiulio ... I've experienced the same thing especially! @NZ2011... excellent comment and very insightful! In a world constantly affected by terrorist it might be better to educate the Japanese people not to wear mask abroad especially in major cities as it causes fear amongst others! Behind the mask people can commit all sorts of crime. In Japan, China, SK or Muslim countries it might be ok but definitely not in western countries

11 ( +12 / -1 )

The Japanese proverb 郷に入っては郷に従え means exactly the same.

Clearly it refers to domestic travel, when entering other prefectures, towns, and villages within Japan; it doesn't refer to Gaikoku.

I also have the same reaction as the Brits to the Japanese's obsession with these masks--it's totally scary and off-putting.

They only serve one medical purpose: pathalogical shyness/ antisociality.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

I'd take a group of well-behaved yet 'masked' Japanese tourists over hordes of drunk, shirtless, loud, belligerent etc non J ones, even/especially 'unmasked', any day of the week!

“I have never seen anything like this before. I immediately thought that this was some sort of terrorist operation in place

Overreaction much?

-1 ( +11 / -12 )

If they do not have time to comb their hair, they put on a hat. If they do not have enough time to wear makeup or wash their faces, they wear a mask. To understand the Japanese mind, you need to put yourselves in their shoes, which is not easy. Functionality is a big concept in a Japanese minds. The same thing that makes most of their cars so ugly. Functionality ...

2 ( +7 / -5 )

I like to wear masks when the air is very dry (like on an airplane) or when sleeping in a mountain cottage with the heat on all night. I also like to wear a mask when we're moving desks at the office (and a lot of dust gets kicked up. When I have a runny nose (often due to the house dust allergy), I wear a mask to hide the fact that I have tissues stuffed up my nostrils. When I'm actually sick, I stay home (with rare exception).

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I'd take a group of well-behaved yet 'masked' Japanese tourists over hordes of drunk, shirtless, loud, belligerent etc non J ones, even/especially 'unmasked', any day of the week!

I remembered being in Germany and a group of drunk, shirtless, loud, belligerent English guys were celebrating a victory of their favorite team by singing and jumping around on the train. I got off of the train and waited for the next one.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

I imagine some people with the flu like to work, go out in public, and ride crowded trains. Kind of enjoy spreading the disease, I suppose. Most people with the flu stay home and get well. If wearing a mask prevented other people from getting colds, why do so many people get colds?

Up until about a year ago, my wife would go shopping, library, bank etc without make-up because it was too time consuming to put it on. Without a mask. Au naturel, so to speak. Now she puts on a mask. Not for 'culture' but because its expected. No make-up = wear a mask.

What I dislike about masks is when I speak to someone and I can't understand their mumbling from behind the mask. I ask them to speak up, speak more clearly and that just forces them back into their shell. What I like about masks is watching a smoker try to figure out which is more important: covering his face or sticking a cigarette in his mouth. Mask loses every time.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

I did find the mask thing a bit weird when I first came to Japan but what really freaked me out was a guy walking through a carriage on the yamanote line wearing a large backpack and a nose/mouth covering gas mask.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I occasionally accompany Japanese groups overseas - mainly Australia - and the mask conundrum has come up a few times.

Most travellers when informed understand and have no qualms. I imagine no one explained the situation to the travellers mentioned in the article.

A couple of anecdotes:

On one trip an elderly lady caught a cold just before we left and was worn out by the flight. At our hotel she just wanted to rest for a day to recover. She wore a mask in her room. While resting during the day a hotel staff member brought towels etc and freaked out to see this woman lying on the bed, not moving (resting) with a mask on. He couldn't communicate well with her as she spoke little English. There apparently was pandamonium as they believed the plague or some other foreign disease was "in the hotel". After a frantic 10 mins they could contact me ( I was out with the rest of the group) and I allayed their worst fears. On return they said they had never seen a person wear a medical mask before and truly thought the lady was seriously ill / dying.

Another trip - a nice but rather stubborn elegant older woman (the other members nick named her "queen"), insisted on wearing a mask while walking from our hotel to the casino. I told her she couldn't wear that inside. She said she was afraid of catching something (lots of people from everywhere in close contact). And duly on entering the premises a doorman / security guard told her she can't wear a mask in here. She pretended she didn't understand and then a nice lady came over and said she could leave the mask in a sealed bag in the cloak room. She agreed, but she never really "got what the fuss was about". btw this was in 2000 pre 9/11. As an aside - I had to ask the same woman while walking through an historical town area to put away her umbrella(parasol). It was about 25+c and sunny and she wanted to protect herself from the suns rays. In that busy area, other walkers were freaking out at this woman wielding a large umbrella in a dangerous manner - to them - was marching along. I said to her people only use umbrellas here if it's raining (most don't) and they are not used to dodging such, esp in beautiful weather.

So the above article brought a smile to me.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

goldorakMAR. 29, 2017 - 09:13AM JST Overreaction much?

It is indeed an overreaction, but given the degree to which politicians in western countries and outside agitators overhype the likelihood of being a victim in a terrorist attack, it's not exactly a surprising one. And let's remember that though Japanese idiosyncrasies with surgical masks are second nature to those of us with Japan experience, in much of the rest of the world it is a decidedly weird thing to do.

YubaruMAR. 29, 2017 - 07:16AM JST "When in Rome....".not a phrase that Japanese tourists are familiar with! Can't blame the locals for feeling uneasy.

I second Cleo's correction to this comment, but I'd go further and suggest "When in Rome..." doesn't even apply in this case because very likely the tourists were oblivious to the fact that they were making anyone else uncomfortable or doing anything out of the ordinary. They weren't flaunting local standards, they were likely completely unaware that what was normal for them was abnormal in most of the rest of the world.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Clearly it refers to domestic travel, when entering other prefectures, towns, and villages within Japan; it doesn't refer to Gaikoku.

Actually, it doesn't refer to domestic nor to 'Gaikoku', and the proverb itself likely comes from a time before Japan was a unified country. The proverb refers to entering a 郷 - a village. There is no reference as to whether that village is Japanese or otherwise.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

I have noticed there are definitely children who come and just slip on a mask because they are more comfortable that way. Those children often have similar parents, and I can't imagine that being healthy for them in life.

They only serve one medical purpose: pathological shyness/ antisociality.

So true. You can live for a decade here, it will still be very hard to understand this japanese mentality and this fixation for always trying to hide yourself no matter what. Have you ever seen any japanese reading a book in the train without the bookshop cover?? Kinda, they have to hide what they are reading from the others. But again, I wouldn't be pointing fingers about these cultural traits if the japanese weren't so intolerant towards foreign habits/cultures in their country. 100% of them are taught to do and act the same, if they see anything 0.1mm different from their mindset they go ask you laughing "why you do this" as trying to make fun of you in front of others for being "different".

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Of my Japanese friends that wear them (besides when they are sick) the girls mostly wear when the air is dry, when they have a spot/acne or didn't do their makeup. Guys wear when the air is dry or when they didn't shave.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It is indeed an overreaction, but given the degree to which politicians in western countries and outside agitators overhype the likelihood of being a victim in a terrorist attack, it's not exactly a surprising one.

It's not an overreaction considering what just happened in Westminster last week, the lone gunman at a Paris airport 2 weeks ago, and all the terrorism in Europe throughout last year. The reaction was the correct one. Terrorism is alive and real in this day and age. Being politically correct doesn't help anyone but the terrorist. The Brits in this town were obviously unaware that in Japan these masks function as a fashion accessory. They were already on edge, they reacted accordingly.

In the west, parading around town with your face obscured makes you appear suspicious.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

for what it's worth dear Japanese persons, when I see a person in a mask I would imagine they have a very compromised immune system from chemotherapy or AIDs. I do only appreciate the masked wonders on packed trains when it catches their coughs or sneezes and their face is pressed against me.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

When first coming here it was a little off putting but now I wear a mask when I have a cold out of respect for others or when the air is really dry. "...was some sort of terrorist operation in place" shows the level of paranoia and fear is the world today. The entire planet is becoming so xenophobic and THAT is the scariest and saddest thing ever since the war on terror started. People are bringing the terror to themselves through fear.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Mr. NoidallMAR. 29, 2017 - 10:02AM JST It's not an overreaction considering what just happened in Westminster last week, the lone gunman at a Paris airport 2 weeks ago, and all the terrorism in Europe throughout last year. The reaction was the correct one.

Vigilance when you see something out of the ordinary is correct. Assuming terrorism every time you see something out of the ordinary is not.

Terrorism is alive and real in this day and age. Being politically correct doesn't help anyone but the terrorist.

We're not talking about political correctness, we're talking statistics. Odds are incredibly low that anyone will ever be a victim of a terrorist attack. It is far more likely you will die of a mugging, a car accident, or a lifestyle-related disease than that you will ever even see a terrorist attack. Even in the US, awash with guns, you're more likely to die of a lightning strike than to die in a terrorist attack.

They were already on edge, they reacted accordingly.

I agree they reacted accordingly. I even said in my post that you so strongly disagreed with that their reaction wasn't surprising. But you'll note that even you justified their reaction by their personal feelings, not by the actual facts of the situation. The fact is, the Japanese tourists weren't terrorists or even dangerous. Therefore the fact is that assuming them to be dangerous terrorists is an overreaction. Assuming they are dangerous terrorists for no better reason than because you feel anxiety from another source is an ignorant overreaction.

Now thankfully, no one was hurt or even had anything worse than a mild inconvenience from this encounter. So instead of picking a fight to justify your political leanings, how about you take this article as a teachable moment: Japanese tourists need to be more aware that what they take for granted in Japan isn't necessarily normal everywhere else in the world, and non-Japanese people can learn that just because you see a foreigner doing something odd that doesn't make them a terrorist.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The Japanese proverb 郷に入っては郷に従え means exactly the same Actually that is a Chinese proverb.

Incidentally, with all the cameras they have in the UK I am surprised that surgical masks have not become more popular.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Are Brits really that stupid? They actually confused a group of Japanese tourists with flu masks on as terrorists? Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to leave the EU

-12 ( +5 / -17 )

Katsu: "how about you take this article as a teachable moment: Japanese tourists need to be more aware that what they take for granted in Japan isn't necessarily normal everywhere else in the world, and non-Japanese people can learn that just because you see a foreigner doing something odd that doesn't make them a terrorist."

Yep, spot on.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Southport is a quiet small seaside town near to my childhood family home and spent time there. The air is cleaned by the sea winds and is generally a very tidy type place. I could see how the normally friendly Southport people could be put out by the face masks especially after the Westminster terror attack.

Southport is on one of the longest and biggest beaches in Europe with huge sand dunes. Worth a visit when in the area but forget the face masks.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've all heard the myriad of physical health conditions these masks are 'supposed to' protect people from, but most are worn for a mental health issue, agoraphobia!

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Now thankfully, no one was hurt or even had anything worse than a mild inconvenience from this encounter. So instead of picking a fight to justify your political leanings, how about you take this article as a teachable moment: Japanese tourists need to be more aware that what they take for granted in Japan isn't necessarily normal everywhere else in the world, and non-Japanese people can learn that just because you see a foreigner doing something odd that doesn't make them a terrorist.

Now that is an overreaction. I'm sorry if I ruined your day.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Fear of wide open spaces? Really?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As a Brit myself, I always make sure to take off my in-flight mask (a great idea when you’re breathing recirculated air) when traveling from Japan as soon as we touch back down in the UK.

what rubbish. Is there any science anywhere anymore?

2 ( +6 / -4 )

In my experience, students in Japan heading abroad as an organized group spend a fair amount of time being briefed on the dos and don'ts of their destination, and being advised not to wear surgical masks is one of the things normally mentioned. This pre-trip education is often included in the services of travel agencies chaperoning these groups.

In many other countries wearing a mask certainly raises suspicions — you would either look like a potential convenience store robber or a person infected with a highly contagious disease. And nowadays with more people fearing terrorism, there is the triple whammy of fueling paranoia among already edgy people.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Are Brits really that stupid? are Japanese really that stupid that they'll wear a mask that'll hide their identity, especially with the recent terrorist activity in the UK. hiding you identity arouses suspicion, in most cultures

0 ( +8 / -8 )

There are many ignorant people in the world about all sorts of things. The Japanese on this trip were ignorant about local customs. The locals reacting to the masks were ignorant about Japanese customs. Happens all the time.

Fortunately, there is a cure for ignorance.

Where I live, it is illegal to hide your face when in public. http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-16/chapter-11/article-2/16-11-38

16-11-38. Wearing mask, hood, or device which conceals identity of wearer (a) A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so.

I don't see an exception that allows Japanese style masks or any traditional religious coverings for daily use. There is an exception for gas masks or "traditional holiday masks."

Different culture here. When in Rome ...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

but most are worn for a mental health issue

What I dislike about masks is when I speak to someone and I can't understand their mumbling from behind the mask.

this! like when they mumble something you don't get it and when you ask what? they think you speak 0 japanese. or when most of the japaneses around you have the same "I don't give a damn about the world" dead fish eye like the girl in the first pic from the early morning.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"What would you think if you saw someone wearing a flu mask in your home town?"

I was once held up when working in a bookies in the UK by two men whose faces were hidden with scarves.

If I saw people wearing surgical masks walking around a supermarket in the UK, I'd be a bit suspicious.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

As a barrier, non-medical ones are almost entirely useless aren't they?

I think they do raise humidity around the nose and mouth though, which can be beneficial in prevention of airborne disease as a secondary effect for the wearer, not anyone else. They also raise humidity around the mouth, which can act as relief for locals who struggle with the low winter humidity in Japan. Personally I hate wearing them for the same reason. I'd rather have a drink if my throat feels dry.

Since they are ineffective in blocking airborne disease, I can't say I like it when I take my kid to the clinic and am told off for not putting a mask on them. It is a triumph of the ignorant. I also seriously doubt that low humidity is a problem at the British seaside, so wearing one there is only going to freak out the locals.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

oh, a third reason someone may wear a mask is they have a big herpes outbreak to hide!!!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The Japanese proverb 郷に入っては郷に従え means exactly the same.

Once again, hard for people to read between the lines, my bad for not writing a wall of text explaining myself better so people can understand.

Japanese don't blend in when they travel overseas, they see everyone around them as "gaijin", even though they are the foreigner.

Often times they are "KY" as in this article, they don't use sense or "feel" the tensions around them and I could go on but I will stop there.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Are Brits really that stupid? They actually confused a group of Japanese tourists with flu masks on as terrorists?

Actually few people in the UK can make a difference between Japanese, Korean or Chinese tourists (point one).

Point two is, outside Japanes, you don't wear those masks unless you're dying, or wanting to hide your face. Both reasons are cause for concern. I can imagine that the group looked like a freak show to the locals, never being confronted with such a group of masked persons in their life.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Actually, it doesn't refer to domestic nor to 'Gaikoku', and the proverb itself likely comes from a time before Japan was a unified country. The proverb refers to entering a 郷 - a village. There is no reference as to whether that village is Japanese or otherwise.

Well, if we check the historical record, the few documents available on early Japan written by a Chinese envoy, we can infer that the only people who traveled from Japan was a royal envoy on mission to pay homage to the Chinese emporer, and that those voyages abruptly ended, I think, around the 4th or 5th century C.E. We also know that kanji didn't reach Japan until the 6th century. So we can safely assume that the earliest possible chance for that expression to make its appearance was around the transition phase from Nara to Heian Kyo-- a time when the capital was the center of life, and simply leaving the capital was tantamount to foreign travel. But I doubt the expression is that old. Next, was a time when different fiefs were dominated by different clans; so we can safely assume that the expression originated at that time, when traveling to different fiefs and mingling with different clansmen meant dealing with essential foreigners. After that, Japan expelled foreigners and sealed her doors for two hundred years, so there was no traveling abroad until the Meiji period; but this traveling was done by a select few who, possibly, could have coined the expression. But, again, I doubt it. Therefore, I think it more plausible that the expression refers to intervillage traveling.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I wear a mask when on public transport, planes and places where i will making hand contact in the public like hand rails. I am not worry about airborne element like pollen. It is because of me. I often wipe my lips or around my mouth with with hand by habit or grab my chin when thinking or day dreaming. This is the main way I get crook when the Flu or a virus is about and had not worn a mask. If I have to cough, I cough into my in the crook of my shoulder. The main way of picking up the flu is by people coughing into there clinch fist and then handling handrailing, armrests and over head handles on the trains. I also wear a mask when a family member in crook in the house hold. I Also do the same back home in the flu season, and travelling flu season or not.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

The comments about terrorists from the local people were pathetic. I wish UK would stop being so xenophobic and ignorant.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

"The comments about terrorists from the local people were pathetic. I wish UK would stop being so xenophobic and ignorant."

I'd say the British are a pretty tolerant bunch in general. We have our xenophobes and as a Brit, I happily and frequently tear a strip off my home country for many reasons, but I've certainly been to countries far more xenophobic than the UK - the one I live in now, Japan, is certainly one.

Unfortunately, terrorist attacks are not unknown in the UK ( we had one a few days ago if you hadn't heard ). Seeing something very unusual like people walking around a supermarket wearing surgical masks will unnerve some, regardless of who the wearer is. As I posted earlier, my reaction would probably be potential robbers but others reacted differently. I don't think it makes these people xenophobes.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I wear a mask to help with seasonal allergies, particularly now. They work. I wish I had had them when I lived in the states.

A few posters here have suggested that Japanese wear masks for reasons outside of what is explicitly stated. I would LOVE to hear the "real" reason(s) Japanese wear masks, especially as relayed by expats who style themselves as spokespersons for the entire archipelago.

As for British locals freaking out when confronted by a group of tourists in masks on a massive spending spree, sure, I can see where some confusion might arise. But then again, its a group made up of Asians, presumably looking very touristy, and shopping prodigiously; to make the leap from "How curious" to "Is this Red Dawn realized on the shores of the U.K.?" should be more than a little embarrassing.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Clearly it refers to domestic travel, when entering other prefectures, towns, and villages within Japan; it doesn't refer to Gaikoku

the proverb itself likely comes from a time before Japan was a unified country.

this traveling was done by a select few who, possibly, could have coined the expression.

The proverb comes from the 童子教(どうじきょう), a text used in the education of children aged between 7 and 15, in use from the Kamakura period (roughly the 12th to 14th centuries) to mid-Meiji, and possibly originating in the early Heian Period.

I don't see how quibbling over whether 鄕 refers to domestic villages or overseas serves any useful purpose; in the past, the village on the other side of the mountain/on the far bank of the river was virtually a different country.

Does When in Rome~ mean it's OK not to follow local customs in say, London, or Tokyo, or Paris, or New York?

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Another shopper, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “I suspect this Asian group are used to wearing masks to stop them breathing in city pollution. Do they know something we don’t know about Southport air?”

Hahahaha

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I don't see how quibbling over whether 鄕 refers to domestic villages or overseas serves any useful purpose; in the past, the village on the other side of the mountain/on the far bank of the river was virtually a different country.

It lends credibility to Yubaru's first comment.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

As the article says people in the UK tend not to see other people walking around in surgical masks. To call those who are surprised and possibly alarmed culturally ignorant and xenophobic is a bit much. For a while glue sniffers and those on meths would use the masks to get high, impregnating the material with either glue or meths. So there's that negative connotation. Forensic teams wear masks, so there is the concern that there could be something wrong in a country where the alert status is still high.

Had they entered a Walmart in America they'd probably have been forced to lie on the floor by several heavily armed cops.

When in Japan I see many, many people wearing them and it does still surprise me. It doesn't frighten me or make me feel anxious, but I do find myself asking why. I've heard many reasons: hayfever, not wanting to pass on/catch a cold, it's warm, etc... all those are fine, but do the masks actually work?

And thanks to what people have said I now know why Japanese flyers wear their masks... I thought it was to mop up drool as they slept :)

1 ( +3 / -2 )

More proof masks are utterly pointless. No epidemics happening in Britain despite people not wearing them, and in fact there is a higher rate of flu outbreaks here. Japanese tourists need to learn the dos and donts of other nations, just like they rip on people here who don't do what the Japanese like and do here.

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

Honestly, that's as effective as gargling with water when arriving to your work place after committing to prevent the flu. It doesn't work!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It lends credibility to Yubaru's first comment.

Only if you don't understand the proverb.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I had a friend who decided to go to work while under the effects of the norovirus. And what they all agreed (beforehand) to prevent each other from catching the virus from her and spread it, "we all just wear those mask and problem solved".

0 ( +2 / -2 )

i have tried to wear the mask before for hay fever but i feel like a freak. sorry, no go.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

When I first washed up here NO ONE wore masks except people in hospitals or doctors offices!!

So I am calling it all out 90% at least of mask wearing is BS!!

haha it is the mask makers simply cashing in & people following others a marketers DREAM come true!

Personally I think its all way over blown & totally unnecessary for most, but your money to waste if you want.

I am fine with some who are sick & have to go out, BUT don't go to work, stay home & get better, I know wont work & that's why so many get sick each year, the masks, for the most part don't do ANYTHING except make makers $$$$

Don't be fooled!!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I was wondering if they'll ever make a full-face surgical mask, or even a full-head or full-body mask.

Nothing would surprise me in Japan.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Older readers will remember the notorious Millwall hooligan group The Treatment who were reknowned for wearing surgical masks on the terraces back in the 70s and 80s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Eweccg4y8I

Bank robbers, ultra-violent football hooligans, terrorists and extremely sick people: that's the image of masks in the UK.

Mr. Igor Grindeneau ( if he actually exists ) does sound like a bit of a paranoid numpty though. And ASDA is the UK equivalent of Seiyu, not exactly a place for groups of tourists to go on a "massive spending spree".

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Only if you don't understand the proverb.

Your powers of google are unmatched. My take my hat off to you! I further explained my op, , aahhh... my bad, you gotta have the last word....sorry, please feel free!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Commanteer: I think the shock/outrage is fake, but the 'event' actually happened and the photographer thought it'd make an interesting piece. A group of obvious foreigners wearing surgical masks whilst shopping probably would turn a few heads at least, but more in fear or suspicion of basic theft or vandalism, not terrorism.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

It wasn't the masks, It was the fact that they were foreigners wearing masks. Parochial, xenophobic Brits. They spend all their time reading The Sun newspaper and watching Coronation Street, they have no idea what is happening beyond the end of their streets.

-10 ( +0 / -10 )

Lots of socially-inept people wear them as a cop-out.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

"It wasn't the masks, It was the fact that they were foreigners wearing masks. Parochial, xenophobic Brits. They spend all their time reading The Sun newspaper and watching Coronation Street, they have no idea what is happening beyond the end of their streets."

Nah, mate. It's the masks.

Come to think of it, seeing Brits wearing surgical masks in the supermarket would probably freak them out even more.

*Just a footnote, the Sun newspaper is seen as radioactive in Liverpool for publishing disgusting lies about Liverpool fans, and there are many Liverpool in the town of Southport, which isn't far from Liverpool.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Your powers of google are unmatched.

There was no google when I was getting my degree in Japanese Studies. It's all there in the grey matter, getting a bit dusty now, I'll admit. All good stuff. But no matter. Your explanation was fine, and I agree with you, many Japanese people abroad are KY. There's no need to get upset. The subsequent conversation about the proverb was with Mr Noidall.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

I never liked the mask thing at first. I would always walk around without it. But then one year, after having been here for two years, I kept catching the flu every winter. I then turned to wearing the mask, especially on the train, and then stopped catching the flu. I realize that while it is not 100 % protection against sickness and the flu, it does help. Of course, you need to pick out the right one, as the ones which still allow air to come in on the sides don't work as well as the ones which fit tightly to your face.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Liverpool or Merseyside which now includes Southport, was one of the first cities in Britain to receive a large number of Chinese immigrants hundreds of years ago and have lived in the city peacefully ever since. The port was used for the slave trade to America and in deep apology for that, the city opened the first museum devoted to the history of slavery.

The Sun newspaper is banned from most shops in the city because of the lies published over the very tragic Hillsborough disaster when 94 Liverpool football fans were killed.

Being the largest port in the world for decades many people decided to stop off and start living there.

Not all the Japanese students were wearing face masks. The incident has been puffed up for the purpose of news and none of the students were approached and none ordered to remove the masks. Some of the shoppers were naturally surprised when a large group entered the store wearing them.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

. Personally I think its all way over blown & totally unnecessary for most, but your money to waste if you want.

You can say that because you don't need one :-) Kousa makes me lose my voice, and if it's heavy enough, I get really inflamed nasal passages. The newer finer masks do a good job of keeping it out.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Poor British migrants. They are just so poor and innocent :(

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Consider it an adult pacifier. Less embarrassing to use in public!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

probably completely unaware of the kerfuffle they were causing amongst British supermarket patrons.

Probably.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There was no google when I was getting my degree in Japanese Studies. It's all there in the grey matter, getting a bit dusty now, I'll admit. All good stuff. But no matter. Your explanation was fine, and I agree with you, many Japanese people abroad are KY. There's no need to get upset. The subsequent conversation about the proverb was with Mr Noidall.

Fair enough...there was no internet when I came to Japan .....my degree is in psych...but that matters none today.

Im not upset, .....it's just a forum, no more no less

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I agree with the "antisocial" posts. Many women seem to be trying to hide themselves with a big mask right up to their eyes and a big hat pulled down over their face. I think it is more psychological than it is health-related. I have female English students who wear big masks to class every week for 16 weeks! Weird.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

People shouldn't blame the people wearing mask in Japan too much because you don't know how bad pollen is (I lived in Tokyo since I was born for 20 years so I know what it is -- you develop bad allergy with runny nose and sneezing. Do you know that even some monkeys in mountains suffer from this?http://metro.co.uk/2013/03/17/gallery-japanese-monkeys-suffering-from-hay-fever-3546547/). You also don't know how packed Tokyo subway can be. It's the main transportation system in densely populated cities, and it is the politeness of the people not to spread virus or cold to wear masks. Still, people wearing masks in UK signify how ignorant the Japanese can be to the outside world. It's bad.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'm Japanese. As the writer mentioned earlier, quite a few Japanese wear mask when being outside. Even I always wear mask during autumn, winter, spring season, espesially in public transportations. Let's imagine, you are sitting on a seat on a train with a person standing in front of you coughing or sneezing because of a slight cold. What would you feel? Don't you feel unconfortable?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Lots of Japanese people wear surgical masks because lots of other Japanese people wear them and they want to do what everyone else is doing. Other reasons they may give are generally silly and never seem to have any scientific basis. Some Western people who live in Japan wear surgical masks because they are doing everything they can to 'go native' in an attempt to gain acceptance into a culture, where unfortunately for them, membership is determined by bloodlines rather than fashion statements. Other reasons they may give are generally silly and never seem to have any scientific basis.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I'm Japanese. As the writer mentioned earlier, quite a few Japanese wear mask when being outside. Even I always wear mask during autumn, winter, spring season, espesially in public transportations. Let's imagine, you are sitting on a seat on a train with a person standing in front of you coughing or sneezing because of a slight cold. What would you feel? Don't you feel unconfortable?

Ok. Fair play to you. But as a Japanese person, can you please tell me why Japanese simply don't cover their mouths when they hack?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

According to this article it would seem Terror has won. People afraid of appearances...is disappointing. Imagine the panic if anyone wore a...gasp....black mask!

I'm having a quite laugh at the thumbs down on every respondent that mentions they wear a mask. I do on planes and anytime I'm outdoors for few months here due to hayfever, and have had greatly reduced symptoms since I started the practice. Anyone with hayfever on the fence about wearing masks, I really recommend it.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

sir; in england we do not like people ( hiding--eg muslims or tourists ) behind masks; but I can understand people being worried...ga ignore comments :O) storm in a tea cup not to worry ) :O) m

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Mr. Noidall I'll try to explain why Japanese simply don't cover their mouths when they hack. Touching your mouth, eyes, and putting your fingers to your face is a welcome mat for viruses to enter your system. In fact they are the main ways viruses enter your system. Wearing a mask prevents the urge to cover your mouth when you hack and touching your face.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Poor English Speaker: "Let's imagine, you are sitting on a seat on a train with a person standing in front of you coughing or sneezing because of a slight cold. What would you feel? Don't you feel uncomfortable?"

But what you don't seem to comprehend is that putting on a mask doesn't eliminate the bad behaviour -- it forgives it, and in fact, makes you deserving of the consequences if you DON'T wear the mask. People in other nations don't have to imagine someone on a train coughing in your face because it wouldn't happen without that person probably getting severely yelled at if not worse for socially unacceptable behaviour. By donning a mask you are saying it is okay for those people to sneeze in your face because you are 'protected'. And anyway it's a myth that masks prevent the spread and catching of illnesses; they increase it in many cases because people literally sneeze into their masks all day, and cough, and drink their phlegm, and constantly touch and adjust the mask and then touch all sorts of other stuff.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

YubaruMar. 29, 2017 - 01:47PM JST The Japanese proverb 郷に入っては郷に従え means exactly the same. Once again, hard for people to read between the lines, my bad for not writing a wall of text explaining myself better so >people can understand.

Its not bad. Cleo just corrected your erroneous statement.

Japanese don't blend in when they travel overseas, they see everyone around them as "gaijin", even though they are the foreigner.

Remarkable sterotyping statement. I would have agreed with that back in the 1980s when I'd see large groups of Japanese tourists really out of touch with their surroundings. One time I saw an oyaji wearing a yukata and geta in front of Heathrow airport. Thought it was pretty funny. Most Japanese travelers today are far more sophisticated and aware of overseas customs. That said, there will be exceptions, such as first time travelers who have never been outside Japan. Or as in this instance the Tour Guide company should have taken this into account. Perhaps the MOFA should get involved, The whole mask thing creeps me out when in Japan, I think it's out of hand.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Hate the useless masks? Love Japan? Get yourself to Okinawa. Utopia!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

...a text used in the education of children aged between 7 and 15, in use from the Kamakura period (roughly the 12th to 14th centuries) to mid-Meiji, and possibly originating in the early Heian Period.

Yeah, when international travel was up and running and the Japanese were enjoying being members of the global community... GMAB! No, it definitely does refer to domestic travel, not being in Rome and doing as they do when coming from a different country. Personally, the mask myth is a ruse. Big bucks for the sellers of them, that’s it. And a note to our Japanese brothers and sisters, don’t wear them in the West. Immediate faux pas, odd and as shown, will cause a scene.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Ethnocentrism at its finest.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

At the risk of not sounding too condescending, what you don't seem to realize is that evidence supports the effectiveness of surgical masks in reducing the risk of infection. This may be why surgical teams wear them while performing operations.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Tsuchifumazu

Your comment is entirely unsupported by the reality, please do some research. Commonly sold masks, and the manner in which they are used are NOT effective.

Surgical teams go through an entire sterilizing process of which a mask is only one small, and likely least effective part, and are only effective with the other measures.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

We're not scared, in London we just laugh at the stupidity. For anyone visiting the UK I suggest you never wear these masks, it's not the done thing and rather rude. Also, try going into a bank, post office or many other public buildings like that and you can be refused entry. When in Rome etc. etc.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Over the top reaction. Get over it.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Where I live, it is illegal to hide your face when in public. http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-16/chapter-11/article-2/16-11-38 16-11-38. Wearing mask, hood, or device which conceals identity of wearer (a) A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so.

Halloween must be a pretty lousy day in your neck of the woods.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

There are many ignorant people in the world about all sorts of things. The Japanese on this trip were ignorant about local customs. The locals reacting to the masks were ignorant about Japanese customs. Happens all the time.

The locals can hardly been blamed for not knowing about a modern Japanese fetish for wearing face masks. It is no "custom" in any meaningful sense, but rather a mass neurosis that afflicts a growing part of the Japanese population.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I use mask while I doing cycling in france and I don't care of your judgement ;)

It's not like when muslim girls wear their weird thing haha isn't it ? haha stop your hypocrisies kids !

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

It's amusing to hear how gaijin often try to rationalize Japanese behavior through a western lens.

In their eyes, surgical masks couldnt possibly help to prevent the spread of disease nor could so many Japanese be wearing them to prevent the spread of illness. Why? Because it simply wouldnt happen for either reasons in their home country so why would Japan be any different.

With that perspective, gaijin reveal much about themselves and project their own faults by insinuating that the Japanese are being shy and anti-social. Maybe true for some Japanese but most?

There's a reason surgical masks are worn during operations - to limit exposure/spread of germs and other airborne matter. If they didnt work, hospitals wouldnt use them.

Knowing this, why is it such a surprise that the Japanese, who value social harmony and the group over the individual, would not wear them out of courtesy to others?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Weabo alert.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nice read of the comments. The comments that caught my eye where the overreaction the brits had to the mask. Well if you lived in Japan you would also get this comment from Japanese when trying to explain something different that you would experience in Japan. Anyone know what that is? Yes, and it is “this is Japan”. Wouldn’t you thought the same for the UK as well?

Face masks here are a culture thing and I’ve been pushed with a mask when I go to the doctor and even the chemist when I’ve had a bit of a cold. How do I feel about masks, well I too don’t like them as they make me feel worse when I’m actually sick and in most recent years mask have become a fashion icon with loads being sold with cute little characters on them. People using the surgical masks as an excuse to push the idea that warring mask is ok don’t seem to understand that surgical masks are different grades.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

YubaruMar. 29, 2017 - 07:16AM JST

"When in Rome...." not a phrase that Japanese tourists are familiar with!

* * *

You can also say "When in Rome...." not a phrase that Japan Today people are familiar with too!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

How could you not know the masks are used to keep from spreading or getting colds.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

How could you not know in the way they are used by most people they are totally useless for virus protection.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

My wife's mask is on most of the day for her. Especially, sleeping at night! I just had radiation treatments and I need to wear a mask as my mouth no longer secretes saliva like it once did. If I wear one, at least my mouth will not become immediately dry.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If one coughs or sneezes, they could reduce the amount of bacteria and viruses carried on particles of saliva, and they could help to filter out dust, but to think that they are able to stop airborne viruses shows a lack of knowledge.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Even I am Japanese, I am not keen the way many people put mask in public place. Not only the mask, but also a strange pattern in Japan is hat or cap, which they wear in the room or TV studio in front of TV camera. In true sense, the type of e people, who wear mask, hat or cap excessively are not International, even if they can speak English fluently. One of reasons they are like this is may be because they do not talk to local people. Look at the the original news at UK's supermarket ASDA, they are in group, all Japanese. If they have real communication skill, they must have found how silly or terrible they looked.****

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Its highy unlikely that Britsh people would be 'alarmed ' at a group of japaneses tourists with face masks and if they were it would have been because of its location . The British like the Japanese and know they are not terrorists or violent in any way. In London I see it all the time and wish the rest of the people in London would respect the health and safety of others like the Japanese .

Instead they cough and sneeze over everyone on crowded public transport ( in particular the chineses appear never to have heard of a tissue ) and go to work as usual spreading their germs. Ok it may not stop anyone getting a virus but it does prevent others from becoming ill via airborne germs

So thank you very much Japanese people ...in fact I am going to start wearing them myself !

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Some people NEED to be wearing at least 3 masks. Breath be smelling like they haven't spoken to anyone or brushed in months! I asked a train staff for directions and the smell of his breath instantly gave me a migraine. True story.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

While I was out for a stroll in town I was wearing my favorite black flu mask and the police pulled up to me and informed me that I had apparently scared a couple people but there was nothing illegal against it. I live in the states where It's become increasingly popular in the hip hop and anime fan scene which is my reason for wearing mine truthfully. Still shook me up a bit..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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