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Japan's outdoor mask relaxation yet to filter through

58 Comments
By Peter Masheter

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Fear of standing out in Japan far exceeds fear of Covid.

20 ( +44 / -24 )

A child has more chance of serious illness from heatstroke than corona.

Kids should not be wearing masks

19 ( +42 / -23 )

It should be a choice.

14 ( +31 / -17 )

Haven't worn one while cycling since the first few weeks of the wuhan wheeze. In the office everyone is still wearing them, I have coworkers whose faces I've never seen.

9 ( +38 / -29 )

I see quite a few women so embarassed while taking off their masks to sip a drink for 2 seconds, almost as if they are naked or something, weird. Realized from day-1 this japanese obsession with masks has nothing to do with colds etc they want to hide their very existence, they feel comfortable like this

7 ( +43 / -36 )

It,s great that even if not mandated, people have the freedom to do what they want.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

I think it’s a sad reflection of people’s mental weakness really. Most of my Japanese colleagues say they are only wearing them because they are worried about what other people think. In our office we are free to remove them at our desk (most do) and now it’s our choice whether or not to wear them whilst walking around. It will take time but things are heading back to normal I suppose. I wear mine on my wrist now outside and put it on only when entering a store/building or public transport. Haven’t had any issues, I’m not breaking the law and actually following government guidelines so don't care what people think… Still makes me laugh though when I see a lone person at 11PM in a deserted street with the mask on, I guess some people don’t really care, each to their own. Personally, I can’t stand them.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

I have not worn mask once throughout the pandemic while running or cycling. I do wear mask while taking public transportation but would take it off while working at my desk in the office. Often I don’t wear mask while walking around the neighborhood.

5 ( +26 / -21 )

anyway nobody says boo to me unmasked, basiclly I don’t wear anywhere unless it’s a peak hour train. When should I keep wearing it till ? Next year, 5 years? Enough is enough, if u wanna wear it forever go for it.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

The human body rids itself of toxins and germs throug the skin, mouth, and nose.

When you wear a mask, you breath out all your germs and bacteria and then breathe them back in constantly. Does this sound like a healthy thing to do all day long ?

People transfer these germs to their hands when handling the masks, and touching their germ laden faces. Next they handle money, touch door nobs etc. Need to get rid of these things altogether and live like we have for the last thousands of years,

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Don’t need to shave or makeup, an excuse to keep distance and not interact. I can see the appeal.

3 ( +30 / -27 )

Just wait for summer.

3 ( +19 / -16 )

situation in Japan is calm,situation when some 20-30 people dies because of covid its not alarming anymore,since much more people are dying daily from cancer or other health issues-and these are not in news here everyday.

person with average IQ and with healthy common sense dont need some guide from gov what to do and what to not do.

at other hands we are still free people with free will.give chance to every and each person to decide if want to wear face mask or not.lets us be free to decide by ourselves.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

More and more maskless people walking around my neighbourhood, inc me.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Never wear a mask. I am fine. But I wonder why people wear masks when driving alone? Or riding a bike or walking in nature? I know 50% of Japanese people have allergies due to overuse of sanitary chemicals, but where I live 90% of single driver wear masks.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I only wear mine now when entering a shop, other indoor space, or on the crowded trains. That's out of politeness as it's a confined space, and if I did have an infection it might help me not to infect others.

However, its utterly ludicrous to see so many people still wearing them outdoors. Fair enough if you are coughing and sneezing. But if you are well, take it off! Don't be another mask zombie. Enjoy fresh air on your face again, and seeing people's faces.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

This more shows that the average citizen listened little to the government advice and took safety measures into their own hands during the pandemic. Since the whole culture of wearing a mask existed a push from officials wasn’t needed unlike other countries.

people will stop wearing them eventually but I wouldn’t doubt we’ll see this in Japan into 2023

besides, masks became fashion accessories (well more so) so it’s gonna be a while longer even if it’s unneeded

2 ( +4 / -2 )

A number of reasons that people are still wearing masks.

1) Once in a lifetime pandemic that killed millions - it was scary - seeing those people suffocating to death in hospitals was a harrowing experience for many - especially those at higher risk. It takes a while to get over that.

2) Lack of testing in Japan is amplifying the perceived threat of the virus - especially over the last few months. Many people will have had these later variants and made a full recovery but because of the lack of testing are simply unaware of the fact and are still living in fear of the virus! Also, because so many cases are likely going undetected it means that the seriously ill/deaths to cases ratio appears vastly larger than what it really is and so it looks like a much more serious disease than it actually is.

3) People are not being informed about the realities of a virus that is a) expected to become endemic b) spreads around 10x more rapidly than the flu and in a similar fashion and c) to which neither vaccination nor infection provide long-term protection against re-infection. Putting all of these factors together suggests that much like the common cold or flu, most people will be infected with it repeatedly throughout their lives. Having been hit hard by the previous SARS outbreak, people in this region expect a similar course for this disease in that it will eventually fizzle out. Unfortunately, that doesn't look like it is the case - it is simply too transmissible and widely spread. Fortunately we have available vaccines that while not as effective at preventing transmission with the later variants, still provide excellent protection against serious disease for most. Will we all need to be boosted again in the future to cope against this endemic virus? We simply don't know right now because the data isn't in, I personally suspect not, but we'll have to wait and see.

4) Somewhat related to the previous point, the messaging from the government is unclear and contradictory - on the one hand they are saying that people can remove their masks outside, but on the other they are still saying that the virus represents such a significant threat, that they cannot engage people in conversation without wearing a mask, that they have to wear masks indoors, maintain the three C's, that they have to disinfect their hands and check their temperature before entering public buildings, that foreign tourists still can't come here freely, that various hurdles have to be overcome at the border for international travellers, that any tourists that do come here have to be chased around by disinfectant-spraying guides monitoring their every move etc. etc. Its just a confusing mess!

5) Of course, there is still the social pressure to wear a mask out there. Only a couple of weeks ago, my wife was moaned at by someone because her mask wasn't covering her nose! A lot of the time I continue to wear my mask because if a similar thing happens to me I don't trust myself not to get involved in an ugly row with such a complainant!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

We Japanese follow government guidelines and rules efficiently and with much seriousness. We will decide via professional advice on the next plan of action soon.

I am Japanese and quite frankly, government guidelines and rules are half-baked. Professional advice from whom?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I don’t get it. Why is it that almost all other countries are maskless, but in Japan we should wear them? Look at those YouTube videos where people walk around in a city (e.g. Paris) and try to count the people with masks. Heck, look at the videos from 2020 and still there are countless of people without masks. Do you even look beyond the borders of Japan? What’s so different between France and Japan?

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Riding the back streets of Kobe on my bicycle at midnight last night there were people walking and riding bicycles with masks on-slightly amazing yet baffling at the same time…

1 ( +5 / -4 )

It is more on fear than conformity. A fearful person is gullible, easily prone to suggestions, manipulations, and control. That is why crisis are taken advantage of to make people fear. Never let a crisis go to waste, right? Healthy Children who rarely get sick are given the procedure that we now know causes all manners of adverse effects and deaths.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I've stopped wearing masks basically everywhere. Shopping centers, movies, restaurants, trains.

Time to end the madness.

I've noticed people just don't care anymore, they still have masks, likely a shame thing, but they would probably like to be doing the same.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yeah maybe in another Hundred years later they will get the message

-1 ( +37 / -38 )

 Be a jerk or don’t. Not wearing a mask in Japan now is making a statement, accept the consequences

So taking a natural, normal breath of fresh air makes a person a jerk.

The government is actually recommending we take our masks off but there are people still so warped by the narrative that they can't come to terms with the fact that some people want to live normally again.

-1 ( +22 / -23 )

Do you even look beyond the borders of Japan? What’s so different between France and Japan?

Why look beyond the borders when you already know there's nothing to see \s

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I take off my mask as soon as I get off the train and don't wear it ever outside. We really need to set an example, or this country will descend into a permanent masked dystopia.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The best mask - the N95 remove at least 95% of all particles with an average diameter of 300 nm. The SARS CoVid19 virus is 9 to 12 nm which can easily pass through the mask.

Mask do not protect from Covid and science proves this.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Japanese really like wearing masks so continuing to do that is like taking off your shoes at the door or always reacting when they see a gaijin. It's normal behavior.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Japan is the only country to live its life by the moniker “you’ve got a lot of nerve showing your face around here!”

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Japan is a highly conformist society with everyone feeling that they must follow the herd. Anyone who objects to this is considered to be defiant and is thus deemed an outcast.

I could never live in a society with such restraining attitudes.

The whole mask thing in itself annoys and irritates me.

I live in Honolulu, but although the mask mandate was lifted here at the end of March by the governor, I still see most of the local population wearing them on a daily basis even outside walking around alone and especially on the bus.

Honolulu has a large Asian population and those are the kind that won't relent. You will hardly ever see any tourists visiting from the continental United States, Australia or Europe wearing them here.

This just goes to show that wearing a mask is an Asian thing and reflects their cultural norms.

-4 ( +14 / -18 )

Freedom of choice, and I definitely do not listen to the advice of government officials who are clueless and change their tune on a whim.....whatever they say is "in one ear and out the other." On the one hand, Japanese are used to wearing masks even before the pandemic. I am Japanese and also American, have to respect the fact people wear it not only to protect themselves, but to prevent spreading a cold etc. to others.....I was not a mask wearer BTW.

Personally, do not understand why people overseas, in some instances, start arguing and become violent, especially the muppets on planes who refuse and hold up the flight! (no wonder these no brain morons get bound with masking tape by other passengers....good! stick them in the toilet for the entire flight)!!.

i wear a mask on crowded trains because I feel safer, and in crowded places because better safe than sorry....hey you never know these days. I pull it down when walking alone in less crowded areas and don't wear one around others who I know don't have COVID. When eating out most places have the plastic partition and seats are spaced out so I take the mask off. I don't pull it down to take a bite, put it back on, pull it back down etc. For the most part people are pretty vigilant when it comes to wearing masks and socially distancing themselves.....common sense really.

Summer is approaching and kids should not wear them when running around outdoors in the Japan summer heat!! Recently, not even related to the mask issue, there have been a few cases in succession of school students and athletes who are being treated for heat stroke!! Last week 30 students in Osaka went to the hospital during a sports day event....ironic the government and school officials try to set a guideline, but in practice they drop the ball and cannot effectively enforce a practical solution.....best to excercise individual common sense but without making others feel uncomfortable or causing a problem (Meiwaku).

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

People are more afraid of the 10-day quarantine than the virus.

-5 ( +11 / -16 )

Where I live, in the general Tokyo area, very few people are not wearing masks outside. I put mine on as soon as I get to the lift in my condo building. And then I keep it on. Why? Because I don't want people to think I am 非協力的 (uncooperative). Yes, I'm a cowardly conformist...But let's be patient, everyone! Suddenly, there will be a consensus about dropping masks, just as there seems to have been about smoking in public, the latter, unlike the former, causing genuine harm.

-5 ( +9 / -14 )

They will need to be explicitly told not to wear them

-7 ( +21 / -28 )

I think it's ok not to wear masks outdoors, but I really hate it when a jogger runs past me and breathes heavily next to my face. These selfish people don't even make an effort to keep a distance. Bad breath is bad enough.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

I think when the full force of that sticky, humid summer hits, people will start going about mask-less because you know, they want to breathe and not get heatstroke.

-9 ( +16 / -25 )

I’d bet that a 1/5 or so of the population would prefer to go through life masked up, feeling safe and well hidden.

I’d say it’s a far higher percentage than that. And why not? No different from wearing sunglasses.

Sure most people wear a mask as a social obligation, some as a precaution but a large number because they prefer to.

All the screaming about civil liberties and mandates, sure knock yourself out. But if someone actually chooses to wear a mask and is comfortable so, leave them alone.

-9 ( +11 / -20 )

When outdoors, I will usually keep the mask under my chin, especially when dining on a terrace/patio. But, when there are other people close by, I'll pull it up over my mouth and nose. This is especially true in crowds, such as outdoor events, with many people in close proximity. It would be stupid not to.

Of course, in indoor public spaces - stores, offices, trains, etc - masks are always worn. Properly. Over the mouth and nose. There shouldn't even be a question of it.

-10 ( +8 / -18 )

It's like they don't want COVID to end

-10 ( +14 / -24 )

Not unique to Japan; Thais currently wear masks out and about all times of day.

-10 ( +9 / -19 )

Not unique to Japan; Thais currently wear masks out and about all times of day.

Do you tell them to keep the mask on or off?

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

So taking a natural, normal breath of fresh air makes a person a jerk.

I didn’t say that.

The government is actually recommending we take our masks off but there are people still so warped by the narrative that they can't come to terms with the fact that some people want to live normally again.

I did say do what you want, on this we can agree.

-11 ( +9 / -20 )

Thinking for oneself is such a chore in Japan! Much better to follow the leader!

They need a few talents and TV presenters to “show” them the way…..

-12 ( +16 / -28 )

It is soo deeply ingrained in their mind that it won’t end up easily.

Japanese are becoming more difficult in socializing with others because of this mask thing as well.

-15 ( +19 / -34 )

Actually we Japanese wear masks cause in Japan, being shy is actually a part of the culture.

I’d bet that a 1/5 or so of the population would prefer to go through life masked up, feeling safe and well hidden.

-15 ( +13 / -28 )

So funny how many of the anti-maskers have been banging on about 'freedom' now seem to be cheering a paternalistic push to stop people from wearing masks! Put your money where your mouth is (pun intended) and let people who want to continue wearing masks do so. Why does there have to be a push to unmask?

A lot of people surely keep their mask on even while outdoors as that way you keep it viable. Handling it and taking it in and out of pockets, bags etc can contaminate it and/or squash it. People understand this, so they choose to wear it from door to door.

I hope people do use their own judgement and ignore any dumb government attempts to prevent people using masks. Specially as BA.4 and BA.5 variants are causing hospitalisations and deaths to surge again in some countries.

It smacks of the same passive aggressive pressure from governments in certain countries to push people back into offices even when they could far more easily continue doing their job from home. And the point is what? Right, to line the pockets of transport conglomorates, the owners of office buildings, suit manufacturers, big cafe chains who are put out by the fact many jobs have been proved to be more productive done from home.

This is the REAL nanny state at work!

-15 ( +15 / -30 )

They need a few talents and TV presenters to “show” them the way…..

Could it be…? Why is it that….? Perhaps we need to….?

Nah, you can keep tucker.

-16 ( +5 / -21 )

I think when the full force of that sticky, humid summer hits, people will start going about mask-less because you know, they want to breathe and not get heatstroke.

Just like last Summer?

Wear one, don’t wear one. Same subjective choice as for anything else we do in public. Be a jerk or don’t. Not wearing a mask in Japan now is making a statement, accept the consequences.

-20 ( +9 / -29 )

But now the government has relaxed its guidance on outdoor mask usage, the message appears not to be filtering through.

It never made any sense to wear a mask outside in the first place.

> notes that mask-wearing is deeply ingrained in Japanese society.

This is fallacy. Never in Japan mask wearing has reached the ridiculous level it is now. Masks were more common than Western countries, sure, and actually often for silly reasons like hiding certains attributes on the face, being used as social wall to others and other mentally disturbed related reasons. But they were still very sporadic among the population. Never everyone was masked outside all the time, never kids were forced to wear masks at school all the time. So stop this nonsense.

Masks are present in people's lives from as early as elementary school, he says. At lunchtime, class lunch monitors wear masks to avoid contaminating food served to classmates.

Another fallacy. Like food poisoning in schools does not happen regularly in Japan. They should better wash their hands instead of wearing a mask.

The early lesson is that "mask wearing isn't for the wearer, but for others," he said. Prior to the pandemic, for instance, people tended to don masks after catching a cold, rather than to avoid one.

Another fallacy and the BS "for others" we heard all along. Japanese don't give a sh*t about others. They wear masks principally to hide their cold so that they could come at work instead of staying at home either because they don't want or can't.

> "Whether infections rise or fall, droplet infections are what matters. Even if the government said you can go without masks, droplet infections are still possible, so I'm going to keep wearing one (when around others)," 

Typical of the COVID circus era. People without any expertise whatsoever think they can have an opinion. I am sure this dude does not even know what a droplet is.

Here is the thing. The mask attitude of Japanese has become grotesque, absolutely bizarre and totally irrational. That's the reality. I consider myself a sane and rational person so I am not joining this collective madness anymore. Their circus, their monkeys. I don't wear a mask whatsoever.

-24 ( +21 / -45 )

That’s because Japanese people have become smart enough not to listen to their own government for advice!

-27 ( +13 / -40 )

""The government's view is an individual judgment, too. You can't just accept everything they say," she said."

This article by Peter Masheter seems to pushing, and not subtly, the tired Western idea that Nihonjin are compulsive conformists and will follow whatever 'trend' is presented to them rather than the fact that they are well educated, think for themselves even if being reticent with their opinions, and understand unlike their Western peers, the mechanics of disease spread. There are still significant numbers of people in my local Aloha, Oregon Costco wearing masks also. The push in America to not wear masks was just a way to make trouble in the simple minded being told they were COMMANDED by their OVERBEARING GOVERNMENT to wear masks thereby abridging their freedom (to die). This helped to result in a MILLION DEATHS and mostly among those who had co-morbidities related to stupid life choices like obesity, or not wearing a mask... This thing is not 'over' yet if it will ever be so caution, often touted as a 'wise choice', even in the face of governments pronouncements or especially in the face of government pronouncements, depending on one's experience, does not seem unreasonable.

-29 ( +12 / -41 )

Fear of standing out in Japan far exceeds fear of Covid.

Why that? Such a fear is very time limited. You surely won’t stand out so long here. lol But Covid accompanies you the whole rest of your life.

-30 ( +7 / -37 )

We Japanese follow government guidelines and rules efficiently and with much seriousness. We will decide via professional advice on the next plan of action soon.

-43 ( +11 / -54 )

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