picture of the day

Sea of masks


People wearing masks walk in the Ginza shopping district of Tokyo. Japan is becoming a sea of surgical masks -- whether it about pollen during hay fever season, about germs or yellow sand from China.

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This is a truly remarkable photo in not a single person on Ginza can be seen texting on a cell phone. How did the photographer pull it off? Must have been photoshopped...

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Like a Michael Jackson convention!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )


-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The women and a boy knows some one took pictures on them..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If there's any truth in the hygiene hypothesis and lack of exposure to things during childhood makes it more likely that allergies develop later, might having your kids wear masks do more harm than good?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Damn that Chinese yellow sand. The first time I dealt with it was back in 2006. I had just washed the car and went in to have lunch. I came back out about a hour later to find a yellowish powder covering the car which at first I thought was cedar pollen. Stupid move I made was to brush off a section by hand because I ended up 'sanding' the paint in the process. Oh and the use of masks is starting to get way out of control in Japan these days. Some days I feel the odd one out since I don't (maybe it's won't) wear a mask for cedar pollen pr yellow sand.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I thought only Britain had seas of macs.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I find these ridiculous but lots of my friends and colleagues love them. For illness, for hayfever, for bad breath, for no lipstick days.... The list is endless.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

today is truly hell for my allergies. it feels like someone is twisting a feather in my sinuses. maybe a mask would provide some relief but i can't lose that last shred of dignity.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

How many of these folks actually have allergies and how many wear them as a social barrier? They've become a crutch to socially inept people. I had a student last year that wore one everyday. No allergies. Why? Because he liked it. Didn't have the sense to take off the damn thing in a communication class, nor when giving presentations. Greatly dislike them.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I'm a big fan of masks. With sunnies on, it's a great way to get to sleep on the train without feeling self-conscious about drooling or gape-mouth. ;)

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Always makes me think of the music from Doctor Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlain.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is mild. Not a single white glove in sight. Anyone else reminded of the Pana Wave religious group and their all white clothes? Hopefully Tama-chan the arctic seal escaped back into the ocean before being captured by the group. These masks would be great for comedians who lack self-confidence, since you can't see if anyone in the audience is smiling.

On a technical note, is there a difference in particle protection ratings on the foldless vs. foldy masks? How long before company logos or grafitti start appearing on that blank white patch? Banksy-painted face mask for 100 grand anyone?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I like the one guy without a mask getting pulled along by the hand. This way to the spaceship, sir.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

"Sunnies", what a lovely word. I'm going to use it all the time from now on. I take it you're Australian.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

truely a homogeneous society (!)

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Ime think this is more about the been japanese be part of the group than anything else, like we japanese cant speak english and we japanese like tomake lines

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Wakarimasen, masks are brilliant for covering severe hangovers at work, or severe yawning fits...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The volume of Pollen this season is much higher than last year. Usually I wear mask during the peak of Cedar only, about 2-3 week time frame in the month of March.... but this season, I am wearing mask since 3rd week of February. Sometimes, I even wear mask before sleeping. This is the mask with menthol or Eucalyptus sponge within the mask itself.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The masks must be effective - otherwise there wouldn't be so many people wearing them.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I got allergies after a few yrs here, and after two yrs of allergies, my "gaijin pride" be damned, I started wearing masks and it made a difference.

Once I got over the initial resistance and self-consciousness, I even wear them when I have a cold. Truth is you can't let your mouth/throat dry out if you have a cold-it will get worse, and a mask really helps keep moist. They are great. Once you are over that barrier tho, yes, you can start using it for personal space, like tmarie said. I have done that once or twice. Presentations- I make them take masks off for happyos, whether they have a cold or whatever.

. Davestrousers- .

I don't thinkso. They don't cut out 100% of the the pollen, just makes it a little bit less awful is all. And no-one wears masks to avoid getting allergies in the first place. They all run around exposed to the pollen, then if they ever develop allergies they will start wearing masks after that.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

“What can it do for me?”

I like the idea that the masks show consideration for OTHERS, ie trying to help not spread your cold and flu germs to others.

Its seems that most posters from other cultures always concentrate on what the masks can do for YOURSELF. I presume as they are not used to thinking about others to the same level in their daily life that Japanese culture and schooling entrenches.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

You would think that by the year 2013, Japanese technology would have eliminated the need to wear masks.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Does that old man to the right have a booger on his finger?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It won't help on pollen. I just take those over the counter allergy medications (the strongest one I can get without drozziness size effect).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They should wear the Muslim Hijab or Niqab then ? :)

This mask habit is kinda weird seen from Europe , seems to weakens the children natural ability to resist and adapt germs and disease and discourage social interactions

Luckily unlike other forms of criminality , the street criminality is low in japan , but in my country this mask trend covering more than half the face would be seen as a security threat

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Looks like they help. but kind of gives you the creeps to see.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I love how the woman with the beautiful eyes and the little boy are staring straight at the camera... in most of these photos the photographer seems to have either been ignored or not noticed.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Does it really matter if the Japanese people want to wear masks? Who are they hurting? First time I was in Japan I was surprised, but now I just take it for granted - I've even worn one myself, when the Swine Flu thing was happening and those of us from outside Japan were tested when we arrived.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Does it really matter if the Japanese people want to wear masks?

I don't think it really matters what subject it is; if it's Japan-related, it's time to vent frustration.

I've been wearing a mask whenever I've been inside somewhere over the last week. Before I go on to say how I think it has helped prevent spreading if not prevented entirely, it has lowered the incidence of my coughing and hence less pain by not being directly exposed to the sometimes cold air.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Have had a couple of bad colds this year and was happy to wear a mask and hopefully lessen the chance of passing it on to others like colleagues at work, unfortunate people I happen to be standing next to on the train, and most importantly my family.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I wear masks often during cold/flu and allergy seasons, and sometimes, yes, even for cosmetic reasons (I forgot /don't want to put on makeup, I look like hell from a hangover, don't want to be gawked at for being foreign on the train, etc.) who cares?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I don't have any issues with the masks. They serve a health purpose. (Kinda OT, but the woman in the center could wear a banana on her head as well as a mask and still be strikingly beautiful).

What is even more interesting is how healthy everyone looks. Imagine an impromptu photo of people coming out of the local WalMart in the US!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

... the masks show consideration for OTHERS... most posters from other cultures ... are not used to thinking about others to the same level in their daily life that Japanese culture and schooling entrenches.

Alas, this is part of the mythologized Japanese self. It is not consistently true. While J people will wear a mask they fail to do a number of things that show TRUE consideration for others that are basic hygiene etiquette in some other (so called less considerate) cultures .

1They do not stay home when sick and contagious. They spread it from their doorstep to the workplace and back.

2The same sick people also handle other people's food.

3They do not practise thorough hand washing. They wet their hands without soap and wipe their hands on an often used cloth. Dampness breeds bacteria & viruses which are spread from the hands to everything else that is touched: faucets, doorknobs, straps on trains, railings, food being prepared, whatever.

4They cough into their hands instead of their elbow crook and then spread the contagion as outlined in #2.

5They cough directly into the air without covering their mouths. (Thanks for sharing that!)

6They believe the mask protects them and others. It does not, especially if it is not regularly discarded and replaced.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I've used a mask if I'm sick but I've never considered them protection unless I was in a work environment that required it. The use of masks in public is still a bit weird to me. Just seems strange that so many people cover their faces. But hiding a hangover? Now that's a good idea!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hello, everybody, One year ago I taught in Japan, at the Nagoya City University. I was surprised to see quite a number of students - mostly girls - wearing the masks during my classes. I asked them to take the masks off when talking to me, they did not mind it, but put them back afterwords. I could see the masks in the streets, on buses and trains. I had a felling I was witnessing an obsession of some kind. I appreciate the Japanese a lot, but they were not convincing.


1 ( +2 / -1 )

The mask - a "badge of honor" to wear to work as it shows your fellow coworkers that even when you are sick, you still come to the office and "work". Meanwhile your coworkers in your section all get sick and, of course, they start to wear masks to work. Then in a short time, the whole company gets sick, then the whole company wears masks. Then the whole building and the one next door and then on and on and on. But it's OK because if you keep smiling and wear your mask then the hot particles of radiation and cesium deposits already in your body won't do anything. Amiright?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Wow. That picture says a lot. Looks like a nation of patients. Has Japan turned into a giant hospital. I always knew that there was some underlying fundamental issues with that place. Now we are starting to discover more and more of those persistent problems. Indeed, the future does not look good for Nippon at all. I'm glad I left!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Not to long ago, the mask was only when YOU were sick. Now it's also for hay fever? When did hay fever become a problem? It wasn't a problem not too long ago. As for the yellow peril from China, I don't think the mask is all that effective, so soon people will be wearing N95 Particulate Respirators.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If you're sick, stay home. Hayfever? Fine. Or take meds. Be wise you want to create a social barrier? Not cool. I know many women who wear them on "no make" days, socially awkward folks wearing them, folks who want sympathy... I wonder how actually wear them for colds and hay fever these days.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

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