If you ever rode on a fully packed commuting train, you know you have no personal space and realize that you are highly exposed to all types of invisible risk: cold, influenza, virus, pollen.
During winter to early spring, you see about half of Tokyo wearing Japanese surgical mask which is interpreted as an odd custom from foreigners. To protect yourself, one wears Japanese surgical mask to prevent illness.
It is an etiquette to wear a Japanese surgical mask if you do not feel well so that others do not catch what you are carrying. Although it is an etiquette, businessmen and women must be mindful of manners when wearing Japanese surgical mask to work.
When your face is hidden in a business occasion, the other party may not have a good impression about you; it is polite to take off your mask to reveal your face and state the reason why you would like to keep wearing the mask during your meeting.
Additionally, teenagers use Japanese surgical mask to hide behind, saying it is more comfortable hiding half of the face.
There are different types of Japanese surgical mask : for small children, small masks for ladies, large masks for those with larger head, for eye-glass wearer, high-quality masks, colored masks, etc. There are decorative masks to match daily fashion for fashion conscious people.
When coming to Japan in winter to early spring, please don’t be surprised by so many masks around you. It is not a cold or flu pandemic but a simple gesture of etiquette and possibly fashion.