When I first moved to Japan, I was stunned by the amount of people wearing face masks. Was there some recent communicable disease outbreak that I had not heard of? What was I catching as a result of being mask-less?

It’s no surprise to find out that in Japan, as well as other Asian countries, people take serious personal responsibility for their ailments. It’s done precisely for the prevention of nasty germs. To keep you and me from getting sick. Now that’s all around nice.

And now for the real question that burns inside you. I’ll ask Dr. Praske :

“So Dr. Praske, what exactly would this face make prevent- and do you think it actually works?”

It would help prevent the spread of any upper respiratory illness that’s typically spread by aerosolization (for example: influenza and the various viruses that cause the common cold). It would be most useful in crowded enclosed public settings, but would probably not be effective in the household because of low compliance- also some viruses are spread by droplets which can be picked up off of surfaces and therefore the mask would not be effective for these.

There you go. It does work. Now could you deal with that fashion faux-pa?

I can’t even imagine this back home. Although I did have a dentist who wore one. But I could still smell his nasty wretched coffee breath. If we did use them stateside, would we adorn them with our favorite football team- name brand or a color that matched our outfit. Hmm..

It’s not as popular back in the states, as you can check the unavailability at Amazon.

So if you think you want to start a trend, and prevent germs- you can stock up on them at your local 100 yen store. I have used mine for changing diapers and chopping onions. Not really. But, there are several styles, as well as the “cloth” that you can place inside (to save on purchasing masks). See below:


And two styles, for your coughing pleasure:


So next time you are at Family Mart- peruse the personal hygiene aisle. You’ll find all sorts of treasures to keep you shiny and healthy.


  1. In addition…

    Believe it or not, some people also wear them for fashion…or even to hide their face from the sun.

    Hiding the face from the sun is more common among girls in SE Asia as they want to look more light-skinned, thus apparently less indigenous.

    You can find some masks with funny designs on them at the hyaku-en shop in harajuku, but I’ve never seen people wearing those here 😀

  2. This post was so timely – did anyone notice that on American Idol – the results show – they were all wearing masks because of Megan Joy’s flu? This posted before it aired here and I thought that was pretty funny. Way to be timely, Staci! (And the first thing Ryan did was accuse them of being silly because it didn’t prevent anything, if I remember correctly)

  3. You can also get the mask in vending machines! My son was taken from Lester to Nanbu Childrens Medical Center in Naha, and I bought several of them for my living/sleeping in the waiting room.

    Also unlike Americans, the nurses working in the Japanese hospital wore the mask at all times, regardless of the patient being treated. Can’t go wrong with that thinking.

    They also come in handy during Southern California fire season!

    Now if only I could get my son to wear one at least during school hours!

  4. When we lived in Seoul, S. Korea. We would wear those when we were sick and then again when the air quality was bad. Which was more often then the sick reason. Everyone had their kids in Hello kitty or hamtaro ones.
    My kids loved it, even my son who was two when we left there would wear it with no problems.
    It just got to be normal. Next cold I get I will rock one to the BX. Say hi if you see me.
    Ohhhh they would be great if you had a bad fever blister too!!

  5. I’m glad you wrote this up – I’ve been wondering if the point of the masks was to keep one’s illness to oneself or to prevent oneself from catching everybody else’s cooties. 🙂

    I saw some for kids the other day at the Can Do 100Y store – they had characters on them. I was thinking they’d be handy for flights back to the States….but something tells me my toddler isn’t keeping one on. 🙁

  6. There are also some masks that have little menthol inserts which can help someone to breathe more easily if their sinuses are extremely clogged up. My wife brought these home this winter.

    I appreciate people that take the time to wear them in public. In the U.S. we can’t even get people to keep their kids home from school when they are sick, why should we expect someone to wear a mask? Ha!