Posts Tagged ‘face mask’

The secret allure of the surgical mask

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Who is that masked woman? (Satoko Kawasaki photo)

Last month in Nagano, despite sweltering temperatures, a number of high school students were spotted attending school wearing surgical masks. This wasn’t hayfever season, nor were there any colds going around, so why were these teenagers covering their mouths and noses up? They were simply following a national trend for date masuku,  surgical masks that are just for show. (That’s read “dah-te,” nothing to do with dating.)

A journalist for Shinano Mainichi Shimbun asked students why they were wearing masks and got some surprising answers. One girl commented, “I’m shy about being seen without my makeup on.” Worryingly, another boy said, “I feel safe with it on.” Another 16-year-old female high school student explained that, “The mask hides the acne around my mouth.”

While this looks — on the face of it — like a problem created by low self-esteem, one that teenagers might grow out of, Japanese Wikipedia states that research done by Asahi Shimbun back in 2011 showed that adults are reaching for the date mask, too. Many began by using surgical masks for health reasons and then continued because they found that they enjoyed wearing a mask.

A writer under the name of Tama Tsupi, a self-confessed former date mask addict, wrote about the issue for Gadget News earlier this year. “Tsupi” began using a surgical mask to protect herself against hay fever and infection, but gradually came to find that she got a pleasant feeling from wearing a mask. Stressed at work, she found it useful for those times when she couldn’t be bothered to do her make up properly, or when she had trouble relating to others.

Though she’s now kicked the habit, she has stuck up for mask wearers by stating that covering up part of the face can have the effect of highlighting a person’s beauty. In the piece, she evangelizes about the unexpected cosmetic effect she experienced when wearing a mask. She points out that it’s common practice in Japan for people to upload shots of themselves to social networking sites that hide part of their face. These shots are both flattering to one’s vanity and protect one’s private image in the public domain. She writes: “Don’t you think this technique could be put to good use not only in a photograph, but in reality?”

The origin of the term date masuku (伊達マスク)is apparently connected to the Sendai’s famous daimyo Date Masamune. Problem is we’ve yet to figure out how the family name of this fierce, one-eyed warrior has come  to mean “vainglorious,” as seen in the similar terms date megane (prescription-less glasses) or date otoko, which essentially means dandy.  This YouTube video even suggests a connection with the true surname of the masked hero of Tiger Mask. So there you go. Think of it as being somewhere between vanity and anonymity.

Pulsations (06.23.12)

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • How to Spend 3 Nights in Tokyo All Included on ¥10,000 ($US125) (from Tokyo Cheapo): While some tourists in Japan spend at least ¥10,000 a night for a hotel alone, others prefer to spend the same amount for their entire stay in Japan. Impossible? Well, these guys claim they have a plan for spending three days in Tokyo for just ¥10,000, everything included!
  • 1929 Japanese animation “Kobu tori” (from Japan Sugoi): Here is your chance to see the 1929 Japanese anime “Kobutori” by Chozo Aoji and Yasuji Murata. It is a 10-minute piece featuring two old men with large lumps, the “kobu” in the title, on their faces. They encounter similar situations, but one has a good temper while the other has an evil one.
  • Pots made from radioactive soil collected from within the Fukushima exclusion zone (from Spoon & Tamago): That’s the fascinating but radioactive idea Hilda Hellström had for her senior thesis show at the U.K.’s Royal College of Art. The project indeed is historical as the artifacts will always remind us of the most serious nuclear disaster in human history.
  • Lesbian invisibility in Japan (from Japan culture blog): Lesbianism is not as widely discussed as male homosexuality in Japan, where women are expected to be primarily good wives and wise mothers. Ramona Naicker explains how three decades ago, plenty of lesbian activist groups emerged seeking change but were forced to shut down due to lack of support.
  • Why Do Japanese People Wear Surgical Masks? (from Tofugu): I have been asked several times why so many Japanese people wear masks in public spaces. I did not know how to answer this question until I stumbled upon this post on Tofogu. Find out if you should be wearing one, too.

A former Australian rugby captain puts his unique skills to use on a rush-hour Tokyo train.

Sniffling and shivering into a setsuden winter

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

As we inch toward December, a chill is most definitely in the air, as are the inevitable cold viruses that accompany the onset of winter. At Shinjuku Station, it feels like you can hardly walk a minute without getting sneezed or coughed on by a passing comuter. According to a recent survey by cold medicine makers Contac, those living in areas powered by Tepco are particularly worried about catching a cold as a winter of setsuden (power conservation) looms.

Kaze Miru Plus tracks the cold virus in your area

The survey of office workers living alone in the Tokyo area showed that 89.1 percent were proactively taking steps to prevent getting a setsuden cold. Some felt that these might not be enough: 34.1 percent were worried that if they practiced power-saving with their heating appliances it would be harder to keep in peak physical condition. It appears that women had more of a tendency to worry about this issue: 41.1 percent of females compared to 27.2 percent of males.

As well as wrapping up warmly like the government advises, alternative sources of heating are popular. Yomiuri Online reports that a store selling kerosene heaters in Iwate had sold 200 heaters in a week and had 30 reservations from customers. These heaters are being actively marketed as being good for setsuden winter. If you’re not too keen on getting gassed in the night by one of these, a new electric heater called the “Beam Heater” claims to kick out 800 watts of heat while only running on 400 watts of electricity.

Another way to prevent getting a cold — at least in Japan — is to use a cold mask. Cold masks have become increasingly funky in recent years and we noted a nice product just out for kids that includes masks and cool packs adorned with decorations of Tomi cars and trucks. You might even manage to snag a mask for free. According to Eiga News, individually wrapped masks were available at five Tokyo stations, including Ikebukuro and Omotesando, as part of a clever advertisement for the movie “Contagion.” Once removed, the faces of the stars of the movie are revealed.

If the doomsday scenario of a super bug spreading throughout the world has you reaching nervously for the hand sanitizer, then you might want to sign up for Esu Esu Pharmaceutical’s Kaze Miru Plus, a Twitter-based application that tracks and forecasts cold and flu symptoms throughout Japan. By bringing together data from tweets and weather forecasts, Kaze Miru makes a cold forecast for your area. Today in Tokyo, 1,447 tweeted headaches, 970 a cough and 639 a runny nose. As the mercury drops those numbers are bound to rise drastically over the next few months. Be careful out there, folks.

Masks off, plugs in: New allergy tools go inside the nose

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Nose PitWhen people sing the praises of Japan’s four seasons and their motifs, spring is all about sakura. But for the sniffly, runny-eyed 13% of Japan’s population with kafunsho (hay fever), spring is the dreaded allergy season and the sugi is the only tree that matters. The fast-maturing cedars were planted en masse in the 50s for their wood and now blanket the country in misery-inducing pollen that sends millions running from February to April for piles of pills, gallons of anti-itch eye drops and mountains of masks.

Though the pollen counts are supposed to be only about half as bad as last year, morning weather forecasts still include daily pollen count maps dotted with teary, scrunched-up cartoon faces.

Allergy sufferers may try anything for a little fresh air: electronic purifiers that claim to cleanse vast areas or portable ionic purifiers that hang from the neck. Cosmetic and supplement maker DHC sells an anti-pollen “Double Blocking Mist” for spraying on fabric that the company says sells out every year.

Many keep it simple, though. Last year, surveys showed that paper masks were the go-to pollen protector for some 60% of allergy sufferers. Could it be that this year, after a long winter of swine-flu precautions and mask hysteria, people have had it with the ER look?

Continue reading about hay fever in Japan →

New strapless facemask may ruffle a few feathers

Friday, September 11th, 2009

main_facesealA common sight on subways every allergy season, face masks aren’t anything new in Japan, but just like the SARS virus and H1N1 influenza strain that create the global demand, the sale and styles of surgical masks continue to proliferate and diversify.

The latest version of the face protector (via Shibuya246) is the Viramask by Earth Pharmaceutical.  This beak-like design adheres directly to the face, so there are no elastic straps to go around the head or ears. This also means no air leaking in from the sides for a more assured protection from any and all kinds of airborne cooties.

At over ¥900 yen a pop, this kind of protection doesn’t come cheap, but the cost is offset by the joy you will give your friends and coworkers as they devise new ways to tease your new duck-like appearance:

  • Addressing you in Donald’s voice.
  • Leaving breadcrumbs on your desk.
  • Shouting “AFLAC!” every time you walk by.

Bonus: More excellent face mask fashions, and my favorite face mask-related article, from the fantastically dubious Weekly World News.

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