The face mask is a common site living in Japan through both the winter months and through hayfever season. Your initial reaction may be to run when you see someone wearing the mask in case they might pass on to you whatever illness they are hiding behind the mask, or maybe its just a flashback to a bad dentist or doctors trip.
Once you start to realize that most of the mask-wearers may actually be the healthy ones and the guy coughing in the corner without the mask is more likely to give you the flu, you get chance to study the different types of masks. I thought I had seen a lot of them, but it was only when I picked up the latest copy of DIME that I realized just how many types there were.
DIME Review of masks
DIME have done a quick review of the 27 different types of masks available for sale in Japan. They have split them up into 3 basic categories.
- Masks focused on ones image
- Masks focused on functionality
- Professional masks
The following is a snapshot of the article from DIME giving an overview. For more detail (in Japanese) you can take a look at DIME 05, 2009 3 3 edition.
The fashionable masks
In the first category, the comment is
even when wearing a mask one wants to look fashionable.
Well, nice try, but the mask on the face as a fashion statement might be a tough sell. Still, lets have a look at why they are considered fashionable. As the mask designs have developed, the manufacturers focusing on the fashionable category have worked on given more of a 3D or raised mask shape to the mask. This makes it look less like someone has strapped a packet of tissues across your nose with elastic bands.
Also in the fashionable category are the masks that don’t smear your makeup and allow you to wash off your makeup easily from the mask if it gets dirty. As well there are masks which are said to be kinder to delicate skin and masks that allow you to leave them on for longer periods of time without causing crease lines on your face.
Focus on Functionality Masks
As well as helping to protect you from the spread of flu, colds and hayfever, these masks also take into account features such as protecting you from dryness of air, fresh aromatic oils and menthol sheets in the masks to entice you to buy them. When I was looking at the people wearing masks at Shibuya station I really had not thought about which one might be wearing the menthol mask and which one had the “keep my skin from getting dry” mask on!
Some of the masks come with refills for the aromatic oils and menthol strips. Others in this category specifically point out that they combat influenza virus etc, whilst some focus on areas such as, making sure your glasses don’t steam up when you wear the mask. With the stakes high everyone has to find their niche.
Professional Focus Masks
This category should definitely not be worn on the train. They start to resemble something you might see in a movie where the body count is climbing. The mouth/nose area tends to have a plastic breathing filter and definitely does not look friendly. Compared to this category, the fashionable masks look very trendy.
Designer Masks, Original for you
One make of masks did look more fashionable than the rest. It was billed as a “Mask with decoration”. It allows you to put on a design seal and rhinestone to make the mask an original for you. The main purpose of the mask appears to be protection from hayfever. The Japanese name for this mask is “DecoriMask”.
Also in this picture, on the left, you can see the product called Nose Mask Pit sold by Bio International. This is a filter inserted into the nose. The copy says
When you get used to the strange sensation you feel in the beginning, you really don’t mind it so much.
I don’t think this one is for me!