Were this America, I’d be getting stares, what with this ridiculous-looking mask I’m wearing.
But, alas, this is Japan — I get them regardless.
So here I am, rocking the hay fever mask in all it’s suffocating glory. Can I take this thing off?
There. That’s better.
At the slightest portent of the onset of Spring, millions of Japanese can be seen sporting their masks: the last line of defense between itchy eyes, runny noses and unstoppable barrages of sneezes.
I, personally, rarely wear them, despite the regular insistence of my significant other that I do so. But when I do give in, the things actually seem to work. Not only this, but on those lingering cold March days, they provide another benefit — warming my face during bike rides and my brisk walk from station to office.
What’s more, the masks also provide a measure of anonymity. As a gaijin, my presence is always, at best, watched with curiosity. Wearing a cold mask, I feel as if I’m incognito. No need to suffer the stares and stress that comes with them that have already cut my life short by months, perhaps years.
For me, the mask provides psychological cover on the mean streets of Tokyo. And it may very well help with the hay fever.