Japan’s Experience with Masks During COVID Is Not What You Think It Is

With mask rules loosened in mid-March, it’s time to look back and ask some questions about the price we paid for the policy

Bryan Winchell


Why does this poor old codger need to wear a mask while standing outside on a bike road? (Photo: Author)

All is well with my world in central Japan — the sakura arrived early after a balmy March, the opening day of MLB is in the books and my Seattle Mariners won, my freelance teacher’s brain is rested after a rejuvenating week away from all actions about classes, we are three weeks into a world with loosened mask regulations and, last but not least, everyone in Japan is now mask-free, showing their lovely smiles for the first time in three years.

You can’t have everything, right?

No, much as I wish to return to daily life in Japan where masks are worn mostly in the winter for the flu and in the spring for hay fever by about 1/3rd of the people, that world remains, for now, a mirage.

But that mirage began to materialize in mid-February when I learned that starting from March 13 “mask use will largely depend on personal choice.” Those next four weeks I was a kid in December waiting for Christmas.

Thank you, but it’s about freakin’ time, Japan!

Now before I go on, I want to make something clear: I’m neither anti-mask, nor pro-mask. You see, I’m a nuance guy who dwells in the murky corridors of both/ands, and I reject the Thought Police who are turning every discussion about social policies into simplistic binaries to keep us divided.

That’s right, fuck off Thought Police and take your Karma Police with you (but leave the Radiohead).

So go ahead — wear your masks, or don’t wear them. I don’t care. You do you! I trust you. I trust that you have a better sense of your health than some far-away health bureaucracy possibly can. In short, I live in a world where I trust everyday people and I’m tired of living in one where social policies made by unaccountable bureaucrats I don’t trust are making it harder to trust you.

Having said all of that, it’s been my opinion — and observation — since well before 2020 that wearing…



Bryan Winchell

A Serious Fool who writes about: Personal/collective growth, politics, love of Nature/Humanity, Japan, podcasting, humor, and being a hippie in Service to Life.