One interesting thing I discovered when I first came to Tokyo is the number of people wearing surgical masks. They wear all sorts of colors and they are everywhere; masks can range from the plane white to the ones with funny pictures, and you see them walking around busy stations and sitting right beside you on the metro. First I thought that besides health reasons, is a form of expression, the idea that you want to show other people about your unique personalities or traits. But then after talking to some of my Japanese friends and reading through an article on this behavior I slowly came to understand that masks are tools, used to isolate yourself from the surrounding.
This phenomenon only appears in big cities around Japan but not the countryside. In big cities you have more complicated mix of people and noises, and not everyone can sustain this environment. Thus some choose to create a personal space, a warning sign that let the others know that you don’t want to interact but just want to enjoy the sole quietness.
I think such behavior has highlighted two points about the modern young generation in Japan; the desire for no dealing with people, and the preference of communicating through indirect ways such as social media.
Whether this is a good or bad trend different people will have all sorts of opinions, as for me, I would prefer a more interactive society. Sometimes I do think city is a strange mix of our collective lives, so many people living so close to each other, yet so little conversations and interactions.
The article I referred at the start can be accessed through here: