No granite is so hard as hatred and no clay so cold as cruelty.

Ursla Le Guin (1929-2018)

The Stars Below, 1974

Face Masks in Japan

Recorded: July 15th, 2020


In many western countries the debate over wearing a face mask has become mixed up with politics and ideas of freedom. In Japan, wearing a mask is simp - simply what you do to stop viruses. People have been doing it for years long before Covid19. Medical experts believe it's a habit that's helped them now. From Tokyo, here's Rupert Winfield Hayes:

At Shinagawa station in Tokyo it's the morning rush hour. Tens of thousands are pouring from the station heading for nearby office towers. Not a single person here is without a face mask. No-one has been ordered to wear one, but everyone does.

I don't think it's acceptable not to wear a mask. I think everyone in the world should do so. Coronavirus is something we should take very seriously.

I think Japanese are obedient. They listen to what other people say, that's why we wear masks. It's very Japanese.

The effectiveness of masks like these at protecting you from Covid19 is still hotly debated. But there is a striking difference in death rate between countries like Japan, where masks are universally worn, and places where they aren't. In the United States the current mortality rate from Covid19 is four hundred per million. In the United Kingdom it is under six hundred per million. Here in Japan it's just seven per million.

Scenes like these of Americans protesting against mask wearing, have left one of the world's leading public health experts shaking his head in despair:

You know, it's striking if you look at the United States where there is almost a wilful, flagrant desire to show that I'm not going to do what other people are telling me to do. I'm not going to wear a mask. And it's, it's, it transformed from the idea, how do we protect each other to, erh, I'm going to show that I'm not going to be pushed around.

In japan, university experiments like these have shown clearly how wearing a mask can cut the volume of droplets ejected by a cough or a sneeze.

For long time Tokyo resident, James Whitlow Delano, there is no question where he'd rather be during this pandemic:

I'd rather be here. I think the Japanese generally speaking are more civic minded, community minded. They care, frankly, more about their neighbours. Individualism is great. it's baked into who I am but this is a time to set that aside for other people and to me, erh, mask wearing is so important in that process.

Until there is a vaccine for Covid19 this is the new reality. If wearing a mask can help protect yourself and others, it's a discomfort that most Japanese people appear willing to bear. Rupert Winfield Hayes, BBC news, in Tokyo.


Seemingly, for dramtaic effect the BBC pushes the false narrative that wearing maks is hotly debated. Scientifically this is far from the case as the video tacitly acknowledges with the mortality rates and Japanese university video footage. This is the equivalent of saying that climate change is hotly debated. This can only be true if political and economic interests are given equal weight to scientific facts.

In addition to the video a download of the transcript is included using a match the keywords format.

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