Since the pandemic here started back in late January, masks have become a valuable commodity. Wearing a face mask in Japan is quite common, always has been. Not just during cold and flu seasons, but people use them year round for various reasons like allergies, dust, pollution, as well as to simply “hide” behind or as some sort of (bizarre) fashion statement. In any case, there is no weird stigma attached to wearing or seeing someone in a mask.

After moving here about a decade and a half ago, it took me a while to get used to seeing so many people in masks. It took me even longer to wear one myself. But these days, it’s a must, obviously, and I was mask hunting for a few months after they sold out in the early months of the pandemic. Now, masks are coming back into stores but not regularly, and one usually finds mostly imported ones.

The electronics maker Sharp started making masks in one of their clean rooms to sell online, but their online store site crashed on the first day they were sold. So they decided to to do a lottery. Each week a certain number of a applicants were chosen and those were allowed to proceed to purchasing a box of 50 masks. The ones not chosen were automatically entered in the following week’s lottery. Well, after 11 long weeks, I was finally chosen and won the “right to purchase” those damn masks! A bit overpriced, but I was happy about finally getting through and ordered a box. Today it arrived and now I’m all set with a bunch of quality masks.

Having to wear a mask in public will continue for the time being and at least now I can change them as frequently as I want during hot and humid weather in the summer. Teaching classes while wearing a mask is hard enough. At least now I don’t have to be stingy about those damn masks.

I do see, read and hear about the endless discussions and debates over mask policies elsewhere. Smoking bans from restaurants and bars, seat belts, baby car seats, motorbike helmet policies, and the like were all accepted and followed because they protect from harm and injury. Does anyone get upset at having to buckle the seat belt on a plane during take-off and landing? Turbulence? So why do some people feel that their “freedom” is being infringed upon when there is a global pandemic? When a simple mask can protect lives?

All I can say is