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In Japan, Tokyo it is common to see Japanese people walking around with masks like the kind Surgeons wear during surgeries.

Why do the Japanese wear masks like Surgeons in Tokyo?

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closed as off topic by Ankur Banerjee Mar 20 '12 at 21:37

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Even though I've added a tag and an answer I don't think this is really a travel question. –  hippietrail Mar 20 '12 at 21:06
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Hi Phil, welcome to Travel.SE. Unfortunately, this question isn't a really a fit for this Q&A site - may I suggest that you vote/commit to the Cultural Exchange proposal on Area51? –  Ankur Banerjee Mar 20 '12 at 21:40
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Related discussion: meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/694/… –  mindcorrosive Mar 26 '12 at 4:55

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I always thought it was to avoid breathing too much pollution or avoid catching diseases from other people.

In fact it's the other way around. My Japanese friend always wears one when she has a cold because she doesn't want to infect other people!

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I've read that some people thought that it was due to fear of radioactive fallout from Fukushima dai-ichi. Needless to say, they've been wearing masks long before 3/11. –  Andrew Grimm Mar 21 '12 at 11:04
    
Yes I remember them being very common the first time I was in Vietnam too back in 1999/2000. –  hippietrail Mar 21 '12 at 11:34
    
Related question on Skeptics Stack Exchange: skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/893/104 –  Andrew Grimm Oct 17 '12 at 10:23
    
And for those who hate links that don't say what they are before you click on them: Is there any real benefit in the everyday use of surgical masks to protect oneself from radiation? –  hippietrail Oct 17 '12 at 10:27

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