The last time that we were sick was in July, right before Theo was hospitalized for his kidney infection. Being sick in Japan is a new experience and thankfully we didn't have to think about it until now.
Before I came to Japan, I had only ever used a face mask when helping to install insulation in our house, and otherwise didn't really think about them much. If anything, I was under the impression that people in Asia wore them in an attempt to keep from getting sick. I think that is a small part of it, but more importantly I have found is people wear them out of a social obligation to contain their germs and prevent sickness from spreading. It is interesting from an epidemiological standpoint, because you can much more readily identify the the sick people in your midst. Some weeks it seems that I run into tons of people wearing masks and sometimes I go a day or two without seeing anyone.
|Theo's favorite antihero|
For the most part, the western culture in which I was raised holds a very "every man for himself" view of sickness. This is evidenced by declining vaccination rates and how very few people do anything to limit your exposure to them or their children when they are sick. I still remember the heavy, malodorous, humid breaths of a congested classmate sitting in the row behind me during an exam in university. It was not surprising, after 3 hours of his coughing and mouth breathing bathing my neck in disease ridden moistness, that I woke up the next morning feeling awful. I am sure his attitude was: "I am the one suffering here. If your immune system can't handle this, it's your own fault."
|Even being sick can be kawaii|
Theo is much harder to convince. At first, I thought that they couldn't possibly expect 3 year olds to keep a mask on their face, but I have since seen quite a few kids his age wearing them without complaint. He has not gone to kindergarten this week so far, but other than his lingering cough, it seems as though he is well enough to go back tomorrow. With a mask on. I found him a set of cute shinkansen face masks to try to make it seem fun, but when I tried one out on him this morning he was not too impressed. It only lasted about 30 seconds before he ripped it off. I am not so he will keep it on tomorrow, but at least his teacher will know I tried. Hopefully he won't become the class baikinman!
|He ripped this off seconds after the picture was taken|