In pre-pandemic Japan, mask-wearing was a way of life. If you got sick, the polite thing to do was wear a mask to avoid wearing infecting others. If you were suffering from seasonal allergies, you would don a mask to help protect yourself. Mask wearing was not uncommon. Even before covid, it was normal and accepted, which is why the anti-mask protests in Tokyo are even more startling.
During the novel coronavirus pandemic, a very small group of protesters have been saying masks are “not necessary” and that covid-19 is “just a cold.”
Protesters have been holding small “cluster festivals” outside busy train stations in Tokyo. As these “cluster festivals”, groups of non-making-wearing participants listen to music and speeches against mask-wearing. There were even plans for non-mask-wearing protesters to ride the crowded Yamanote train line.
Mainstream Japanese news outlets covered have covered these events, while “no mask” (ノーマスク) and “cluster fest” (クラスターフェス) started trending on Twitter in Japan.
The “covid is just a cold” movement is led by YouTuber Hiratsuka Masayuki, who ran for the Governor of Tokyo under the fringe Popular Sovereignty Party and the slogan “Corona is just a cold.” Masayuki received only .15 percent of the vote, and the majority of people in Japan seem to be complying with mask-wearing and social distancing.
This isn’t only in Tokyo as there seems there is also a “no mask silent walk” in Nagoya later this week.
As of today, there were 206 reported covid-19 cases in Tokyo, which had come down from several 400-plus days earlier this month. This week is the Obon holidays, so that might explain the lower numbers. Granted, these covid-19 figures are much lower than hotspots abroad.
But if the numbers are low in Japan, why wouldn’t people want to help keep them that way? And for those in places where the numbers are high, why wouldn’t everyone want to do everything possible to change that?