Paper masks are popular with Japanese and were recommended as a basic protective gear in the wake of 3-11. Foreign visitors usually mistake their purpose thanks to sensational TV programs about a supposedly higher pollution in Tokyo. Paper masks fill in fact multiple purposes, from allergy in-filter, flu virus out-filter, mouth humidifier, sexual harassment dissuasion, etc. Wearing a paper mask is among one of the last Japanese customs that foreigners adopt and I confess that I’m one of those who find it quite ridiculous to wear, especially for an expat. In fact, back in March, my family bought a pack and we did not use it. Another Japanese cultural idiosyncrasy that TV programs love to put on stage is the almost pathological fear of bacterial contamination, with some people wearing protective gloves and disinfectant spray bottles everywhere. Actually, I doubt most Japanese like shaking hands as westerners do. So it is highly surprising that a majority of Japanese seem unconcerned with radioactivity when they loath germs. This blog is not about cultural differences so I’ll make it short: wearing paper masks and latex gloves is not so ridiculous in my opinion anymore, especially if you live in the no man’s land and cannot leave (i.e. including Greater Tokyo, cf. Japan Livability Map September 2011 in SurvivalJapan), but also in the monitored land when radiation fall-out warnings are issued. Inhaling radioactive particles is a health hazard. Washing hands and even gargling / spitting when returning home is often seen at Japanese homes and I recommend it too, in order to avoid ingestion of contaminated dust. Hydrogen gas emission in Fukushima, radioiodine detection and yellow powdered-rain reports all point out to a new criticality in Fukushima without any reactor confinement and a lost corium this time so these basic protective measures are relevant (Cf. Fukushima in Recriticality and Typhoon Roke Aftermath In Fukushima in SurvivalJapan).

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