Japan has a habit of wearing face masks. The white, surgical ones that cover nose and mouth, hiding identity. People wear them for various reasons, to avoid catching a cold or alternatively to avoid spreading one are the usual explanations. Recently a survey also showed that many young women wear them to prevent people from hitting on them in trains and around town. Whatever the reason, people wear the masks through winter, and through spring, and then summer and though autumn and back to winter again.
But one day, twenty years ago today, everyone had removed their masks by the end of work. Twenty years ago a group of deluded fanatics released gas on the Tokyo subway. I'm not going to go over the story again, it's well covered and I'm not going to give them the space here, but it changed the way people acted for quite some time. The perpetrators wore masks. White, surgical masks. And by evening the pictures had gone around the globe. So people took their masks off and went home barefaced.
The world didn't come to an end. We could see each other's faces. Flu didn't sweep the country any more than countries where people don't wear them. This mindless act of barbarism somehow actually returned a little liberty to the country for a while. And so if you can, take your mask off and smile at a passerby who is not wearing their's. Look up and give a thought to those whose lives were changed forever that day. But maybe the best way to remember them would be to take the mask off. Maybe just one day a year.
And here's a picture of the sakura to come in the next few weeks. Because life can be better than that day.