For three years, the people of Japan have adopted wearing masks as a means to protect and combat the spread of Covid-19, much like the rest of the world. However, this was without an official mask mandate put in place by the government—people here are just that more accustomed to using them when it comes to hygiene.
As reported by Kyodo News, the Japanese government has decided to re-categorize the legal status of Covid-19 (from May 8th) to a similar level to that of seasonal flu. Along with that, officials are telling citizens that they are safe to freely choose when to wear a mask but still recommend using them in certain situations, like large crowds and congested areas. This essentially applies to when riding public transport or attending events, and that people should use their own discretion at other times. Students will also no longer have to wear masks while in school and participating in school related activities. As always, if the individual feels they are at risk or suffer from underlying health conditions, they are more than welcome to continue using masks.
Announced by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday Feb 17th, these new mask guidelines will be implemented from March 13th. This government decision is meant to help the people of Japan better gauge when it is appropriate to wear a mask as well as reduce health restrictions for social and economic activities. Places like hospitals and cases where someone may have Covid-19, or have been exposed, are examples of when someone should continue wearing masks but the freedom to use them wherever else is still up to the individual.
With all this in mind, it sounds like Japan is just around the corner from operating as normal. For tourists, this may help you feel more welcome in the country or free to explore all it has to offer, with no limitations or setbacks. It does beg the questions though, if Japan never had a mask mandate in the first place, will its people continue to wear them as they do now?