A common question: Do I need to wear a face mask if I'm sick in Japan or 'insert other Asian country.' It's a fair question, and the answer depends on where you are.
In Japan, you should absolutely wear a mask when sick. The culture in Japan is that you are respectful of the group, and put the groups needs before your own. This means its not only polite, but it's practical and hygienic to wear a mask if you're sick in Japan.
You're less likely to get others sick, and with this collective habit of being mindful of others, it's less likely that the population will get sick.
A great example is Tokyo - it's one of the most crowded cities in the world, yet the face mask etiquette prevents widespread transmission of diseases. Japanese people are some of the healthiest in the world.
Is It Impolite If I Don't Wear a Face Mask?
It definitely can be seen as impolite, though as a tourist, you'll get a pass on most things. The locals in Japan definitely don't expect you to know all the customs. From leaving your shoes at the door, to not walking and eating in public at the same time - you'll be forgiven for not knowing.
No one will stop you and ask you to put a mask on, but you might get some nice locals offering you a mask. Again, you'll get a pass on most things as a tourist. But you'll certainly attract attention if you're obviously sick and aren't wearing one - a sniffle here and there won't require a mask.
If you are sick however, it's definitely a good idea to buy a cheap mask from your local Family Mart or 7 Eleven convenience stores, just to be polite and show you care.
Where Can I Get a Face Mask in Japan?
In Japan, much like other places in Asia, convenience stores are around every corner and will stock a wide variety of things that are a day to day need. Masks, especially for Japan, are a regular thing you can buy.
The most popular convenience stores are Family Mart, Lawson and 7 Eleven. You'll find multi packs of face masks at these stores.
I hope you've got a better understanding on why the locals wear masks in Japan, and what to do when you're sick. It's actually a great practice to wear them! The Japanese have got it right 😎