According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (厚生労働省), there is currently a influenza (flu) outbreak in Japan. During the week starting 1/14, the number of flu patients per hospital was the second highest in recorded history, with an estimated increase of 500,000 patients from the prior week! The ministry is advocating usage of surgical masks, covering your mouth and nose with handkerchiefs and your sleeves when you cough or sneeze. Also, they advise to take precaution and get sufficient nutrients and rest, and to wash your hands frequently.

In Japan, it is common for people to wear masks when they get sick, so as not to spread germs and viruses around. People also wear the masks to prevent catching diseases, so don’t freak out if you get on a subway train full of mask-wearing commuters. Japanese masks are also the best. They are engineered so it fits the face perfectly, covering your nose and mouth, and you are still able to breathe. The filters can catch most viruses, bacteria, pollen, and even pollution particles like PM2.5. Above that, they are cheap. You can go to any drug store and get 50 individually wrapped masks for less than 1000 yen!