Who was that Masked Flu Avenger?

IMG_6728Looking back now, I can laugh.

The first week of February was rough. My wife had to work both weekend days, at the end of an already exhausting end-of-semester work week.

I had also had little sleep. The previous month, my youngest daughter had come down with the mumps, then my oldest daughter and I both got it, too (neatly sandwiching Christmas and New Year’s).

That weekend was going well. Until Sunday around noon. It started with a brief chilling feeling. My kids complained the temperature of the living room was too high. To me it was like a walk-in freezer.

Twas the season. For flu.

Three days later, my oldest daughter got it. My wife called me (sick as a dog at home) and said I had to go to the elementary school to pick up my daughter. I was sick, I pointed out. The school would not let me even on the grounds, let alone in the building.

She reluctantly agreed to go home early. Good thing, too. Not ten minutes after sitting down on the couch, sick daughter in bed, than my wife also started feeling chilly.

And we had to pick up our youngest daughter from nursery school two hours later.

Quick decision-making: I drove us all to a health clinic, got them both the same tami-flu-like inhaler type of medicine, and then got us home. Just in time for me to trot down to the nursery school and wait outside the gate for a teacher to bring my daughter.


Oni! No, wait…

I had to wear a mask. I hate these things. When I came to Japan, hardly anybody was wearing them. But from around the year 2002-3, the mask-making industry somehow managed to convince everybody that if they wore a mask, they could prevent themselves from getting sick. And from spreading their colds to others. And even that masks can be cute and make them more attractive (not kidding! there are “designer masks” now aimed at those who *aren’t sick* at all, but for fashion…).

So now masks are ubiquitous. And despite having virtually no medical benefits whatsoever, masks have come to be expected if you have even the slightest sniffle. Frankly, I think you’d fare better by simply covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze…a social manner most Japanese *do not seem to know how to do*.

I still think masks make you look like a construction worker installing home insulation or ripping out asbestos from an old school building. Some of the more expensive ones may have some preventative effects against strong pollen, yellow sand, or 2.5 PM (particulate matter) streaming in from the Asian mainland. But they make you look like the Invisible Man or some sort of Grant Morrison comic book villain. After half an hour, they also smell like sweat, saliva, and snot. The three dreaded “Esses.” Yech.


Here’s the real oni!

So, anyway, there I was at the end of January, recovering from influenza, taking care of two people with influenza, trying to make sure my youngest daughter didn’t also come down with it, as well, by bringing her to and picking her up from nursery school every day without actually stepping foot inside the school gate. Plus my wife got so sick (probably at least partly a result of overworking the previous week/weekend) that she wound up entirely bed-ridden for a day and a half and had to go to the hospital again for an IV due to dehydration.

All in all, not a fun week. But at least my youngest daughter stayed healthy and happy. Strong kid.

She demanded a mask, too. Luckily it was time to drive away the oni (February 3rd, Setsubun no hi).



(Postscript: Just over a week after we all recovered, I had to go overseas for a three-week business trip. Yi-yi-yi. I am not going to hear the end of this for quite some time…)


About MThomas

Long ago, I gave up my high school dreams of becoming the next Carl Sagan and instead wound up working (in order) at McDonald's, a '60s-themed restaurant, a video rental store, a used bookstore, a computer seller, Kinko's, a Jewish newspaper company, and an HR firm. I eventually became a teacher of intercultural communication in Kyoto, where I vainly attempt to apply quantum mechanics to language teaching, practice martial arts and Zen Buddhism, and always keep one eye on the sky. And yes, I know my profile photo's backward. I just think it looks better this way.
This entry was posted in festivals, health care, Japan, Japanese, Japanese culture, Japanese society, parenting, school, sickness and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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