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  • Writer's pictureJason Khoh

March 13, 2023: Japan Eases COVID Mask Rules, Leaving Decision to Individuals



As Japan eases its mask-wearing rules, it's interesting to note the cultural significance of face masks in the country. In Japan, face masks have been a common sight for decades, long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks are often worn to protect against pollution, allergies, and to prevent the spread of illness. In fact, the practice of wearing masks in public dates back to the early 20th century, when doctors and nurses started using them during surgery to prevent the spread of infection.


However, the use of masks in Japan extends beyond practical reasons. They are also a symbol of courtesy and consideration towards others. If someone has a cold or other contagious illness, they will often wear a mask to prevent others from catching it. In addition, masks are also worn to prevent the spread of germs during the hay fever season, which can be particularly severe in Japan.


The wearing of masks has also impacted the translation industry in Japan. As more people wear masks, it has become challenging for some translators and interpreters to accurately convey the nuances of facial expressions and emotions in their work. For example, a smile or frown can change the entire meaning of a sentence, but when the lower half of the face is obscured by a mask, it can be difficult to discern the speaker's intended emotion.


As a professional interpreter in Japan, I've encountered this challenge quote a few times. One experience I won't forget was when I was translating a video script for a Japanese company. The video featured an actor giving a heartfelt speech, but his face was completely covered by a mask. I had to rely on the tone of his voice and body language to convey his emotions accurately, which required even more careful attention and interpretation.


Despite the challenges, the translation industry in Japan has adapted to the new reality of mask-wearing. Translators and interpreters have developed new techniques and tools to help convey the intended emotion and meaning, such as using images or video to supplement text-based translations. For example, in video translations, subtitles may be accompanied by still images of the speaker's face to help convey the intended emotion.


As Japan moves towards a new normal with the easing of mask rules, it will be interesting to see how this impacts the cultural significance of masks and the translation industry in the country. While the use of masks may become less prevalent in certain situations, it's likely that they will continue to be a common sight in Japan for many years to come.


According to a report by Common Sense Advisory, the global market for language services and technology was valued at US$53.27 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach US$70.3 billion by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 6.27% from 2019 to 2023. This highlights the growing importance of high-quality translation and subtitling services for businesses and organisations looking to expand into international markets.


If you're a business looking to expand into the Japanese market or a Japanese company looking to expand your reach to English-speaking audiences, contact Mochiwa Mochiwa for high-quality translation and localisation services. Our expert team is here to help you bridge the language barrier and connect with audiences around the world.


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