“Queen Esther” by Edwin Long
In any public place here you see people wearing surgical-style face masks. Airborne contagion seems to be the concern. The masks cover everything from the bridge of the nose down to the underside of the chin. You could hold a liquor store up in one. They’re worn by commuters in black suits, young mothers, workers, scruffy guys on the subway, old people, little kids, girls in high school uniforms.
Here’s where I might be tempted to go all Sans Soleil and talk about the relation between germophobia and mutual isolation, or between faddish conformity and a longing for self-concealment, relating either in turn to island living or World War Two or something while referencing Kobo Abe, etc. But I don’t feel like I’m in a position to interpret a national culture on the basis of a handful of secondhand ideas and a single current trend. So I’ll just say from my personal perspective that on the high-school girls it looks sort of hot.
The connecting flight from Tokyo was fifteen minutes late, so to apologize all twenty-or-so members of the ground crew assembled on the tarmac in a triangular formation as the plane taxied in and bowed deeply in unison.