With Tokyo’s infection numbers spiking, wearing a mask is important, but this was the wrong mask to wear.

Unlike in some other countries, in Japan wearing masks hasn’t been such a deeply divisive debate during the pandemic. Wearing a mask in Japan is already a common practice during cold and flu season to protect yourself and others from getting sick, and many people also mask up through the spring to help cope with hay fever as Japan’s highly allergenic cedar pollen permeates the air.

So as Japanese politician Shigeru Ishiba arrived for the wake of recently assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Monday, he realized it would be poor form to show up without a mask on, especially with extensive media coverage of the event. After stepping out of his car, he motioned for an aide to give him a mask to put on, which the aide did, but as this video shows, he wasn’t exactly complying with the full spirit of masking protocols.

After Ishiba gestured with an outstretched hand, the aid peeled off his own mask and handed it to the 65-year-old politician. There’s no audio of what Ishiba said, but giving someone else the mask you’re currently wearing doesn’t seem like something anyone would decide to do on their own. Ishiba doesn’t appear at all surprised or hesitant either when he’s handed the mask, making it hard to come to any conclusion other than that he specifically asked the aide to give him his mask.

Obviously, this creates two problems. First, it left the aide without a mask, and with some 2,500 attendees coming to the wake at Zojoji Temple, plus associated security and media staff, the crowd was definitely big enough to warrant masks. Secondly, wearing someone else’s mask isn’t at all hygienic for the second wearer, and with Tokyo currently experiencing a spike in coronavirus infection numbers, Japanese Twitter commenters were shocked at the gross (in both the “massive” and “disgusting” senses of the word) lack of common sense.

“That’s beyond nasty.”
“Absolutely unbelievable.”
“I saw this live on TV…everyone in the room with me was like ‘Whaaaaat?’”
“That’s a seriously dirty way to try to protect yourself from infection.”
“He’s just ready to put someone else’s mask on, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.”
“Maybe he’s…into that sort of thing?”

Following the reaction, Ishiba (who last held office as Minister for Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in 2016) issued a statement of apology through his campaign office.

“In regards to my borrowing someone else’s mask, I was feeling very distressed over the sudden death of Prime Minister Abe and was not in a proper state of mind. I had forgotten my mask within my car, and as we were already a distance away from the vehicle, I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to use my aide’s. This was inappropriate in terms of both hygiene and coronavirus protection, and I regret my actions. In the future, I will make efforts so that this never happens again.”

As far as apologies by politicians go, it’s a pretty direct mea culpa, and hopefully Ishiba’s willingness to take the L will translate to him being less ready to take someone else’s mask.

Sources: J-Cast News, Twitter (1, 2)
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!