Japanese Women Embrace Muslim-Style Veils
August 7, 2025
TOKYO – The sight of Japanese citizens wearing surgical masks isn’t anything new, but many women in the cities have been seen covering their hair and faces in recent months. Japanese medical supplier and clothing chain Unicharm has been selling advanced and fashionable versions of the surgical masks to Japanese women for the last two years. Many say these are almost identical to niqabs, or veils, worn by women in Muslim nations.
“We are very optimistic about sales,” company spokesman Kiyoshi Hisakawa told the AP.
Masks gained popularity in order to prevent contracting illnesses in the densely populated Japanese cities.
“When you have so many people living in such a tight area, it is very easy for bacteria and viruses to move from person to person,” Dr. Jonathan Marks of the Mayo Clinic informed us.
The niqabs contain linings similar to those in surgical masks to prevent germs from spreading.
The surgical masks are also worn for reasons other than avoiding illnesses. Japanese women have been wearing surgical masks for years in order to leave for quick errands without having to go through the time consuming process of putting on makeup.
“It’s really nice to go outside and not have to worry about how I look,” veil wearer Kasumi Nakano told us.
Her friend Mitsuyo Wakahisa also wears the new veils.
“It is much more comfortable than the masks,” Wakahisa said.
The new veils provide a degree of flexibility to Japanese women, allowing them to breathe easier and move more freely. There is also no elastic or rubber pinching them from behind their ears.
The veils will also do a better job of helping women keep warm, which has also been cited as one of the reasons surgical masks became so popular.
“It really helps during the cold winters we get here in Japan,” Mitsuyo Wakahisa said.
Surgical masks have been available in a variety of fashions for men and women for well over a decade now, and the new Japanese niqabs will be available in a wide variety soon.
Unicharm, which has been making the mass marketed surgical masks since 2003, is test marketing the veils in Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong and Bangkok.
Surgical masks have been more popular among women than men, with estimates of three to four women wearing them for every man.
“The rising popularity of masks in Japan and other parts of Asia may confirm long-held views that women have an innate desire to cover themselves,” Berkley anthropologist Susan Kramer said.
The popularity of the surgical masks and veils among young Japanese women has lead some sociologists to speculate that within a generation or two the majority of women there will cover their faces. That would put Japan on par with Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan for the highest percentage of veiled women.
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