by Jes Stayton, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad Participant
The flu (infuruenza in Japanese, from the English “influenza”) hits Japan hard every year, and the Japanese take it seriously. Many workers and students wear face masks, and the progress of the disease is tracked on the news. Huge bottles of hand sanitizer are placed outside public buildings for customers, students, and other people to use when they enter and exit.
At school, if too many students in one class are sick with the flu, class is canceled. (But only for that class. The other classes still go to school.) This year, many schools were closed for a few days or a week due to the flu. My previous host sister and brother both had no school for a week. I was lucky. There was a time when ten people from my class were sick at one time (the limit at my school is 6 people), but it was during winter vacation.
Most people wash their hands and gargle when they get home year round, but during flu season, they take especial care to do it thoroughly. There are also people who use a face mask year round, but most people only wear them during the flu season, and when they are sick. (This is to protect other people from catching the disease.) I wore a face mask during the flu season. It annoyed me at first, but I soon got used to it. (I especially enjoyed the fact that I could eat candy during class without the teacher knowing. ) My previous host father is a doctor, so everyone was very careful about not catching the flu. We wore masks every time we went into a convenience store or other public place, and always washed our hands with hand sanitizer afterward. I had to wear a mask everyday to school.