In Japan, it's sometimes said that the eyes speak as much as the mouth.

Perhaps the proverbial phrase captures the essence of the nation’s affinity for face masks, a relationship that can be traced back centuries and a custom to which is attributed Japan’s lower number of deaths from COVID-19 compared with Western nations — in particular the United States, where wearing a mask has recently become a politically charged issue.

Masks are now omnipresent in Japan as a result of the pandemic, thanks in part to an inherent mask-wearing culture. Besides being sporadically worn during hay fever and influenza seasons, masks have expanded beyond their traditional role over the years and have even been adopted by the fashion and beauty industries.