Although it may seem a little old-fashioned in parts of the western world to carry around a handkerchief, in Japan, handkerchiefs are essential in everyone’s pocket or bag. The handkerchief, “hankachi” in Japanese, dates back as early as the 9th century in Japan. In the 19th and 20th centuries, western-style cotton and silks became popular as a symbol of wealth and luxury amongst the Japanese elite. Today, they are still more prevalent in Japan than anywhere else. Japanese people don’t feel complete without having one or two hankies in their possession at all times.
One of the biggest reasons why these are so popular in Japan is that most public restrooms don’t have paper towels or toilet paper. Handkerchiefs are used in place of paper towels to dry your hands. Almost all Japanese people will always have several handkerchiefs on them along with small packs of folded tissue paper for blowing your nose or using public toilets. Using your handkerchief to blow your nose is considered unsanitary in Japan, unlike what you might have seen your grandfather do in the United States.
Another big reason to carry a handkerchief in Japan is to wipe the sweat off your face and neck during the humid summertime. Japan traditionally has a subtropical climate in the summer with an average temperature of around 85˚F. Japanese people also believe sweat is good for you and usually don’t have air conditioning in a lot of places, especially in their homes. It’s very customary to see people dabbing their faces with handkerchiefs throughout the day and not use tissue, unlike the United States where we have a culture of pervasive disposal.
Carrying a handkerchief around in Japan is instilled in people at a very early age. In all elementary schools, kids are required to have at least one with them. They even do weekly checks to ensure everyone has their own handkerchiefs. They also have to use them to cover their nose and mouths during fire drills, etc. When the carrying of handkerchiefs is mandatory for all of your school years, it becomes as routine and natural as choosing your clothes to wear for the day and even matching your handkerchief to your outfits. That, too, is why handkerchiefs will never go out of style in Japan.
Why not give one a try today?