Hood? No Good.

Figure 1

Apparently, hoods have a very negative connotation in Japan.

It was just a few weeks ago that I became aware of this, while walking to the mall with a Japanese friend. My ears started to get cold, so I put my hood on. Based on my friend’s reaction, you’d’ve thought I’d just put on a leather gimp mask.

“What are you doing??” she chirped, “Take that off!”

“Huh? Why?” I said.

“It looks suspicious!”

“Who cares? I’m freezing!” I said, leaving my hood on.

She’s short, but that didn’t stop her. She leapt up like she was shooting a free throw, and physically removed my hood. When I tried to put it back on, I got more of the same. She refused to be so much as seen with a hood-wearer.

We argued for a bit. “Are hats okay?”, I asked. She said yes. “Well, a hood is just a hat that’s attached to your jacket!” My iron-clad argument failed to win her over. Noticing she had a hood on her own jacket, I asked her what is was for. “Decoration” was her reply.

I assumed she was crazy, so I asked other Japanese friends about it, looking for backup. Much to my surprise, everyone sided with her. Even in the freezing cold dead of winter, wearing a hood is a suspicious act. None of the friends I surveyed wore the hoods attached to their jackets, no matter how cold it got.

Okay, I guess every culture has its own illogical social norms, but I find the hood taboo particularly contradictory, because it’s perfectly socially acceptable in Japan to wear a surgical mask that covers up the entire lower half of your face; people often wear them to avoid catching/transmitting colds.

Figure 2

Can you imagine walking into a bank in the U.S. wearing one of these? You’d be tackled by a security guard before you made it ten steps…

  • Dana

    I love your blog! And this is really funny. I live in Aomori, where it’s cold and windy and snowy for about 5 months of the year. I’ve seen plenty of Japanese people – grown, responsible adults – wearing hoods in public. This makes me want to do a survey though.

  • Lars Martinson

    Huh! Maybe hoods are taboo only in southern Japan, where it doesn’t get as cold. Or maybe all my friends are just weird.


  • i laughed.