If you go anywhere in a city here, you’ll ultimately walk by someone offering a pack of tissues with an ad or coupon inside. It’s a clever way to advertise, since tissues are pretty universal; you never know when you might need one. I always take tissues from people passing them out, because hey — free tissues, right? Not only that, you’ll occasiinally find a deal (the Book Off in Sakae often had people handing out tissue packs with coupons).
Since I’ve started working here, there have been times the company sends me out to distribute tissue packs with the company name and info on the package. If no one’s booked a lesson, I at least get paid a little bit for doing it, and it’s pretty easy work. It’s also given me a different perspective on it. For starters, you’d be surprised how many people won’t take free tissues. There’s no obligation to visit the business whose employee is handing them out, but a large number of people will simply nod politely or put up a no-thank-you hand and keep walking — if they acknowledge you at all.
Second, I find I have more luck with older people, who seem pleased to take what I have, perhaps recognizing that free tissues are a good thing. Finally, acceptance seems to breed acceptance: if two people take tissues, the next few people — regardless of age, gender, or status — are much more likely to take them. (I assume that’s part of the group-related mindset here, but I’m no sociologist.)
Regardless, if you’re in Japan and see someone handing out tissues, just take ’em. You never know when you’ll need them.