National

As mask supplies dwindle, Japanese bra maker offers support where it's most needed

by Ryusei Takahashi

Staff Writer

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, one company is taking a unique approach to easing the shortage of masks in Japan.

Atsumi Fashion Co., a sewing company based in Toyama Prefecture, is producing masks by repurposing women’s underwear. The company began utilizing the cloth lining from bras after an employee realized similar materials were being used in disposable masks.

“We hope we can contribute to society as the mask shortage continues,” said Hiroshi Hinata, the company’s sales manager. “Even these masks can prevent the virus from spreading to others through coughing or sneezing.”

Employees are making masks after working hours at the company’s factory in Himi. They tried to devise new methods after the city called on local businesses to help provide masks for workers at City Hall, which only had 600 left.

Atsumi Fashion plans to make 1,000 masks for the city and distribute them to medical and educational institutions, prioritizing those in greatest need.

Other firms have also shifted resources toward mask-making.

In February, Sharp Corp. announced it would be making 1,500 masks a day by the middle of this month. Earlier, a chipmaker in Kanagawa Prefecture began using its “clean rooms” to make masks.

But while companies throughout the country are repurposing facilities in response to the nationwide mask shortage, some have been cashing in on the crisis.

Earlier this month, a member of the Shizuoka Prefectural Assembly apologized for selling thousands of masks for profit online.

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