Yamagata – Reusable cloth masks that are cooled and sold in vending machines are proving popular amid growing fears that wearing masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the summer could cause breathing difficulties.
The masks are stored at 4 degrees Celsius, the lowest temperature setting in two vending machines in Yamagata Prefecture, and around 400 are sold daily for ¥690 a piece, even though they do not stay cool for long.
Knitwear manufacturer Knit Waizu, which is based in the town of Yamanobe in the prefecture, produces the masks as it wanted to create something that would "make people smile during these dark times."
The company started producing them in mid-March following a serious shortage of masks amid the spread of the virus in Japan.
As a number of regions in Japan, such as Yamanashi and Gunma prefectures, on Monday saw temperatures rise above 30 C, the highest of the year so far, concerns are growing over the use of masks in hot weather.
Wearing face masks in hot weather makes it difficult for cool air to reach the lungs, stressing the respiratory muscles and resulting in shortness of breath. It also allows heat to build up inside the body, according to medical experts.
"We're having a difficult time because we are barely making any profits from our main (knitwear) business," said Katsuyuki Goto, a 52-year-old executive at Knit Waizu. "(The masks) were also created to raise my spirits."
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