Business / Corporate | FOCUS

Japanese firms rush to develop cooler masks as summer approaches

by Su Xincheng

Kyodo

Companies from many industries are rushing to develop masks that will help people stay dry and cool this summer while guarding against the coronavirus.

Demand for suitable summer masks is increasing around the world as medical experts warn that using them in hot and humid conditions might cause breathing difficulties and dehydration.

Even companies in industries that never produced masks before are coming up with solutions, testing ideas ranging from high-tech materials that will stay cool to masks that carry coolant packs.

Mizuno Corp. in late May started selling masks made with a soft stretch tricot material normally used in its swimsuits and track and field apparel.

Using tricot allows the mask to be repeatedly washed and to fit with less stress, the sportswear maker said.

The product, which costs ¥935 ($8.50) including tax, got off to a strong start, logging sales of 20,000 units on its first day online.

Yonex Co., a maker of badminton, tennis and other gear, will sell masks made with Very Cool, a material containing xylitol, starting in July.

Xylitol, which absorbs heat and responds to sweat, is used in the apparel Yonex makes for the Japanese national badminton team and professional tennis players.

“As people spend more time wearing masks against the coronavirus, we hope our technology will enable users to keep cool during hot weather, even if only a little bit,” a Yonex spokeswoman said.

The company plans to sell the quick-drying, antimicrobial xylitol mask, which comes with an adjustable string, for ¥840 before tax.

Fast Retailing Co., operator of the Uniqlo chain, plans to start selling masks featuring a highly breathable and fast-drying material used in its popular AIRism underwear.

A Fast Retailing spokeswoman said the price and sales date for the mask have not been determined.

Chairman and CEO Tadashi Yanai earlier denied the company had plans to enter the mask market and said it would continue to focus on clothing.

The mad dash to make masks began after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency over the pneumonia-causing virus on May 25 after imposing it in early April.

While economic and social activities have gradually resumed, the government is calling on people to continue wearing masks to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

The request has raised health concerns partly because heat-related maladies have been on the rise in recent years.

The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine has called on people to drink water at regular intervals and remove their masks as appropriate because wearing them could increase both heart and breathing rates.

Knit Waizu, a knitwear maker based in Yamanobe, Yamagata Prefecture, is selling cloth masks equipped with ice packs.

The mask has two pockets to hold four refrigerant packs and can cool the wearer for one to two hours.

The company earlier this year sold cloth masks that were cooled and sold in vending machines, but they didn’t stay cool for long. so Knit Waizu launched a redesigned version.

“It’s a mask that has never been seen before,” said Knit Waizu executive Katsuyuki Goto. “Although it’s not perfect, I hope people will use it as a measure against the heat.”

The mask retails for ¥1,300 in vending machines and online and can be used repeatedly by putting it in the freezer.

Your news needs your support

Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.

Coronavirus banner