• Reuters

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A year into the coronavirus epidemic, a Japanese retailer has come up with a new take on the theme of facial camouflage — a hyper-realistic mask that models a stranger’s features in three dimensions.

Shuhei Okawara’s masks won’t protect you or others against the virus. But they will lend you the exact appearance of an unidentified Japanese adult whose features have been printed onto them.

“Mask shops in Venice probably do not buy or sell faces. But that is something that’s likely to happen in fantasy stories,” Okawara said.

“I thought it would be fun to actually do that.”

The masks will go on sale early next year for ¥98,000 ($950) apiece at his Tokyo shop, Kamenya Omote, whose products are popular as accessories for parties and theatrical performance.

Okawara pays models ¥40,000 for the right to use their faces. He chose his first from more than 100 applicants who sent him their photos when he launched the project in October. An artisan then reworked the winning image, created on a 3D printer.

Initial inquiries suggest demand for the masks will be strong, Okawara said.

“As is often the case with the customers of my shop, there are not so many people who buy (face masks) for specific purposes. Most see them as art pieces,” Okawara said.

He plans to gradually add new faces, including some from overseas, to the lineup.

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