Beneath the shower, Yuri (a pseudonym) suddenly realized her wet mask was sticking to her face, making it hard to breathe. At a lodging facility during a camping trip, she had entered the shower without remembering to take it off. Her friends she was with in the bathing area hadn’t seemed to take issue with her keeping it on.

“I felt that it had already become a part of me. I am more embarrassed when people see my face than when they see my body,” she said. Yuri is 13, and is in her first year at a junior high school in the northern part of Okinawa's main island. She declined to give her real name.

It was when Yuri was nearly finishing her fourth grade at elementary school that the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep Okinawa Prefecture. Since then, wearing a mask at all times has become a fact of school life. She recognizes many of her classmates only by their eyes, and even toward the end of her first year of junior high school she still finds it hard to distinguish everyone.