Life in Japan With Covid-19: Government-issued Masks (Abe no Mask)

The day has finally arrived! After first hearing about this in Spring, it only took until June for my wife and I to receive our masks from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe! Well, not from him directly, but from a government initiative to provide each household in Japan with two reusable masks to assist with keeping our germy mouths in check. How do they stack up? Let’s find out!

The Controversy: A Brief Primer

So, the mask initiative, while started with the best of intentions (hopefully), turned out to be a colossal failure. Introduced back near the height of pandemic freak-outs in April, the Japanese government rolled out… tiny masks that have been scientifically proven to be ineffective and, at the end of April, actually ceased distribution due to the harsh criticism levied at the government for this program. The masks that were sent out saw many setbacks: Claims of moldy, stained, and generally unsanitary sealed masks started to pour in from the Tokyo area, the only area to receive those initial masks (due to it being the epicenter for Japan at the time). The whole boondoggle was mocked by political enemies and netizens alike. It was a pretty embarrassing snafu all around.

Fast-forward to June and quietly, without fanfare or warning, what should appear in our mailbox but a fabled pair of the masks. Entering into our lives like tiny cloth ninjas, their intent was to protect us, but how are they, really?

Abe no Mask Review: Did They Abe Know How to Make a Mask?

Mask Tips - Two Second Street -

First, you’ll see it arrived in a clear plastic bag, sealed at the top flap like all plastic bags of this nature in Japan. Inside is a helpful information card with several safety tips on how to fight back and lower your risk of getting Covid-19.

Also inside are the two masks, sealed again in two more plastic bags to keep them as untainted as possible during their transit to our humble homestead.

The masks came with a set of helpful instructions on social distances, the Three Cs, and hand washing.

The masks themselves were wrapped up tightly, and once we got them open the masks were… a bit underwhelming. They’re difficult to breathe through and they don’t offer adequate coverage of the face. They’re too narrow on the sides, causing them to pucker outward a big amount, and they don’t cover the chin and nose in a comfortable way.

Wearing the Abe no Mask - Two Second Street -
“What is happening right now?”

All in all, a D for effort and an F for execution. Not one of Abe’s greatest initiatives, but we can only hope his heart was in the right place when he approved it.


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