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3 moms invent name tag for kids designed to ward off suspicious strangers

The "hide and seek name tag" is shown here, with a child's name that can be seen clearly when close up. (Mainichi)

OKAZAKI, Aichi -- An opaque name tag that helps protect young children from suspicious strangers is steadily gaining attention across Japan.

    Known as the "hide and seek name tag" -- or "onamae kakurenbo" in Japanese -- the new invention was developed by three female workers at a factory here, who are also mothers with young children.

    Driven by the desire to "protect children from suspicious strangers," the three women devised the "hide and seek name tag" together. The product's main feature is that it makes childrens' names difficult to read from a distance, thereby preventing suspicious people from calling out the childrens' names. The three inventors are now considering widespread distribution to families and schools across the country, starting in fiscal 2017.

    The women behind the tag all work for Iida Jushi, K.K., -- an auto parts manufacturer in the Yahagi district of Okazaki -- and all three of them have children between preschool and elementary school age. They were first inspired to work on the invention in March 2016 -- after a female junior high school student, who had been abducted in Saitama Prefecture in 2014, reappeared after being held captive for two years.

    In the Saitama case, it is believed that the abductor called out the school girl's name after seeing it written on one of her belongings -- which subsequently triggered nationwide discussion about the use of visible name tags. Speaking on the subject, concerned mothers expressed comments such as, "I would like my child to remove the name tag on the way to school, but it's a hassle," and "without the name tags, children struggle to grasp the names of their friends."

    Although Iida Jushi specializes mainly in auto-related products, the company has been involved in the manufacture of resin nameplates for approximately 10 years, making use of the same processing machinery. The women therefore had a decent understanding of resin products, and once they realized that lettering could be made difficult to read, after whitening and frosting the resin, they worked on refining their invention.

    One of the three inventors, 38-year-old Mai Yamakawa, says, "If this product can help to reduce some of the anxiety felt by mothers, then I will be happy."

    The name tag comes in six different colors, and the product range includes floral and animal designs. One tag costs 500 yen, but the price works out at 300 yen each, if bought in bulk by a school. For further inquiries, call 0564-32-1747.

    The three inventors of the name tag are seen here, with Mai Yamakawa standing in the center. The names tags placed on their chests here are difficult to read from a distance. (Mainichi)

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