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Homemade masks, not 'Abenomasks,' seen on faces of Japan Cabinet members

Defense Minister Taro Kono is seen sporting a homemade mask during a House of Councillors Budget Committee session in Tokyo on April 30, 2020. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura is seen donning a homemade mask during a press conference in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on April 22, 2020. (Mainichi/Yuki Miyatake)
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is seen wearing glasses and a mask at the same time, in this screenshot from a video of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press conference.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seen with a cloth mask during a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting in Tokyo, on April 28, 2020. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Handmade masks worn by Cabinet members are attracting attention amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, while some have pointed out that during Diet meetings and other such occasions, only Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wears a small mask like the ones being distributed by his government to households across Japan.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono wore a camouflage mask -- viewed by some as an image of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces -- to an April 1 press conference.

"As we wear masks all the time, some people make them a part of their fashion, while others just put on plain white ones. It depends on the person," he said.

On April 30, Kono appeared with a mask he said was made from traditional Japanese washcloths by an individual with connections to the Air Self-Defense Force. It showed an image of Mount Fuji and a rising sun. Some people praised the mask as cool online, while others were critical of his intentions.

Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura has often worn a plain blue mask. Online users have said the mask is fashionable and matches his suit. It seems that Cabinet members are also wearing homemade masks to avoid public criticism that they have special access to off-the-shelf masks, amid the shortage of the products.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was once committed to wearing glasses -- which he usually doesn't wear -- alongside a mask and had been explaining to people around him that it looked out of balance if he didn't wear both items at the same time.

Meanwhile, the prime minister continues to wear a cloth mask that is too small to even cover his chin. It seems to be the same item as the cloth masks being distributed in pairs to each household in Japan -- dubbed online and elsewhere as "Abenomasks," or "Abe's masks." Dissatisfaction has erupted over the small size of the masks, among other problems, and Cabinet ministers have apparently been reluctant to follow Abe's move and wear them.

"No one but him is wearing the masks -- as if they're only for Abe," one comment posted online read. Another person commented, "I don't see other Cabinet members wearing them and it's concerning." Yet another online user pointed out, "It's a mask that even Abe's followers don't use."

A former Cabinet member belonging to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Homemade masks are trending among members of the Cabinet, and I assume they're wearing them not only to prevent a backlash from voters, but also to avoid using Abenomasks, which are unpopular among the public."

(Japanese original by Yusuke Tanabe and Naoki Sugi, Political News Department)

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