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'So real they're scary': Tokyo store's toothy grin 'smile masks' draw mixed response

Employees at the Takeya discount store are seen lined up with their smile masks on, in Taito Ward, Tokyo, on Sept. 4, 2020. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

TOKYO -- With no sign of an end to the coronavirus pandemic, and the regular wearing of masks now commonplace, a store in Tokyo has been gaining attention for the smiley masks its employees have taken to wearing.

    At general discount store Takeya, in the capital's Taito Ward, one employee reportedly came up with the masks under the thinking, "We don't know where the world is headed, or what expressions people are making under their masks, so let's find a way even when wearing them to get our smiles to our customers."

    Employees at the Takeya discount store are seen wearing their smile masks, in Taito Ward, Tokyo, on Sept. 4, 2020. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

    Following a period of trial and error, in which employees tried drawing the smiles on with felt pens, they eventually landed on the final "smile mask" design, which has a smiling mouth printed on it.

    There are two types, one for men and one for women, and both feature particularly impressive smiles modeled by two company employees. From Aug. 10, the shop's around 400 employees in departments including retail, administration and deliveries have been working while sporting the smile masks.

    The response from customers has been varied. Some said they were "shocked," or that they were "so real they're scary," while others said they were "nice smiles" and that they "suit the employees." Some members of staff have been asked to pose for photos with customers.

    Misuzu Kudo of the store's make-up goods section, who was involved in proposing the idea, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Because they make our customers laugh, we too can work while actually smiling under our masks."

    An employee at the Takeya discount store is seen working while wearing a smile mask, in Taito Ward, Tokyo, on Sept. 4, 2020. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

    The smile masks initiative is set to continue until the end of October. Thanks to the response it has had, and the expressions of interest they've received, the company is now taking orders for the masks when they go on sale; a development the store had not originally envisaged.

    (Japanese original by Naoaki Hasegawa, Photo Group)

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