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Japan firm turns to traditional silk fabric masks amid poor kimono sales due to virus

Colorful masks made with Oshima Tsumugi silk fabric are seen in this photo taken from the Instagram account of textile maker Kamimura Shoten.

KAGOSHIMA -- A textile maker in this southwestern Japan city is producing masks using traditional local silk fabric amid sluggish kimono sales due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Kamimura Shoten, based in the city of Kagoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture, has posted photos of its Oshima Tsumugi masks, each with a different pattern, every day since July 20 in a bid to make the charm of the fabric better known among younger generations.

    Oshima Tsumugi is a specialty of Amami Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture and is known for its light texture and gloss. Since April, sales events at department stores and other places have been all canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus, prompting the company to hit on the idea of producing masks that take advantage of the textile's comfortability.

    Oshima Tsumugi masks come in various patterns, from the traditional Tatsugo pattern designed after Japanese sago palm that grows on Amami, to the colorful "Shima Oshima" check pattern. The backs of the masks are lined with cotton and polyester blended fabric, allowing for repeated use if hand-washed.

    Koichiro Kamimura, left, and Kenichiro Kamimura of textile maker Kamimura Shoten show off masks using Oshima Tsumugi silk fabric in the city of Kagoshima on Sept. 4, 2020. (Mainichi/Junko Adachi)

    "We would like more and more people to feel the comfortableness of Oshima Tsumugi through our masks and take an interest in the textile," Kenichiro Kamimura, 54, director of the company, commented.

    By Sept. 6, the company had posted photos of masks with 98 different patterns on its Instagram account. Once it has posted pictures of 100 masks, the firm says it will release the masks onto the market, with prices ranging from 2,970 yen to 9,680 yen apiece (including tax).

    For inquiries, call Kamimura Shoten at 099-256-5678 (in Japanese).

    (Japanese original by Junko Adachi, Kagoshima Bureau)

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