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12-yr-old Japanese inventor's latest patented item keeps your masks clean while dining

The Terippa magnet clip for masks is seen in use at Sagamihara City Hall in Kanagawa Prefecture on Feb. 7, 2022. The mask is folded with the side touching the face inside and Terippa clips it onto a bag. (Mainichi/Daisuke Makino)

SAGAMIHARA, Kanagawa -- Have you ever had trouble figuring out where to put your mask when you're out and about ready to take a bite into your food? A 12-year-old Japanese girl, who already had four patents under her belt, has just invented a solution for you: a magnet clip that can be attached to clothes or bags to hold onto a mask.

    Behind the invention amid the COVID-19 pandemic, where masks have become a part of most people's everyday lives, is 12-year-old Momoka Kadena, a sixth grader at Sagamihara Municipal Sakuradai Elementary School in Kanagawa Prefecture southwest of Tokyo. She has recently donated 1,000 units of her latest invention, which incidentally became her fifth patented product, to Sagamihara City Hall.

    Kadena was inspired to create the "Terippa" magnet mask holder around spring of 2020 when she saw a news report that it wasn't hygienic to put a mask in use in a pocket or place it on a table. She had also found herself at a loss during school lunch what to do with her mask. Though there were mask cases available, she found having to carry them around all the time a nuisance, so she tasked herself to come up with an easier way to secure masks while eating.

    Momoka Kadena shows how to use her invention Terippa at Sagamihara City Hall in Kanagawa Prefecture, on Feb. 7, 2022. (Mainichi/Daisuke Makino)

    After about a month of trial and error, Kadena landed on the idea of creating a small holder that clips on to clothes or bags using a magnet. By folding the mask in half, with the side that touches the face inside, the clip also helps prevent the spread of viruses. It's made of plastic and easy to use with just one hand. The product name Terippa comes from slippers, for the clip is used by slipping two finger tips inside the band part.

    Kadena applied for a patent in November 2020, and her invention, consisting of "a magnet clip and mask set as well as the usage of the magnet clip," became a registered patent in June 2021.

    When it came to making her invention into a product, Kadena's 74-year-old grandfather Chitoshi, who runs an exterior construction company, lent a helping hand. They asked a Tokyo firm which deals with synthetic resin to manufacture the product, and her invention finally took shape at the end of 2021. Terippas are made of scrap material from card cases and other items. The Sagamihara Municipal Government has expressed its intention to use the donated Terippas at locations including children's soup kitchens.

    Momoka Kadena shows off her inventions in Sagamihara's Minami Ward in Kanagawa Prefecture, on Feb. 9, 2022. (Mainichi/Daisuke Makino)

    Kadena says she's always liked making and building things ever since she was in preschool. It was when she was a third grader she started in earnest working on her inventions after seeing her grandmother Sayoko, 72, put away the laundry. She noticed that hangers would get tangled up, and thought, "Is there a way to solve that?" Taking a cue from her science class where she had just learned about magnets, she invented non-tangle hangers using magnets, for which she acquired her first patent in March 2020.

    "I make sure I write down whenever I find something inconvenient in our daily lives," Kadena told the Mainichi Shimbun. She has also created other items that make life a little easier, including a sealed plastic bag which prevents powdered foods from getting into the zipper and hindering the bag to be sealed.

    "I'm happy to see my inventions take shape and that people are using them. In the future, I want to have a job that would allow me to help other people, even if only slightly," she said, with beaming eyes.

    (Japanese original by Daisuke Makino, Yokohama Bureau)

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