Japanese farmers use masks as ad

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d have noticed by now that wearing face masks has become the norm. In Japan, mask-wearing was already a cultural norm before COVID-19, and even more so now. 

Inspired by the ubiquitous sight of masks, rice farmers in Japan had a eureka moment – use masks as ad space to promote regional produce

Rice farmers turn COVID-19 protection into marketing tool

Japanese Farmers Use Masks As Ads - handmade masks with logos from Sado and Kita-UonumaHandmade masks from Sado, Niigata (left) and Kita-Uonuma, Niigata (right)
Image credit: @okimoshiomai

When the Japanese government announced school closures in April, this spelt bad news for local farmers – agricultural produce meant for school lunches now had nowhere to go. Farmers across the country were suddenly left with piles of unsold stocks. 

To combat the impact caused by COVID-19, local rice farmers have crafted original masks with their brand logo to raise brand awareness and promote sales of local produce. 

Japanese Farmers Use Masks As Ads - a selection of handmade masks from different regions A selection of handcrafted masks from different rice production areas in Japan 
Image credit: @jashinsunagawa

Local farmers passed handmade masks to another rice-producing region with the hashtag #産地バトンリレー, which can be loosely translated as “agriculture baton relay”. The region that receives it then selects the next destination, and continues the relay by passing along their own uniquely designed mask. 

Japanese Farmers Use Masks As Ads - rice farmers in Japan wearing their respective masksImage credit: @shimanto25maru.ja

Starting from Okinoshima in Shimane Prefecture, the social media campaign has made its way across the country, connecting to rice-producing areas as far as Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main island. 

What started out as a fun activity has gradually become a nationwide collaboration that strengthened relationships between regions. Hashtags like #コロナに負けるな, which translates to “don’t lose to the coronavirus”, have been added in hopes of lifting the spirits of farmers and netizens. 

Masks that promote regional produce

Japanese Farmers Use Masks As Ads - Kakikko chan's cotton maskImage credit: Kakikko-chan

Though not as eye-catching as the ad space masks that got attention on social media, there are also other locally made masks that incorporate the use of agricultural products. 

Kakikko-chan, a manufacturer in Tottori Prefecture, promotes Saijo persimmons that are grown in the local town of Yazu by using the fruit to dye their organic cotton masks. 

Innovative advertising spaces in Japan

Japanese Farmers Use Masks As Ads - Advertising stickers on thighs
Image credit: Naver Matome

It is not the first time boundaries of creativity have been pushed in advertising. In 2013, a PR firm in Tokyo paid young women to paste advertising stickers on their thighs for a day. 

Japanese Farmers Use Masks As Ads - Wakino Ad company sample adImage credit: Wakino Ad Company 

Advertising on skin stuck around and continued to be a trend in 2018, when Japanese ad company Wakino proposed an even better place to put the ad – on the armpits of young women. 

Japanese Farmers Use Masks As Ads - Wakino Ad company sample adImage credit: Wakino Ad Company 

Aspiring models got paid as they flashed their armpits to other commuters, while clinging on to overhead straps on public transport. 

Japanese farmers turn masks into ad space

COVID-19 has no doubt brought major disruption to our lives. With seemingly no end in sight for the raging pandemic, it can be difficult to put a positive spin on the current situation. But these Japanese farmers have shown us the commendable attitude of turning adversity into opportunities. Until the current pandemic blows over, let’s keep our spirits up and plow through. 

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Cover image adapted from: @okimoshiomai

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