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Osaka Governor Proposes “Eating Masks” As A COVID-19 Dining Measure So That You Can Itadaki-Mask Safely

Osaka governor advocates for “eating masks”

In a bid to curtail the pandemic in Japan, the Osaka governor has recommended using “eating masks” when dining outside as a way to prevent COVID-19 transmission. These handheld masks are meant to be placed over the mouth when one is speaking during meals. However, netizens remain doubtful of their effectiveness.

Eating masks to cover one’s mouth during meals

osaka governor eating masks - governor on CASTOsaka governor demonstrating the use of the eating mask
Image credit: @nipponkairagi

On 6th April 2021, Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura appeared on CAST (キャスト), a TV programme under Asahi Television Broadcasting Corporation. During the show, he advocated for more people to use “食べれマスク” (taberemasuku; eating masks) while dining outside, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

These eating masks are triangular cardboard masks that are handheld. When dining out, you’re supposed to hold the mask over your mouth when you’re speaking during meals. Doing so will theoretically minimise droplets transfer – the main mode of transmission for COVID-19.

Eating masks implemented in some restaurants

osaka governor eating masks - masks in restaurants(From left) Eating masks used in Abeno Dining Buzz and Teppan Olive.
Image adapted from: @abenobuzz and @teppan.olive

Over the next few days, several restaurants in Osaka, such as Abeno Dining BUZZ and Teppan Olive, adopted the use of such eating masks.

osaka governor eating masks - mask designsImage credit: @abenobuzz

The eating masks feature creative designs, ranging from a pig mouth to a frankly admirable moustache.

osaka governor eating masks - customers and staff with masksImage adapted from: @tayutayu_ohatsutenjin and @musasiza

While the effectiveness of the eating masks remains questionable, they certainly make for good photoshoot props.

Netizens’ reactions amidst Osaka’s worsening COVID-19 situation

Although eating masks continue to be rolled out across Osaka’s restaurants over the few weeks, netizens remain cynical about the strategy. 

osaka governor eating masks - tweet reactionImage adapted from: @nipponkairagi

A Twitter user remarked, “Governor Yoshimura recommends eating masks. Speechless.”

osaka governor eating masks - sceptical tweet reactionImage adapted from: @jun_wishful

Another Twitter user commented, “Does this have any scientific backing? I forgot who, but an expert mentioned that droplets can remain in the air for 8 minutes, so this seems iffy.”

The scepticism over the eating masks isn’t without basis. Despite the implementation of the eating masks, Osaka’s COVID-19 situation has been worsening.

osaka governor eating masks - osaka covid-19 casesImage adapted from: Osaka COVID-19 Task Force

According to official statistics released by the Osaka Prefectural Government, Osaka recorded 1,220 COVID-19 cases on 18th April 2021. The number of cases recorded daily since 13th April 2021 have averaged over 1,000.

Osaka governor suggests “eating masks”

No matter how useful the eating masks really are, we hope that Japan can flatten the curve soon, and that its citizens will remain safe during these trying times.

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Cover image adapted from: @nipponkairagi and @abenobuzz