Japan Self-Defense Forces supplier’s mask is also surprisingly comfortable.

Though health experts continue to recommend wearing masks during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there are some people who feel an aversion to covering their face when they go out in public. For some of those not used to the practice, putting on a mask every time they step beyond the protected space of their own home feels like an act of unnecessary temerity, or even outright cowardice.

Setting aside the question of whether or not such sentiments are truly justified, let’s simply jump to a mask that’s very hard to accuse of being wimpy: this Japanese tactical mask.

This mask, officially called “Face Guard,” was produced by Tamura Tactical Gear Development, a company staffed largely by former Japan Self-Defense Forces and law enforcement personnel, which now designs and supplies equipment for those organizations.

▼ Tamura Tactical Gear Development’s website

Tamura Tactical offers civilian-sale items too, and our Japanese-language reporter Ayaka just so happens to have a Face Guard, which she picked up for 2,400 yen (US$22) a while back.

So why is it called a “guard?” Because Tamura Tactical markets it to paintball and airsoft enthusiasts, claiming that its padding is heavy enough to protect your cheeks from BBs. Because of that, the Face Guard is made of sturdier material than ordinary masks, and also wraps more widely around your face.

There’s a mesh lining on the inside, making for a two-layer construction, with a small opening you could place some sort of additional filter inside, if you felt so inclined.

Ayaka’s main impetus for buying the tactical mask was that it looks cool, and to be honest, she wasn’t expecting it to be the most comfortable thing to wear. Especially with the summer heat starting to arrive in Japan, she braced herself for a stuffy, sweaty ordeal after strapping it on, but her fears turned out to be totally unnecessary.

While the Face Guard is indeed thicker than other masks, that two-layer construction makes it surprisingly cool and comfy. Even though the mask fits nice and securely around your cheeks and jawline, it doesn’t constrict your lips, making it easy to talk and alleviating stuffiness. Really, her only complaint was that her extra-thick glasses frame sort of sits on top of the thick-material mask.

Tamura Tactical’s mask also feels good on your ears…or, more accurately, off your ears.

Instead of ear loops, you use two cords to put on the mask. One sits at the base of your neck, and the other goes over the top of your head.

Once you’ve slipped them into place, there’s an adjuster you can use to improve the fit, and if you’ve got long enough hair, you can rearrange it to cover up cords, if you so desire.

But what’s really convenient is the way you take Tamura Tactical’s mask off. Simply reach back with one hand, loosen the adjuster, and the mask gently drops off.

It’s even designed so that the mask naturally folds in half with the outside edges still facing out, so that the inside (i.e. the part that’s in contact with your mouth) stays clean.

This makes slipping your mask off temporarily, whether to drink some much-needed rehydrating fluids or eat lunch, quick and easy. With an ordinary mask, you’ll need to remove one ear strap, then the other (maybe taking your glasses off in the process), then fold the mask in half and figure out how you’re going to store it. Yes, it’s doable, but it’s a hassle and one more mark in the “I don’t want to wear a mask” column at a time when they’re still one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Unfortunately, the Face Guard is currently out of stock, but Tamura Tactical says it has a new version, dubbed the Gen. 2, in the works that should be going on sale soon.

Tamura Tactical Gear Development screenshot: Tamura Tactical Gear Development
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