Japanese netizens need a little more reassurance than a cardboard mask.

The incumbent Osaka governor, Hirofumi Yoshida, has popped up on various occasions taking controversial stances and making bold assertions. Many Americans first took serious notice of him back in 2017, when he called for the annulment of Osaka’s sister-city relationship with San Francisco due to that city building a statue in tribute to Korean “comfort women”.

In that case the Asahi Shimbun itself, one of Japan’s oldest journalism institutions, called for him to reconsider his rash decisions to little avail. You see, Yoshida is somewhat known for his rash decisions, like the time he recommended gargling mouthwash as a preventative measure against COVID-19.

Gargling mouthwash doesn’t seem to have helped in terms of Osaka’s infection rates. At the time of writing, Osaka has hit a record number of new COVID-19 cases for multiple days running, with the most recent of those being 1,099 cases on April 13. But even before then, infection rates were noticeably high—which explains why many Japanese Twitter users were so agitated by Yoshida’s recent TV appearance on April 6.

“Today Osaka had a record number of [COVID-19] cases: 719 people.
Yoshida is on here waffling on about pushing for more people to use ‘eating masks’.”

The eating mask (tabere-mask, a pun on the word taberemasu meaning “to be able to eat”) in question is a cardboard cone structure, shown here printed with a cartoonish recreation of the lower half of Yoshida’s face. The idea is to cup one’s face in the cardboard cone while eating, creating a seal and—in theory—allowing one to eat without risking contagion.

“Governor Yoshimura is going all-in on ‘eating masks’, I guess. It’s beyond parody.”

The TV show pictures Yoshimura with his cardboard mask surrounded by slogans imploring people to “think up ways to reduce the need for lockdown” and that “people who are determined to eat out at all costs should meet with masks on”.

Yoshimura isn’t the only one coming up with initiatives that will allow cities to skirt COVID-19 lockdowns. Hyogo prefecture’s governor, Toshizo Ido, has caught similar heat for his support of “uchiwa fan dining” where everyone present is required to hold a hand fan and waft the air away as they talk.

“*crying in Kansai*”

The conversations online ranged from disappointment to fury to hysterical disbelief.

“Is this really the best they can do after a whole year? What sort of headspace do you have to be in to come up with this? Please explain.”
“This is depressingly stupid.”
“If people ‘are determined to eat out at all costs’ why don’t they just eat in silence?”
“I feel like I’m watching a comedian from Osaka.”

“I’m genuinely embarrassed as an Osaka resident.”

For what it’s worth, Hyogo rescinded the order to implement uchiwa fan dining from April 15. It emerged that experts were not sufficiently consulted about the plan, with one professor from Kobe University stating that “It is only an option if people are dining out without taking any counter-measures to limit the spread of the virus. The fans have a lower rate of effectiveness when compared with masks, and small droplets may still easily get through.”

With tracing-app fumbles and a slow vaccine roll-out, not to mention various other disappointments such as the dramatically curtailed Olympics, it’s no wonder why the residents of Japan are feeling frustrated at these insufficient suggestions from the people in charge—especially as the rate of infection shows no sign of slowing in Osaka.

Source: Twitter/@mogumi13 via Hachima Kikou
Featured image: Pakutaso

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