One person’s trash mask is another’s treasure mask.

Abenomask the government face mask,
A mask that everybody knows,
And if you ever saw it,
You could even say it’s gross.

▼ It’s gross!

All of the other face masks, used to laugh and call it names,
They’d never let poor Abenomask,
Join in any emergency states.

Then one Christmas Eve Eve Eve,
Kishida came to say;
“Abenomask with your cost a blight,
Won’t you get outta my sight!”

Then all the people loved it,
And they shouted out with glee;
“Abenomask the government face mask,
I’d like to have one please!”

See? Where else are you going to get your news in the form of a Christmas carol? CNN? Yeah, right.

Now in plain English:

Way back when the COVID-19 pandemic was just getting into full swing, demand for face masks in Japan shot up to the point that people were getting into fistfights on the street for them. Meanwhile, online resellers were marking up prices by ridiculous amounts and even the yakuza was getting in on the face mask racket.

In response to this, the government banned the reselling of face masks and set up a program where a pair of face masks would be delivered to every home in the nation free of charge. These masks were dubbed “Abenomasks” in the media after then-prime-minister Shinzo Abe.

▼ Abenomasks

Although well-intentioned, there were several conceptual flaws with this plan. For instance, many homes had more than two people, but more importantly it seemed that everyone underestimated the private sector’s ability to catch up with demand.

By the time the government masks reached many homes, the market was already flooded with face coverings of every conceivable shape and size. On top of that, many people who received Abenomasks began complaining that they were too small and some even had bugs, mold, and dirt in them, as we saw earlier.

▼ “My Abenomask came with a bug in it!”

All this made the Abenomask a joke of government incompetence, but more seriously raised questions about exactly how the government spent the approximately 26 billion yen (US$227 million) to make and distribute them.

Nevertheless, eventually everyone seemed to get theirs, few people actually seemed to use them, and the whole debacle ultimately took a back seat to more pressing issues. However, Abenomasks were brought back to the forefront when the current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on 22 December that the remaining stock would be disposed of at the end of this financial year, which runs until the end of next March in Japan.

To everyone’s surprise there had been a warehouse full of some 81.3 million unused Abenomasks this whole time, just sitting there while the government paid about 600 million yen ($5.2 million) in storage fees from August 2020 to March 2021 alone.

▼ This is not the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s a news report at the Abenomask storage facility

To make matters even worse, an investigation into these masks found that 15 percent of them were defective. When crunching the numbers, that means that the government spent 1.54 billion yen ($13.5M) on useless masks. With such a staggering amount of wasted money, it’s certainly no surprise that Kishida wanted to finally put an end to the financial hemorrhaging caused by Abenomask.

However, in a surprising twist, the announcement triggered a flood of requests from people wanting Abenomasks. According to media reports who spoke with sources in the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare they have been completely overwhelmed with inquiries and are working non-stop to field them all.

It turned out that a considerable number of people appreciated Abenomasks’ smaller size that was suitable for kids, or their gentle material that suited people with sensitive skin. And then there was an even larger number of people who discovered alternative uses for Abenomasks, from strapping cooling pads to feverish infants to keeping the chopped ends of daikons fresh. There’s even been rumors about “Abenomask farming” which is the practice of growing broccoli on the fertile face coverings.

▼ A news report on some of the other uses for Abenomasks

Now it appears the question will be whether the government can keep up with this surge in demand for these once-maligned masks. It appears that enough people are willing to take them off the ministry’s hands, but is there enough time to process it all before the disposal deadline?

It’s kind of like the end of the Peanuts Christmas special when we all learned that in a sea of flashy Dolce & Gabbana and boutique masks, maybe those blockheads’ masks weren’t so crummy after all. They just needed a little love and attention from the right people.

And that is how Abenomask will go down in history.

Source: FNN Prime Online,
Photos ©SoraNews24
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