Wearing someone else's face: Hyper-realistic masks to go on sale in Japan


Shuhei Okawara, 30, owner of mask shop Kamenya Omote, holds a super-realistic face mask based on his real face, made by using 3D printing technology, in Tokyo, Japan December 16, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) - A year into the coronavirus epidemic, a Japanese retailer has come up with a new take on the theme of facial camouflage - a hyper-realistic mask that models a stranger's features in three dimensions.

Shuhei Okawara's masks won't protect you or others against the virus. But they will lend you the exact appearance of an unidentified Japanese adult whose features have been printed onto them.

"Mask shops in Venice probably do not buy or sell faces. But that is something that's likely to happen in fantasy stories," Okawara told Reuters.

"I thought it would be fun to actually do that."

The masks will go on sale early next year for 98,000 yen ($950) apiece at his Tokyo shop, Kamenya Omote, whose products are popular as accessories for parties and theatrical performance.

Okawara chose his model, whom he paid 40,000 yen, from more than 100 applicants who sent him their photos when he launched the project in October. An artisan then reworked the winning image, created on a 3D printer.

Initial inquiries suggest demand for the masks will be strong, Okawara said.

"As is often the case with the customers of my shop, there are not so many people who buy (face masks) for specific purposes. Most see them as art pieces," Okawara said.

He plans to gradually add new faces, including some from overseas, to the lineup.

($1 = 103.4300 yen)

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; editing by John Stonestreet)

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