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Virus pandemic pushes Tokyo artisans to shift focus

TOKYO >> With the spread of the new coronavirus, many smaller Tokyo companies have seen their sales fall. But some are finding ways to use their technological prowess to help prevent infection.

Last month, leather manufacturer Tamurako began selling leather straps that can be attached to train and bus straps. They allow users to stay germ free while securing their balance while riding. Pocket-size and lightweight, they are easy to carry around.

For almost 40 years, Tamurako has been producing leather jackets and other accessories, but orders dropped sharply as retailers closed due to the spread of the virus.

To exacerbate the situation, importing leather from Italy, where the virus has exploded, has been impossible. Sales in March were down 30% from the previous year, and the problem has extended into April and May.

Then company President Kozo Tamura came up with the idea of the portable strap. He said he was inspired by someone who was concerned about touching straps used by so many people. Tamurako’s strap can be wiped with alcohol disinfectants and used repeatedly.

“The quality is comparable to the leather that is sold wholesale to luxury brands, and I hope it can help prevent infection in some way,” Tamura said. The straps run about $10.

In Adachi Ward, face shields made of acrylic are being sold by small business Miyuki. The shields are useful in spaces where people come face-to-face, such as medical institutions and government offices.

Although the company has just 10 employees, it manufactures more than 6,000 types of colorful acrylic boards and is certified as an Adachi Brand, a recognition of its outstanding technology.

Its mainstay products are accessories for concertgoers, but as events have been canceled one after another, sales in March dropped by about 40%.

The company has since developed face shields and transparent acrylic partitions, and demand for the products continues to grow. When the company introduced the $11 face shields, orders flooded in.

“You can talk with people coming to the office without worry,” one office worker said.

“Although the infections have been spreading quickly, we would like to contribute to infection prevention through the power of local factories that can respond quickly,” said Miyuki President Yorikazu Ozawa.

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