As the coronavirus pandemic rages and masks remain a daily necessity, an Osaka Prefecture plastic parts manufacturer has developed bands that stop ear discomfort caused by mask straps and donated them to various groups around the country.

The bands, produced by Sunlight Kasei Co., are around 16 centimeters long and 1.5 cm wide and hook the mask ear straps at the back of the neck. Using the band rather than the ears to hold the mask reduces friction and pain, the company says.

A plastic band developed by Sunlight Kasei Co. to make masks more comfortable, as pictured in October 2020. (Kyodo)

Sunlight Kasei has donated as many as 55,000 bands so far, and the president of the western Japan-based company, Katsuhiro Kume, said he would be "content if they reach people who need them and make them happy."

Kume first came upon the idea after being struck by a father featured on TV for a similar device he had made by hand to help his son who was bothered by ear pain from wearing masks.

Sunlight Kasei usually makes plastic parts for automobile manufacturers and other purposes but Kume decided to dive into the mask band project to boost employees' morale by giving them a sense of contributing to society. He also thinks it may lead to the development of new products in the future, although he has no plans to sell the mask bands.

The company initially planned to donate the bands to residents near its plants in Yao, Osaka Prefecture, and Aira in southwestern Japan's Kagoshima Prefecture.

But as word spread, the company has given the plastic bands to around 20 local governments, schools, day-care facilities and hospitals primarily in Osaka and Kagoshima prefectures.

Sunlight Kasei Co. President Katsuhiro Kume is pictured in October 2020 with plastic bands his company developed to make masks more comfortable. (Kyodo)