Cupped and pleated styles are available in limited quantities.

To protect oneself as well as others, the Grateful Crane Ensemble has come up with a nostalgic, Japanese American twist on the standard cloth face covering: The Vintage Japanese Rice Sack Mask.

Available in pleated or cupped styles, the cloth masks are hand-made from actual Japanese rice sacks that have been saved over time, and are now being repurposed into something useful and necessary during the age of COVID-19. Proceeds from mask sales will benefit Grateful Crane’s upcoming virtual programs for Japanese American seniors.

Soji Kashiwagi, executive director of Grateful Crane, models a rice sack mask.

“Before they switched to paper sacks, our parents and grandparents used to make dish cloths, blankets, and all sorts of things out of these cloth rice sacks,” said Soji Kashiwagi, executive director of Grateful Crane. “Why not rice sack masks?”

Recently, Kashiwagi posted a photo of himself wearing one of the masks on Facebook, and the response from fellow Sansei and other Japanese Americans was overwhelming. The mask-maker who gave him the mask agreed to make more, and Grateful Crane has turned it into a fundraiser.

“For Japanese Americans, rice has always been a nourishing staple that has given us sustenance during good times and bad,” said Kashiwagi. “Just the sight of this familiar brand immediately conjures up nostalgic memories of our Issei and Nisei ancestors, who used to cook rice for us every day as we grew up.”

Each mask is 100 percent cotton and features a unique design element from one of several different brands of Japanese rice. All are hand-made and one-of-a kind. Cost is $25 per mask, which includes free shipping. Quantities are limited. Online sales of the masks will begin on Friday, Aug. 21, at 10 a.m. Limit two per order. Order online at For questions, email Grateful Crane at

Cupped masks.

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