Japan rubber mask-maker rides on Jackson mania


June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 9, 2009 at 10:11 AM EDT

A Japanese maker of rubber masks said Thursday his studio had worked hard since Michael Jackson's death to meet surging orders for a latex likeness of the "King of Pop."

Ogawa Rubber Inc., Japan's top rubber mask studio, had received 500 orders before he had even produced samples of a new mask that resembles Jackson around the time he released his best-selling "Thriller" album in the early 1980s.

"You can get your friends and colleagues excited by just wearing this mask and walking backwards," said chief creator Takahiro Yagihara, referring to Jackson's signature "moonwalk" dance.

"Given the customer response we are seeing now, I believe this mask would go well in the year-end party season," he added.

Mindful of possible legal ramifications, Yagihara stressed that the new mask -- which comes in a pale-skin and a darker version -- was not of Jackson, but rather of a "Nice Man" as it was officially named.

Yagihara's studio in Saitama near Tokyo has created hit masks before, including one that looked like US President Barack Obama -- 3,000 were sold.

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