The mayor of Kyoto has written a letter to Kim Kardashian urging the reality TV star and social media influencer to reconsider the use of “Kimono” as the name of her new line of body-hugging shapewear.
“I’ve been passionate about this for 15 years,” Kardashian declared last week when she launched the range to her 60 million Twitter followers. “Kimono is my take on shapewear and solutions for women that actually work.”
Her comments provoked an online backlash, as thousands took to social media and accused Kardashian of cultural appropriation. On Twitter, Japanese users countered by posting photos of themselves in their kimonos.
“This is #kimono,” posted Misako Oi along with her photo. “I’d like Kim to imagine how she’d feel if someone treated her wedding, prom or baptism dresses as lingerie.
“‘Kimono’ are not just clothes but are a symbol that evokes precious memories and important life events,” she added before signing off with the hashtag #KimOhNo, which was coined in response to Kardashian’s announcement.
“Please change the name immediately. This is our culture, not yours!!” tweeted @NaomiDamianWhip along with a kimono selfie.
Kyoto mayor Daisaku Kadokawa’s objections were far more polite although he emphasised the cultural and traditional significance of the garment in his open letter published online.
“Kimono is a traditional ethnic dress fostered in our rich nature and history with our predecessors’ tireless endeavours and studies and it is a culture that has been cherished and passed down with loving care in our living,” he wrote, using official City of Kyoto stationery.
“Also it is a fruit of craftsmanship and truly symbolises sense of beauty, spirits and values of Japanese.”
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Kyoto, the former ancient capital of Japan until the 1868 Meiji restoration, is famous for its kimono culture. Local residents and tourists can often be seen in a variety of colourful, floral versions of the garment worn on special cultural and ceremonial occasions.
Kadokawa is himself an avid fan of kimono culture and is renowned for wearing the traditional garments while performing his official duties.
In his letter, he added that his city has sought Unesco Heritage listing for kimono culture, which he described as an “asset shared with all humanity … [that] should not be monopolised”.
Kadokawa called on Kardashian to “reconsider your decision of using the name kimono in your trademark” but also invited Kardashian to visit Kyoto to better understand kimono culture.
The letter attracted comments of support from around the world.
Shelly Sweeney wrote: “Kimono will always be kimono. I support your beautiful kimono culture forever.”
Loustau Mathieu added: “Total support to your. I really love Japanese culture and I don’t want the kimono word to be used as a trademark. Why not make a petition?”
Andy Pham suggested further action: “I urge the next step. If this fails, make the [Kardashian] family persona non grata to the country of Japan.”
Others were more dismissive of the entire exchange, with commenters on the Japan Today website asking whether the mayor really needed to stoop to Kardashian’s level, while another asked: “Seriously, who cares?”
Others used the forum to identify a measure of hypocrisy as Japan has “culturally appropriated” many aspects of other cultures, including Christmas and the traditional “white wedding”.
More from South China Morning Post:
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