Thursday, December 28, 2006

Fashion and Tradition

Take off your apron and wear a "maekake" - maekake (pronounced: ma - eh - ka - keh), a Japanese style traditional apron which has been around in Japan for quite a few centuries now is becoming a silent boomlet these days.

Even with the long history though, maekake is not too common for it is a king of a working outfit or perhaps part of the uniform for those workers (mostly men) who work at liquor shops, Japanese sake factories, soy sauce factories, miso factories, those kinds of places. It is a large apron worn around the waist and down to the middle of your shins, made of thick strong cotton or cotton linen, usually dyed with indigo and has prints in white in the middle of the cloth. It's sort of like a sommelier's apron only in terms of shape. The prints are of the names of the factory/shop/cellar and its emblem mark. Maekake developed as an apron for these occupations for the fabric is strong enough to endure heavy load work and protect the workers' legs from being hurt.

The main reason for maekake to become popular especially among the younger generation is the design. As I just wrote, a common maekake is in two Japanese traditional colors - deep indigo and white - and also with the writings the entire design gives this sense of "iki" (Edo stylishness) and is pretty hot among the young workers (who wear aprons for work) who are keen on dressing themselves modern-fashionable and traditional at the same time. Since maekake is originally made to be customized with respective names and marks, non-originally-Japanese places such as Western style cafes and Chinese restaurants are also ordering maekake to wear for work.

As seen in this example, traditional Japanese-ness in fashion is slowly gaining attention lately. Sometimes I wonder if it's one of those subconcious warnings your mind gives yourself, to not completely lose your identity of being a citizen of the culture you're born in. Or maybe it's just individual preference in fashion.
The maekake designs are taken into casual fashion like T-shirts and blue jeans too. They're actually pretty cool.

Well so, when you get a chance to come to Japan and don't know what to buy for souvenirs for family and friends try heading to one of those shops (not only clothing shops but sake cellers sell maekake now) and get one.

Today's update on
Japan Mode: kanji name conversion - I haven't had conversion examples updated for a while but here it comes again. We're still not ready for new orders though, sorry.

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