Kim Kardashian recently came under fire for trademarking the name “kimono” for her upcoming brand of shapewear. No, the underwear doesn’t have anything to do with the traditional Japanese clothing, and the celebrity has been taking a lot of heat online for what seems to be either an intentional misnomer or a baffling misunderstanding.
But now someone else has entered the ring: Daisaku Kadokawa, the mayor of Kyoto. Kyoto is known for its blending of modern and traditional Japan, with many geisha and maiko still living and performing there… geisha and maiko who wear real kimono daily.
If any place in the world is an expert on kimono, it’s Kyoto, and the mayor posted a letter to Kardashian on his Facebook page.
Ms. Kim Kardashian West
Kimono Intimates, Inc.
I am writing this letter to convey our thoughts on Kimono and ask you to re-consider your decision of using the name Kimono in your trademark.
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 care in our living. Also, it is a fruit of craftsmanship and truly symbolizes sense of beauty, spirits and values of Japanese.
In recent years, we see not only Japanese but also many foreign tourists wearing Kimono and strolling around in Kyoto and cities in Japan. It is a proof that Kimono, that we are proud of as our traditional culture, is loved by people from around the world.
We are currently undertaking initiatives nationally to make “Kimono Culture”, symbol of our culture and spirits, registered to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. We think that the names for “Kimono” are the asset shared with all humanity who love Kimono and its culture therefore they should not be monopolized.
I would like you to visit Kyoto, where many Japanese cultures including Kimono have been cherished, to experience the essence of Kimono Culture and understand our thoughts and our strong wish.
Mayor of Kyoto
The mayor’s letter to Kim Kardashian may not be the most savage burn of all time, but it is brutal in its honesty. It explains what kimono is, asserts that it should not be monopolized, and invites Kim to come visit Kyoto to see kimono for herself.
That last part is especially poignant, since Kim and her husband Kanye have visited Tokyo before. Is the mayor saying that they haven’t fully experienced Japan just by popping around Shinjuku grabbing McDonald’s apple pies? Well, we’ll just have to leave that up to interpretation.
Here’s how some Japanese netizens reacted to the letter on the Facebook page: (posts in Japanese have been translated, posts in English have been left as originally written)
“Thank you so much.”
“Please, mayor! Do your best to stop her!”
“Well said. I agree with you Sir.”
“As a certified Kimono Consultant who has been serving both in Japan and the U.S., what Mayor of Kyoto promptly taking his action on this issue truly supported my back. I deeply appreciate him and those people who are supporting Japan.”
“The Mayor of Kyoto claimed to a company who is registering KIMONO as their trademark. As he states in his letter, KIMONO is not a name of typical cloth or brand but our culture and tradition in Japan!!! Who is owning the name of Aloha shirts? or Kilt? Dose this company intend to monopolize Japanese culture??? I would love to support the action Mr Kadokawa took!!”
This isn’t the first time Kyoto has spoken up about how to be respectful of its traditional culture, and it likely won’t be the last.
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