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The #KimOhNo conversation: How do Japanese people feel about it now?

By Jes Kalled

In late June, reality television star, Kim Kardashian West, announced a new shapewear collection called “Kimono.” The backlash was instant. With Japanese people at its forefront, a #KimOhNo Twitter campaign was launched against West, as well as a petition via with as many as 120,000 signatures just days after her news. At first, the fashion mogul remained unwavering; she made an official statement in a New York Times article that said, “I understand and have a deep respect for the significance of the kimono in Japanese culture,” reaffirming the pride she has for her brand and its inclusivity.

However, just a day after the mayor of Kyoto, Daisaku Kadokawa, penned an open letter to West asking her to reconsider. The celebrity backed down and agreed to re-release her product under a new name, Solutionwear. This shift took place less than a week after her initial kimono brand name reveal.

Intrigued by the heavy wave of protests and its fast turnaround success, I interviewed twelve Japanese people living inside and outside of Japan on how they felt about the recent news. Here’s what they had to say:

For the sake of privacy, some interviewees have used pseudonyms. Their responses have been condensed and edited, and some have been translated from Japanese.

Confusion and Eye Rolls

Some simply questioned Kardashian West’s latest move. It was difficult to place their finger on the exact problem—including their feelings on it.

“My friend had texted me about the kimono fiasco, and I remember shrugging; I wasn’t entirely surprised nor thrilled by the scandal…” says Naomi Hirano, 27, an account manager in Tokyo. She continues, somewhat perplexed, “Was the name used because of Kim’s assumptions of what a kimono was? Was it purely literary?… Ignorance is certainly not an excuse but…” She trails off there, wondering.

While there was confusion, sales engineer from Yokohama, Taishu, 28, isn’t upset. In fact, he thinks this isn’t such a big deal. “For me, [Kardashian West using ‘kimono’] is not a heavy thing. This way of thinking is really American. In America, cultural appropriation is a sensitive issue.”

SSS, a 27-year-old office worker in Tokyo, didn’t feel confusion nor content. In fact, she replied that she felt “Not much. Actually, nothing.” Confident that Kardashian West doesn’t actually have as much power as she is made out to have, SSS declares, “My perception and image of kimono are not going to change at all…[I’m] sure people will keep using the word with what it has meant for thousands of years.”

Sharing a somewhat similar opinion is Daigo Kawai, 39, a CEO and producer in Tokyo. He is adamant that all of this is nonsense, and dives into a bit of word politics and criticism. “To be honest I hate the word “cultural appropriation”. It’s like racism—it’s casually thrown out so much so that it doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

He continues to say that America doesn’t really have any cultural traditions that have lasted a “millennia” the way that Japan does. For this reason, it shouldn’t be considered “offensive” to pull from cultures from all over the world. “People are too sensitive about everything… Life is short, just enjoy and appreciate other cultures.”

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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”Appropriation” is necessary for progress. Why would anyone ever be against learning from others?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Stop making stupid people and their acts popular.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

But this is only what Japanese people think. How dare they not be offended? What is far more important is what Americans think:

“It makes me very angry.” Says Alex Maya Goldberg, a 28-year-old urban planner currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “[It’s] absolutely a form of cultural appropriation. There is no indication that Kim K. named her new line with hopes of observing a Japanese cultural tradition.” Goldberg describes West’s decision as “blatant,” asking, “how did nobody stop her?

My feelings exactly. The brand name police should have arrested her.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think the phrase "Japanese traditions are millennia old" speaks more volumes about Japan's thinking than an idiot in a wannabe kimono

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think a term such as "cultural appropriation" is created simply out of a desire to whine about something.

The real issue is naming a type of apparel after a completely different type of apparel. Its stupid and confusing. Naming a car "kimono" would generate no confusion for example. And before you tell me you would not be confused....try and think of small children who don't know the difference but the first thing they see is Kim Kardashian's stuff and think THAT'S a kimono.

But we have the same issue with what Americans "think" is a futon. Its so idiotic to call a sofa a futon it deserves a lawsuit to change it. Again, not on the grounds of cultural appropriation but on the needless confusion and miseducation it generates.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If memory serves, way back in the day Japan kinda appropriated a lot from China and Korea, and then much later a whole bunch from Europe.

Just saying.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's unsurprising that people who deny there is racism in their country would also deny there is such a thing as cultural appropriation. It's also unsurprising that the comments show they don't actually know what is meant by cultural appropriation, and show no desire to actually learn about what it is, what it means, and why is it harmful. Stubborn ignorance abounds.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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