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Kariyushi Wear Day ceremonies set for noon Friday

Date Posted: 2012-06-01

Okinawa’s own formal summer dress apparel is Kariyushi wear, and tomorrow’s the day the community pays homage to the distinctly local shirts.

Ceremonies recognizing Kariyushi Wear Day begin at noon Friday in front of the Okinawa Prefectural Offices, with the Association of Spreading Kariyushi Wear, which was formed in 2007, offering raffle prizes for the first 100 who register and donate ¥100 to save local ecology associations. Winners receive free Kariyushi wear.

Kariyushi wear is formal summer attire, looking much like the Hawaiian Aloha shirt, but uniquely and specifically patterned to Okinawa fabrics, vegetables, flowers, fruits, shi-sa, Harii and other distinct Okinawa activities. Kariyushi means ‘happy’ or ‘auspicious’ in the Okinawan language, and the name has been registered as a brand name by the Okinawa Prefectural Clothing Association. By legal definition, genuine Kariyushi wear must “be sewn in Okinawa” and “the pattern of the shirt must bear images of Okinawa”.

Kariyushi shirts are typically half-sleeve with open necks and collars, although button down styles and varied colors are becoming popular. In 2000, designs and Kariyushi wear styles began diversifying, adding cropped sleeves for protecting ladies’ arms from sun, and black styles that could be worn at funeral ceremonies. It is now acceptable to wear black Kariyushi wear at funerals, or colorful Kariyushi Wear at weddings or formal ceremonies in Okinawa. Prices range from ¥2,000 to ¥20,000 for different shirts.

The unique Okinawan wear first was created by Teizou Miyazato in 1970, looking for something distinct for Okinawan sightseeing, and that fit with the island’s hot summers. A visit to Hawaii gave him the motivation after seeing Aloha shirts, and upon returning to Okinawa he created the first Okinawa shirts. That name evolved to Okinawa wear in 1980, and then in 1991 the Prefecture Government changed the name to Kariyushi wear and added ‘casual Friday’ promotions to help expand the fabric and designs into public consciousness. The G8 Summit in Okinawa in 2000 became the premier event for Kariyushi wear, when all leaders attending the summit sported the Okinawa summer formal wear.

It’s now tradition for Okinawa office workers, companies, government officials and even sports teams to wear the Kariyushi wear. The local union overseeing creation of both fabric and Kariyushi wear says it likes seeing foreigners wearing the products, noting “we just worry that we have sizes for huge guys, but we really hope to see foreigners wearing our Kariyushi wear formally or casually. The union says it monitors quality to be sure factories don’t use cheap or inferior products. “we keep trying to boost higher quality and finding more ecologigal materials for Kariyushi wear,” says Isao Iraha of the Okinawa Sewing Association. “Now we are trying to use fabric from sugar cane, and even shells that make the skin feel good with polishing the dead coral powder into fabric, and making buttons from sea shells.”

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