One thing for certain, travelling in big cities of Japan and South Korea, you can rent a national dress and parade around in it for a few hours. It’s around 30 – 45 Canadian dollars. We never saw this money-making practice when we were in Germany, France, Denmark, Czech Republic nor Barcelona, Spain. Maybe there’s something for tourists during the annual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.
As a Chinese-Canadian, during our trip, I didn’t spent much time trying to figure out where an Asian-descent person came from, unless they were a local working and speaking in Japanese. Or the person spoke in their native tongue. While it’s easy for me to distinguish Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Tagalog of the Filipinos, my ear still hasn’t attuned to figuring out Japanese nor Korean languages from afar. I haven’t heard what Cambodian nor Thai languages sound to the ear.
I was curious — to see if ethnicity or their spoken language matched with a national heritage garment they wore.
Having Fun – Some Asians Being Another Asian
It was intriguing to me, to see some Filipino women tripping along in a kimono in Japan or in the Korean billowy hanbok, a high waisted full skirted dress. They seemed to enjoy themselves in the make-believe Korean woman image. I wondered: maybe some folks don’t get to wear costumes of choice, for an annual event, like Hallowe’en in North America.
We did pass by the odd dress rental shop here and there in Tokyo, Kyoto and Seoul. I saw some tourist women strolling in 28-30 degree C humid weather in such dresses. Or another day wielding an umbrella to protect their rental
garments in rain. There were the occasional working Japanese local woman we saw, who was not a geisha and walking a few blocks in a kimono either for an event or for their job role.
Ironic Ethnic Self-Consciousness – Even a Garment Can’t Hide
I had no interest to spend money to try on a national dress in either country. In my heart, it didn’t seem a comfortable place, as someone whose family heritage is Chinese.
Besides back in Canada, I have 2 tops where both styles are Chinese-inspired. One of them, a lovely top I bought from Toronto’s Chinatown over 15 years ago. It’s well-tailored and even lined inside for fit. I still haven’t even worn
this eye-catching top anywhere yet. (Except for the Internet here.) Self-consciousness creeps into me: to wear this smart black linen top with brilliant red floral and swirling dragon scale edging seems the stamp of Chineseness all over me.
Ironic I fuss over a garment, when I can’t change my genes that people see, even if I dyed my hair blonde. Ah well. One day maybe just slip it on and amble into the bright sunshine.
Top banner / side left featured photo at Gyeongbokgung Palace. Seoul South, Korea 2018.