Tag Archives: costumes

Tourist Dress-Up Debate: Is it “racist” to try on a Japanese kimono?

HANDS OFF THE SILK - In a recently canceled Boston Museum of Fine Arts promotion, visitors were encouraged to try on a Japanese kimono and pose with the famous painting, (Source: MFA)

HANDS OFF THE SILK – In a recently canceled Boston Museum of Fine Arts promotion, visitors were encouraged to try on a Japanese kimono and pose with the famous Claude Monet painting, “La Japonaise.” (Source: Museum of Fine Arts)

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts just stopped letting visitors be photographed in kimonos on “Kimono Wednesdays” because of a few protestors charging that the dress-up event is culturally insensitive.

As a lover of kitschy photo-ops at museums and tourist attractions, I’m horrified.

My street cred? I’m the curator and co-founder of “Tacky Tourist Photos,” a travel website celebrating this practice around the world.

I thought the MFA’s promotion was clever and respectful of Japanese culture and would have exposed many outsiders to history and art they might not have bothered paying attention to otherwise. In Kyoto, Japan, there are lots of studios that invite tourists to go through the lengthy process of dressing in traditional Geisha and Samurai garb.

I’ve also met tourists who have had fun channeling Pharaohs in Egypt, Vikings in Sweden and Sumo wrestlers in Japan. I’ve personally had the honor of dressing like a Canadian! While on Prince Edward Island, I met Japanese and Chinese women who posed in red braids and straw hats and said they dreamed of visiting the land of Anne of Green Gables.

Anne of Green Gables costume booth at the Confederate Bridge on Prince Edward Island.

Anne of Green Gables costume booth at the Confederate Bridge on Prince Edward Island.

I share my disappointment in the MFA for not standing up to a few protestors – as well as challenge the idea of “cultural appropriation” in general – in this opinion column for The Globe and Mail (Canada’s national newspaper).

A snippet:

“Only a few generations after the Second World War, when Japan and the West viewed each other through the lens of brutal racial stereotypes, our first impressions are no longer Pearl Harbor and P.O.W. camps. My immediate associations with Japan are anime, baseball, comic books and video games. Go to any comic book convention and you’ll find that Japanese culture is worshipped.

I’d like to think that part of that cultural transformation is due to trying on each other’s clothes.”

I know it’s the journalistic equivalent of smacking a hornet’s nest with a baseball bat, but I also humbly propose 5 objective criteria to determine whether a costumed photo-op is offensive or not offensive.

If you appreciate fun travel photo-ops, whether they celebrate cultural or historical themes or not, please consider immortalizing your snapshots in my “museum.”

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Filed under Excuses to Dress in a Kimono, Journalism Assignments, tacky tourist photos

Who’s Cooler: “Anne from Green Gables” or Laura Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie?”

Tourists of all ages, genders, races, creeds and political affiliations are clamoring to dress as "Anne of Green Gables" in the utopian land of Prince Edward Island

Tourists of all ages, genders, races, creeds and political affiliations are clamoring to dress as "Anne of Green Gables" in the utopian land of Prince Edward Island

Well, now you know my vote. Leave your vote below!

In case you are wondering what I am doing wearing braids and a green dress, explanations can be found below. Not that any explanations are necessary — both Canada and the USA, for the moment, still protect free expression.

READ HOW YOU, TOO, CAN BECOME A CANADIAN ICON!

Boston Herald: For $2, you can be “Anne of Green Gables”

Herald “Working Stiff” Blog: “Dress for Success: Why can’t Lexington and Concord be this photo-op friendly?

Tacky Tourist Photos: Third runner-up in the “Anne of Green Gables” lookalike contest

Little-House-on-the-Prairie

Back to Laura Ingalls… Her dad, Charles Ingalls, a.k.a. Michael Landon, could be one of the coolest TV characters of all time. He was gentlemanly and could kick your ass. He always did the right thing, that Charles.

If you click on the picture, you can see what the real Charles looked like (the beard styles of the time made everyone look like the Unabomber).

My fourth grade teacher gave us extra credit for watching that show because it allegedly taught us about the nuances of being a pioneer.

JAPANNE OF GREEN GABLES

My goofy Anne photo is now being formally shared with the Japanese fan base. Here’s what makes it official:

Japan-Anne-of-Green-Gables copy

Click the picture for Yuka Kajihara’s view of who is the most “charming Anne” of all time.

UPDATE: Bonnet Heads Fight Back: Anne vs. Laura debate heats up the Prairie!

PLUS… Exclusive commentary from “Little House” actress Alison Arngrim, a.k.a. Nellie Oleson: “Actress urges peace between Bonnetheads and Gableheads.

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Filed under Family, Fashion, tacky tourist photos