Japanese women display support for disaster victims

Kimono charity event is show of solidarity for stricken people

Japanese expatriates don their favourite kimonos last night at the Dubai Women's Association as part of a charity event for the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
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DUBAI // A display of vibrant kimonos in Dubai last night helped go a little way to ease the suffering of Japan's people struck by disaster.

The Dubai Women's Association hosted a charity show that combined culture and fashion to illustrate Japanese traditions.

The night was organised by the UAE-Japan Cultural Centre and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Estate. The event was the first official relief effort for the victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami to be supported by the Dubai Government.

About fifty people attended the introduction to the intricacies that accompany traditional Japanese dress. Tickets cost Dh100.

"The kimono is a very important aspect of our culture," said Naoko Kishida, the director of UAE-Japan Cultural Centre and the mastermind behind the event. "We asked Japanese women living in Dubai, expats who call the UAE home, to help us make this a reality."

The Japanese women of Dubai each picked a favourite kimono to wear to the event, and mingled with audience members to allow them to view up close the rich fabrics and embroidery in the garments.

"You don't just buy a kimono randomly like a T-shirt when you go shopping; you have it custom made and tailored to your body type, so each woman had to volunteer to wear her own kimono for us," said Ms Kishida.

Sixteen kimonos were displayed: some formal, some for summer use, some for casual wear at home, and some for special occasions such as weddings. Most are heirlooms, passed from grandmother to mother to daughter.

"We treat our kimonos as property or investment; they are very valuable to us, like jewels," said Ms Kishida.

Tomoko Nakamura, a 35-year-old Japanese woman who moved to Dubai six months ago, was impressed with the charity event.

"It's fantastic that we were given a chance to help Japan, all the way from Dubai," she said. When tragedy struck Japan on March 11, Ms Nakamura's family was a two-hour flight from Fukushima, in the city of Fukuoka. "I was so worried about them and the only news I got was from the television," she said.

Yoko Okui, 32, wore a cream-coloured silk kimono to the event. Her kimono, a type that is often worn by married women for parties, not ceremonies, is 40 years old.

"So much help is required right now to help the victims of the disaster in Japan, the more we can do, the better," she said.

About 11,300 people have died so far in Japan, and more than 16,000 remain missing. The number is horrifying, said Megumi Sato, 30, another of the models.

"I know so many people in Japan who have been affected, who have such difficult lives now, I wanted to help," she said.

The evening included a presentation on how to move in a kimono as well as how to sit, stand, conduct a Japanese tea ceremony, and get dressed in the complex outfit.