The Yomiuri ShimbunASHIKAGA, Tochigi — The Stylish Life nonprofit organization in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, is developing Hawaiian shirts featuring patterns of Ashikaga Meisen, a silk fabric produced in the city during the early Showa era (1926-1989).
The idea was inspired by the history of a Japanese migrant to Hawaii, home of the Hawaiian shirt, who reworked kimono into the famed Hawaiian garb.
Stylish Life plans to start producing the shirts in Hawaii by March next year and to distribute them among local residents to promote the Ashikaga brand in Hawaii.
The project was launched after the NPO’s assistant leader Shunsuke Eguro, 43, and Ashikaga female idol group Watarasebashi 43 participated in a cultural exchange event held in Hawaii in March. Eguro is the group’s producer.
Only a small amount of Ashikaga Meisen fabric exists today, but members of the idol group wore stage outfits made of it. Some Hawaii residents expressed an interest in it, Eguro said.
After returning to Japan, Eguro studied Japan-Hawaii relations and learned about the 19th-century Japanese migrant to Hawaii who processed kimono into aloha shirts. This prompted Eguro to wonder if it would be possible to produce Hawaiian shirts by recreating Ashikaga Meisen fabric.
However, Ashikaga Meisen is not made today, so Eguro plans to recreate patterns by using data on kimono patterns collected by the Ashikaga Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He intends to make about 100 Hawaiian shirts featuring the patterns.
Eguro also plans to write a song about the connections between Ashikaga and Hawaii, and have Watarasebashi 43 perform it in Hawaii and in Japan. "I’d like to use this opportunity to deepen friendly relations with Hawaii and make Ashikaga’s attractions known to the world," Eguro said.