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Protecting the Tokyo Olympics volunteer staff from the elements with wearable parasols

The uniforms for the Metropolitan Tokyo government's Tokyo Olympics volunteers

Back in May, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike announced that the Metropolitan Government had developed a type of parasol/umbrella that could be worn on the head. This was designed to protect the volunteers[1] who would have to be outside during the Tokyo Olympics next year from the sun.

Governor Koike of Tokyo announcing Olympics volunteer uniforms

Governor Koike at the press conference introducing the the wearable parasol. (screen shot)

The “wearable parasol”[2] was widely ridiculed for well, looking a bit ridiculous. Some people even went so far as to say they were a national embarrassment, since overseas visitors coming for the Olympics would think they, and by extension all Japanese people, were weird and unfashionable. (There are quite a few folks who worry a lot about Japanese people not embarrassing themselves, both domestically and overseas.)

Nippon TV Sukkiri! morning show host Koji Kato in a wearable parasol

Nippon TV Sukkiri! morning show host Koji Kato dons a wearable parasol and is not impressed. The on-screen text says "Are you seriously going to [distribute these]? Tokyo??" (screen shot)

But over the weekend, several volunteers who were showing people where they should go and so forth at the numerous outdoor events around Tokyo were spotted wearing the head parasols. The volunteers all loved the parasols, saying they kept their heads cool because they were designed to provide air circulation unlike a hat, protected them from the sun and rain, and also left both their hands free. The parasols can be folded up compactly too.

Tokyo volunteer guides wearing parasols

Volunteer guides wearing the parasols last Saturday. (screen shot)

Tokyo volunteer guides wearing parasols

This volunteer guide says the wearable parasol keeps her cool. (screen shot)

Governor Koike was also spotted around town over the weekend, kissing hands and shaking babies [3] like the wily politician she is. Disappointingly, she was wearing a stylish black hat rather than a wearable parasol.

Personally, I don't think the head parasols look ridiculous at all. A lot of people in Japan use parasols, even men these days, but carrying one around is a bit of a pain. The head parasols are like modernized versions of the woven head coverings or large hats worn in the Edo period, made by weaving bamboo leaves or sedge grass. Both hand-held umbrellas and ones worn on the head were called kasa (傘). One of the type worn on the head was called a sando gasa (三度笠) or "three time (stop) umbrella". The name probably comes from hikyaku (飛脚) or foot couriers who worked the busy route between Edo (Tokyo), Osaka and Kyoto, called sando hikyaku (三度飛脚), three-stop couriers. Sando gasa were essential for these guys, since they had to have both hands free. Other types of head-umbrellas were widely worn by all classes, and were a must have item for travelers.

Edo period man wearing a parasol/umbrella

An early photograph of a man wearing a kasa.

Edo period man wearing a head parasol/umbrella

These days you see kasa mainly on period dramas. This is of a down-and-out ronin (unemployed samurai)...not sure of the series.

Edo period hikyaku (courier)

An Edo period courier.

Edo period traveler cosplay

How an Edo period traveler dressed. Note the cape, the umbrella, and the arm/hand protectors. I wouldn't mind those making a comeback either. This is actually a cosplay outfit you can buy. (source)

Getting back to the 21st century wearable parasols: with record high summer temperatures all over the world in recent years, they just might have a chance of becoming a worldwide hit. Would you wear one? I would.

Manga artist Kuku Hayate's illustration of an alternative uniform for Olympics volunteers

Manga artist Kuku Hayate created this fantastic illustration of a stylish version of the Olympics volunteer outfit. (source)

  1. There will be two main groups of volunteers at the Olympics; those recruited by the Olympic Committee, which is controlled by the national government, and those recruited by the Tokyo Metropolitan government. The “wearable parasols” are for the latter group.  ↩

  2. Parasols or umbrellas worn on the head already exist, aimed at fishing enthusiasts and the like. But the Olympics one has been much improved to be as lightweight and practical as possible, as well as have proper protection from the sun, provide airflow around the head and so on, according to the Tokyo government. The design Olympics wearable parasol is still being tweaked.  ↩

  3. Old politician joke.  ↩

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