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Thursday, July 26, 2012

News photo
Fundamentals: Colorful new-wave "fundoshi," traditional Japanese underwear previously worn only by men, are on prominent display in the hands be store in Harajuku, Tokyo. KYODO

New designs put fun in 'fundoshi'


Traditional Japanese undergarments known as "fundoshi," often comprising little more than a length of strategically positioned cloth, have recently been gaining appeal, shaking off their long-held image as unfashionable, outdated items worn mainly by men.

News photo
Old is new: Keiji Nakagawa, a representative of the +charming! "fundoshi" marketing firm and head of the Japan Fundoshi Association, is interviewed in Tokyo on June 15. KYODO

Female consumers have apparently been driving the loincloth's new-found popularity, attracted by colorful, contemporary garments by designers looking to put the fun in fundoshi.

At the hands be store in the Tokyu Plaza shopping mall in Harajuku, Tokyo, fundoshi of various colors are displayed alongside popular cosmetics and fragrances.

Colorful designs, including polka dots, stripes and checks, distinguish the contemporary fundoshi from the traditional versions.

Fundoshi marketer +charming! says 40 percent of the people who buy its Sharefun line of fundoshi are women. A female customer in her 20s says the product makes her feel "extremely liberated," while another in her 50s says it makes her "thoroughly relaxed."

The company sells some 30 kinds of fundoshi for both men and women for ¥2,940 apiece.

It began selling Sharefun underwear over the Internet in December.

Demand began outstripping supply with sales shooting up to some 800 units in February, when the product received media coverage. Some popular products were sold out.

While the old type of fundoshi is made mainly with cotton, +charming! says it uses linen because the fabric reduces odor and fights germs better. Also, perspiration dries quickly, making it suitable for the Cool Biz campaign encouraging people to dress casual and turn down their air conditioners.

Junji Maruyama, a 74-year-old gynecologist in Sapporo, urges people to wear fundoshi, especially while they sleep, because, he says, the tight elastic used in regular underpants is bad for circulation, potentially inhibiting hormone secretion.

It might be good to "liberate your body from the stress (caused by regular underpants), at least when you sleep," Maruyama says.

Keiji Nakagawa, a 35-year-old representative of +charming!, tried on fundoshi when he fell ill due to overwork.

He says that since he began wearing them he has been sleeping better and regaining his strength.

He founded the Japan Fundoshi Association to promote the use of fundoshi, calling on the public to appreciate the comfort and healthy characteristics of the traditional underwear.

The association awards people who have contributed to popularizing fundoshi as "best fundoshist."

While Nakagawa says he has nothing against conventional underwear, "Japan will regain its power if more people wear fundoshi. I want people to regard fundoshi as fashionable instead of old-fashioned."

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