Jade’s Escape from Japan: Creasing Happi Coats


Creasing Happi Coats

Blue, red, and white happi coats moved through the crowd with “festival ” splashed across their backs and brown printed belts cinching their waists. The bodies inside them sweated and smelled, and the heads perched on the shoulders and necks held smiling faces, yakisoba in their mouths, bandannas around their foreheads. As people walked through Naha City awaiting the start of the big tug of war, their happi coats showed that the festival atmosphere started at home. When the rope, which stretched for three blocks through Naha’s 58 street, was pulled by Okinawans and Americans and cut into strips as good luck charms, the happi coats, the festival bearers, came off at home. Once laundered and pressed, the happi coats must be folded.

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I folded happi coats after an event in Los Angeles. One fold here, a flip there, but the creases were the most important part. I wanted to fold them to be stacked the same length and size. When I tried to fold a happi coat without using its preset crease–“let the coat fall over at the crease”–I was inferred, not so much told since that would be too forward, to follow the folding method as everyone else had done before. The precedence was more important than the practical and stackable look of those coats, the same crease blindly to set a path than the person who wore or folded them.

Creases are made when a fabric submits to an iron, and the iron can make creases anywhere the person handling it feels. Why do some people hold the iron or fold past the creases to make a new pattern? Why not make changes instead of submitting to the creases everyone else has made?

While happi coats on bodies are uniforms for festivals and tugs of wars, their creases are traps for those who don’t want to be uniform.

If You Opened This in Okinawa…

If you opened a taco shop in Okinawa, you’ll make a lot of money. But the rule here is that the taco shop can’t be the typical Okinawan/Japanese taco shop. No El Paso corn taco shells from the box. Let’s think about the mom-and-pop shops where the owners only speak Spanish. They have the best tacos with the cheap prices!

If you opened an all-day pancake house, everyone who doesn’t want to cook and just loves pancakes would also love you. There is only one pancake house in Okinawa, but it’s far for the southern folk.

If you opened a Chick-fil-A, many people would flock to this all-day all-chicken fast food restaurant. In the United States, Chick-fil-A restaurants have spanned across the country with many loyal customers. And who doesn’t like chicken?

If you opened an American doughnut shop that was open by 6 AM, salarymen and single people could indulge in a sweet morning bite. Most doughnut shops in Okinawa like Mr. Donuts aren’t open until 9 AM, a time when everyone has to be sitting in their morning meetings.

If you opened a Planned Parenthood in Okinawa, local people and foreigners alike can benefit from the specialized help. Getting birth control is like a leap through fire. Women have to make an appointment, go through several tests, and talk to a gynecologist before they’re administered birth control that might not work for them while shelling out a lot of money, even when insurance can pay partially for it. And the unlucky part of it all is that, unless you get more than a month’s supply of birth control, women still have to go through the same process just to get another month’s supply. At Planned Parenthood, all you do is make an appointment, they give you a pregnancy test and ask a few questions before receiving a year’s worth of birth control for very little. Also, Planned Parenthood specializes in gynecology-related matters (i.e. pap smears, pregnancy, and abortions) and also, like it’s name, planning a family.

If you opened an independent DHL, Fedex, or UPS store, so many people would appreciate it. There were so many times I’ve needed to ship something or mail something, but I couldn’t because the post office only stayed open until 4:30 PM or 5 PM. (Yes, there is Black Cat shipping store, but you have to go in search of their green banners next to stores.)

If you opened a big-and-tall store, mostly foreigners and big Japanese people could be happy about being big in Japan. Clothing in Japan has a “one size fits all” only sign on the tag, so it’s really difficult trying to find something that actually fits people who are taller than 5’2″ with wide hips, broad shoulders, big butts, big busts, and big guts. The only places that sell big sizes–and ironically, they hardly fit–are in the plus size sections of San-A, Shimamura, or Uniqlo, that is, if you can’t get on base.

If you opened a sandwich shop in Okinawa, summertime would bring in tons of sweltering customers trying to find a delicious yet cold fix that isn’t shaved ice or ice cream. Right now, the only places that make good sandwiches–and we’re talking the Subway-esque type sandwiches loaded with ham, cheese, and a myriad of toppings–are on base with the real Subway.

Since October of 2012, a Subway opened up in Okinawa. It’s located in Oroku of Naha City. The prices are slightly expensive compared to the base Subway, but their menu is a little different from the American brand (expect to see teriyaki-flavored chicken and tandoori chicken). For a half-foot sub with french fries and a drink, it’s about 430 yen. If the Naha Subway is too far, it’s better to make your own sandwich.