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Japanese teacher wears kimono as protest at MFA event

The Globe reports on last evening's gallery talk about that Monet painting. The teacher was disappointed people can no longer wear a kimono matching the one in the painting; on the other side, there was some check-your-privileging going on.

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Good for him

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While there are a great many people who do indeed need to check their privilege, the phrase is supposed to be back up by a coherent argument. You can't just toss out "check your privilege" when you really mean "shut up" and then expect to be taken seriously.

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But it's so fun to say!

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Shut up they explained because they said so.

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The request to check privilege was told to a man who was harassing some Asian women by telling them that "Honey, you don't know anything about art." They weren't engaging in conversation with him, and they weren't doing anything disruptive either. When they asked him not to call them honey, he said that he can call them whatever he wants. Hence the privilege thing.

In fact, he told me the same thing when he was entering the gallery, even though I was just standing there, looking at one of the kimono. He also told me I was CREATING A SPECTACLE, in an all caps voice. If I'm a protester, I'm the world's worst protester, since I communicated nothing to anyone. He was just looking for any Asian face to argue with, except with the obvious kimono supporter.

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C your P is usually followed with "It's not my job to educate you!!!" from social justice types.

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Kudos to the Japanese teacher!

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Timothy Nagaoka, 37, who teaches Japanese to fourth and fifth graders in Boston public schools

Who would you rather listen to? A passionate educator or a bunch of morons looking to get their fifteen minutes on the internet?

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It's unfortunate that the original protest is evidence that morons will listen to and follow other morons.

Let's hope the educated do the same with this teacher and support him.

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Are they morons? They asked to meet with the MFA to discuss their concerns with the exhibit. They received no response. So they did something that got attention, got people organized on the internet, and forced a response. Sounds effective and non-moronic to me.

BTW, I heard the passionate educator tell activists he has never suffered any sort of racism whatsoever, since he comes from the land of Hello Kitty and loves all people. I wish I could say I am joking, or that he is joking, but that is what he said verbatim. That's why he said he couldn't understand the activists' concerns around race when they were talking.

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think about the amount of art we'd be missing out on. Also, the curators would never have time to present exhibits, you know, having to monitor Twitter to see who is mad at them every fifteen minutes.

So yes, morons.

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I must admit, your given scenario is funny. But they actually used email and voicemail to the pertinent departments and positions that were responsible for the curation and responsible to respond to the public.

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for works of art on that theme. UNdressed viewing nights.

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Greg Cook writes:

For me, part of why it’s troubling is that is was a form of historical re-enactment of cultural colonialism. Imagine if Monet painted his wife dressing up as an African tribesman. Or it was a painting of how a 19th century Frenchman saw Jews. And 150 years later, the most wealthy, powerful, white museum in the region invited people to reenact that dress up.

I expect the MFA was just aiming to offer a fun, hands-on, educational experience - along the lines that is common in museums. And accidentally overlooked the possible implications. ...

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Mr. Cook should be selling that Occupy mentality over at the Dig. Maybe he should spend a day in front of the MFA waiting for some of those rich white people. Maybe then he'd see the multi racial makeup of the students I see going in there all day long.

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I'd love to hear more about how Mr. Cook sees the modern Japanese artisans who made these kimonos to be tried on by museum audiences as similar to "African tribesmen."

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Was Monet trying to make fun of, or otherwise belittle Japanese culture, or was he painting a beautiful woman wrapped in a work of art?

If he was doing the former, then the protestors have a point, and the exhibit doesn't belong at the MFA. However, if he was doing the latter, they are reduced uneducated attention-seekers.

If we are never allowed to appreciate and participate in activities from other cultures (be it try on clothing items or enjoy their cuisine - let me guess, no more sushi or sashimi?) then we are reduced to cultural isolationism, which quickly festers and turns ugly.

Someone here does indeed need to check his/her privilege. It isn't the museum patrons.

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In that context, why aren't they protesting in front of the Old State House on July Fourth to castigate the slave owning founding fathers?

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I don't think the founders from the Massachusetts Colony owned many, if any, slaves. The slave owners with the most slaves were Tories who had landholdings in the Caribbean and brought their slaves with them.

The new Massachusetts constitution put an end to all slave owning in the Commonwealth.

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Were both lifelong slave owners, right? Although it's not directly related, I've been wondering lately why nobody ever throws paint on their statues, or protests the naming of things after them, etc.

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Jefferson is far more problematic, of course, given that the nth-generation grandsons of Sally Hemmings have the same Y chromosome as the nth-generation grandsons of his heirs.

They were both from Virginia, however, so the idea of protesting them at the Old State House in Boston isn't very appropriate.

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Washington was one of America's most successful agricultural businessmen -- and he increasingly felt that slavery was an economically unsound institution. Jefferson was a terrible businessman and was so deep in debt that he could not have legally freed his slaves, his entire holdings (including the human chattel) were mortgaged up the wazoo.

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that his slaves would be free in his will, but only after his wife's death. That must have made for an interesting situation after he died. Yet he was the only slave-holding founder to do this.

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... she was smart enough to not want to live in the midst of people waiting for her to die.

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Like Washington, I also plan to relinquish all of my iniquitous ways upon my death. Hell, I won't even wait until my wife passes...I'll quit all my crimes and atrocities as soon as my own heart stops beating.

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There's some evidence that there were slaves in Massachusetts by 1624, just a few years after the founding of Plymouth Colony. And the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, owned two slaves.

Yes, the early slave trade here was extremely limited, compared to what followed in the southern colonies. However there's no question that as small as it was, Massachusetts was the center of it. By 1715, there were about 2000 slaves in the colony (mostly owned in ones or twos), and by the middle of the 18th century, ~10% of Boston's population (ie several hundred people) were black - either slaves or freedmen.

That's about when public opinion in New England, particularly Massachusetts, started to turn strongly towards abolition. By 1783, the Quock Walker cases pretty much nailed down the end of recognized slavery here.

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Parts 1 and 2, by M.T. Anderson if you want a fanciful but historically sound look at a slave's life in Boston during the revolution. Just extraordinary books, though awfully sophisticated for most YA audiences. Very complex choices about which side to ally with--the British or the colonists.

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Slavery in Massachusetts was banned on the basis of judicial review, what I suppose we would call an activist court. http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/sjc/edu-res-center/abolition/aboli...

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Is it racist for me to wear Chinese slippers, a kimono-style bathrobe, or pajamas — an Indian appropriation?

How are those okay when this is not?

In this case, the kimono is a work of art, represented in another work of art. It is being honored in a museum setting. I am sure that the majority (at least) of people trying it on are treating it with dignity. As Lecil says, this event was about appreciation, not mockery or some display of white or cultural superiority.

The museum's donors may all be rich, white people, but the staff who plan and run these events are far more diverse. They surely came up with this activity with good, multicultural intentions. It's fine that some protestors tried to spark a different conversation, bringing up another point of view. But it doesn't mean this event is so wrong that it needs to be stopped and apologized for.

I'm going to have some TEA now. Served from a traditional cast-iron Japanese pot. Because it's beautiful and useful, a work of art, really... like a kimono. Hope that's okay with y'all.

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APB, you are being waaaay too rational for this argument. I'm sure you will weather the snorts of derision nicely (people who can think logically usually can).

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That's okay.

;-)

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I am not Japanese. Being an admirer of Japanese art, appx. 15-20 years ago, I attended a 2 month long weekly seminar on ukiyo-e prints at the MFA taught by a Japaneese art scholar who was himself Japanese. The way I came to admire Japanese art was via its influence on Western European art which I studied in college. About 10 years ago, I purchased an ukiyo-e print which I framed and hangs in my home. Am I a racist? Should I not have this print hanging in my home because I am not Japanese?

The protesters are not even Japanese themselves, but feel the need to 'speak up' for them as if the Japanese are weak and feeble-minded? How offensive! If the protesters bothered to open up a book and do a little research, they would learn that European artists were not mocking Japanese artists -- they greatly admired them which is why they emulated them! Unfortunately a group of uneducated protesters have been allowed to dictate education at a cultural institution in Boston. Quite frankly, I find this uproar and the accusations of racism and white supremacy leveled at the MFA, its patrons and the Asian artist who made the kimono absurd. What's most absurd is the MFA censoring artistic education. This is truly a sad day for the MFA.

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I talked to Greg in Facebook chat, and he has no idea what happened to his post. He certainly did not delete it himself. At least one of his earlier posts on the subject has also disappeared without explanation.

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show his breasts?

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Even the algorithm thought he sounded like a tit.

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... Nagaoka-san.

Mr. Nagaoka sounds like a really good sort of guy. See these articles on prestigious awards he has won:

http://medford.wickedlocal.com/article/20141101/News/141109984

http://japansocietyboston.org/thayerrecipients

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As an educator, I would expect him to be able to engage in critical and constructive debate with the activists he was talking with the MFA. He failed. The activists certainly heard and understood him, but he refused to engage with anything they had to say.

He could not look past his own views to consider the views of these women who were bothered by the orientalism they saw in the exhibit. They shared with him their experience of being cat-called as geishas or mama-sans, and he refused to acknowledge that reality at all. The original name of this spotlight event at the MFA was "Claude Monet: Flirting with the Exotic", by the way.

You could see how the women found that problematic, and why they quit talking to him. They listened to what he said and acknowledged his view points, but Mr. Nagaoka refused to discuss anything except his talking points. Which is why he is such an effective teacher of middle schoolers, perhaps.

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Stupid cat-calling is stupid cat-calling. And not a basis for objecting to this specific museum event.

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Again, you mean the event that was originally called "Flirting with the Exotic" until Tuesday, 7/7? Wouldn't those cat-callers consider themselves "Flirting with the Exotic" when harassing Asian women?

I know no one wants to hear about Orientalism, but that's the basic concept: Exotification of a people and culture to the point at which interaction as normal human beings, without a bunch of damaging pre-conceptions, is no longer possible.

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... don't harass every sorts of women who happen to be at hand, with whatever terms come easiest to mind.

Sorry. Just not buying your conflation of these two phenomena.

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That's fine. At least you are open to listening about it. Mr. Nagaoka wasn't.

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... felt that HIS culture was under attack by non-Japanese people claiming to be (somehow) acting in its defense.

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No culture was being attacked in any sense of the word at the MFA, by any side. I guess this is another place where we disagree, as always, respectfully.

The issue on the MFA's exhibit is an argument on how an event can be perceived. I would say more but I'm late for a personal engagement.

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to tell people how they can and cannot experience a culture that is not your own, but you get to tell a member of that culture how he's allowed to feel about it?

Is that activism or just bullying?

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I never told anyone anything. That's quite a stretch, considering the MFA has never responded to the original requests from activists looking to discuss the exhibition with them.

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Apparently his culture was being attacked, as he saw the kimono and allowing it to be tried on as part of his culture. Cause, you know, that's what the NHK wanted when the commission its creation to tour with the painting.

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" adjective
1.
of foreign origin or character; not native; introduced from abroad, but not fully naturalized or acclimatized"

(from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/exotic)

Nothing objectionable there to the reasonable person. And appropriate for an exhibit centered around Impressionist interest in the Orient. Of course, the
forth definition from the same site:

"4.
of, relating to, or involving stripteasing: "

Back to my original point about context. This is the MFA for pity's sake, not the Golden Slipper! Do you mean to scrub the language of any use of the word exotic because of an tertiary definition? At the same time an exhibit titled "Court Ladies or Pin-Up Girls? Chinese Paintings from the MFA, Boston" is going on. Why not the same level of umbrage?

Look, there are real issues in this country with both racism and sexism. I don't doubt that you've been subjected to one or both, but the MFA is guilty of neither with this exhibit. The protestors are making a mockery of honest attempts to deal with such social ills when they decide to harass patrons over an exhibit where they simply are not in evidence.

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You are wrong if you think protesters harassed anyone. That did not happen. The only thing I have seen like that was the protesters being harassed by others. If asking pertinent questions during question time can be considered protesting. If it was activism, it was in that they were educating people on their views, politely. In an open discussion held by the art educator.

They did not go up to talk to people and call them racists, if you think that is what happened. Instead, they let others initiate the conversation, if they wanted to hear the activists' views.

On your dictionary definition, I can only explain how I have lived w/ the term. And it isn't as a nice, tidy dictionary definition. Yes, some people treat me as though I'm from abroad. But I was born here, in the States. You can see from the first definition how exoticism has defined people's treatment of Asian Americans.

Finally, thank you for being respectful and constructive. It's in short supply here sometimes.

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Protesters holding up signs making accusations about the character of the people trying on the kimono certainly fit many definitions of harassment as they were designed to make people feel uncomfortable.

And I'm curious what you feel, in this context, was a pertinent question. This exhibit was not about the experience of Americans of Asian descent, so I'm still failing to see how these protests were in any way relevant.

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Ah, the signs were held up at last week's event. So I can't tell you what was going on then first-hand. But from what I read, I understand the signs to be critical of the MFA's presentation to try-on the kimonos without any educational material on them available, not even from the art educators or college ambassadors who were to help people try them on. Also, critical of the lack of education on the colonial era from which the painting hails.

The pertinent questions were about how the Japonisme fad and trade began (Commodore Perry and the opening of Japan through gunboat diplomacy). And questions about how the kimono was made, what it represented, what it represented when Camille Monet wore it, what the symbols and imagery on the kimono meant. Unfortunately, while the art educator was very nice and knowledgeable on Monet, she couldn't answer a lot about the kimono, aside from what I learned about Japonisme trade.

I think the activists were trying to get the museum to think critically about the way they presented the kimono, in a constructive way. It wasn't about themselves or about disrupting things.

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Because they have attended an event where they may try on a kimono is hardly polite or IMO a valid or useful way to "educate" or open a dialogue. And that IS what it said on those signs, right? It's certainly a catchy and attention-getting approach and hey--now the story has made the New York Times so maybe mission accomplished for the protestors?

This just feels like such a misfire in so many ways to me. The connection between a 100-plus-year-old French artwork making sport of Parisian obsession with Japan and racially themed street harassment of Asian-American women is beyond tenuous. To carry Greg Cook's point, why not start boycotting Iris Apfel's African necklaces to protest police brutality against black men? Or form a picket line in front of a few naked Renoir bathers to fight rape culture? This whole thing has trivialized and sidelined real issues with a hyperbolic overreaction--it's crying-wolf, hashtag activism that I can only thing does more harm than good to the cause it wants to promote.

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Thank you Sally for articulating so well my feelings on this "protest".

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See, does the sign call those that wear the kimono specifically racists though? I think there are different interpretations here.

If I recall, it says try-on the kimono and see what it was like to be a racist imperialist. I believe that is a mocking of the MFA's advertising to try on the kimono and "get your inner Camille on". The signs are decrying the lack of education on the kimono's path to France and Camille, which is linked to the colonial era of unequal trade. And pointing it out, in a rather inflammatory way, I must admit.

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You are offering a strained interpretation.

Besides, I don't see that Camille trying on a lovely cloak (or Monet wanting to paint the same) makes her (or us or anyone involved) imperialist racists.

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spot on, Sally!

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Just embrace all cultures:

Monkey suit Monday
Toga Tuesday
Kimono Wednesday
Sari Thursday
Furry Friday
Hipster Saturday

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He was wearing a yukata. And the kimono in the painting isn't just a kimono, it looks like a wedding kimono to me. Totally different. And it's really too bad that the MFA didn't put more thought into this being anything more than a dress up opportunity, given Monet's original intent behind the painting.

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A yukata is a casual summer kimono.

And a seersucker suit is still a suit.

IMAGE(http://content.artofmanliness.com/uploads//2015/04/seerbrett.jpg)

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...stuff one wears (i.e. clothing). Every sort of ordinary (and dress) traditional clothing falls under this general term -- and each item has its own specific name.

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Dictionary definitions take you only so far. No Japanese man would wear a yukata to his August wedding, because in actual usage, kimono and yukata are not the same. Nemaki are kimono, too, And this is exactly the sort of further detail that the MFA show could have included, to clear up all of this.

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... would wear an uchikake ever.

This is what they would wear:

http://www.kyotokimono.com/page/faqsgrooms

But that doesn't change the fact that a yukata is also a type of kimono.

http://www.gojapango.com/fashion/yukata_kimono.html

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Stop with the dictionary references, already, I'm speaking of common usage. Go to Japan and ask to see a kimono, I guarantee you they will not pull out a yukata for you to see without comment (meaning, to say 'well this is yukata, a kind of kimono).

This is part of the larger point that I think the MFA could have made, about how context matters when truly appreciating art/culture from or of another country. God knows they have plenty of Japanese art, they could have put the Monet next to Japanese artwork of the same period, showing women in yukata, illustrating the perception of Japan versus the reality during the Orientalism fad. This is what Westerners thought Japanese women dressed like, this is how most of them at the time really did - they were two different garments serving two different functions - and here, try both on and see the difference and consider what would be the equivalent garments in your own situation.

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Have you bought kimonos in -- or from Japan?

You are making WAY too many assumptions about Monet -- and about the MFA -- and about me .
.
In Japan, you would not go looking for a generic "kimono", but for something quite specific. Just sticking with ones for married women -- you have (in addition to yukata) houmongi, tomesode, iromuji, komon ....

http://www.ichiroya.com/index.php
http://www.kimonoya-japan.net/

The extra details you seem to want the MFA to have provided would be almost entirely irrelevant to the Monet painting.

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They didn't pair it with any other Japanese artwork because the NHK in Japan commissioned the kimono to be made specifically to tour with the painting and to be tried on to promote Japanese culture.

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Theres a rumor going around that at next months exhibit guests get to put the wisdom in the MFA's china

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I am Japanese. The kimono replicas were commissioned by Japan's NHK for the purpose of letting foreigners try them on as part of getting them to know Japanese culture. The kimonos is made by Japanese NHK. The idea to use kimono to introduce culture is Japanese, the kimono used is made by Japan NHK. Introduction of Japan culture via kimono is Japanese government "Cool Japan" project. http://www.meti.go.jp/policy/mono_info_service/mono/creative/

Japanese are not offended. Only Americans are complaining to be offended. If they are not japanese and complain about things the japanese do, it is not them who are appropriating Japanese culture?

The people who critic this do not know that Japanese made the kimonos, they say things like this:

https://www.reddit.com/r/asianamerican/comments/3ckl37/museum_of_fine_ar...
>White institutions make cheap imitations of a kimono to try on for fun to fuel their foreign fetishes

https://www.reddit.com/r/asianamerican/comments/3ckl37/museum_of_fine_ar...
>The "Kimonos" in these pictures are copycats of the original in the picture (which is completely disrespectful to the artist and the original creator of the kimono), and it looks like a cheap fucking quilt made by someone's half blind grandmother.

The non-Japanese insult the kimono made by Japanese, and appropriate Japan culture to use as political tool. They are the real racists. They insult Japanese, say Japanese thoughts does not matter.

https://www.reddit.com/r/asianamerican/comments/3ckl37/museum_of_fine_ar...

https://www.reddit.com/r/asianamerican/comments/3ckl37/museum_of_fine_ar...

The MOD of /r/asianamerican say I personal attack because I say person who appropriate Japanese culture and insult Japanese and Japanese culture is racist. MOD delete response by Japanese who supports Japanese culture and give the proofs, and do not delete the non-Japanese attacks on Japanese culture. This is obvios prejudice.

MOD say I am one person but I am same thoughts as all Japanese who see article. This is proofs of all Japanese people reactions.

https://www.reddit.com/r/newsokur/comments/3chrny/%E3%83%9C%E3%82%B9%E3%...

https://twitter.com/search?q=%E3%83%9C%E3%82%B9%E3%83%88%E3%83%B3%E7%BE%...

http://blog.livedoor.jp/kaigainoomaera/archives/44706843.html

http://hosyusokuhou.jp/archives/44708102.html

http://blog.esuteru.com/archives/8248201.html

http://www.all-nationz.com/archives/1033713937.html

http://nov.2chan.net/35/res/861463.htm

www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2015/07/18/books/underneath-orientalist-kim...

I say this to reddit /r/asianamerican and MOD is BAN me. MOD protect the racist attacks on Japanese, and BAN Japanese who speak for culture and rights of self. They are real racist.

All Japanese peoples support the Boston kimono event, and say this people attacking event is not Japanese and is appropriating Japanese cultures.

To appropriate culture is racism, says people who opposes kimono event. But this people is appropriating Japanese culture. They are the racists. Japanese culture is not their culture. If they attack Japanese culture, they are racists.

KIMONOS IS JAPANESE CULTURES. KIMONOS IS NOT ASIAN AMERICAN CULTURES. ASIAN AMERICAN ATTACKING JAPANESE CULTURES IS RACIST.

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... in the viewpoint of the Japanese who wish to promote familiarity with Japanese kimono crafts is certainly patronizing, but maybe not "racist" just misguided and self-centered. Thank you for presenting your viewpoint here.

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