Olympic fashion icon Ayumu Hirano brings Japanese art and culture back to life


TOKYO (Kyodo) — New Olympic champion Ayumu Hirano showed he cares about his Japanese roots, tradition and culture by deciding to wear a tenugui around his neck as he strives for gold in the of the men’s halfpipe snowboard final at the Beijing Games.

As the 23-year-old gold medalist received worldwide media coverage, his eagle-eyed domestic fans spotted the white cotton fabric he wore in Friday’s final and hailed his patriotic spirit, sparking a stir. online shopping frenzy that led to the item selling out quickly. .

The tenugui he wore, adorned with kanji characters spelling “ukiyo” (transient world), was designed by Ryo Aizawa, a fellow professional snowboarder and entrepreneur who discovered that his tenugui products were suddenly becoming one of the hottest topics. Olympic fashion.

Japanese snowboarder Ayumu Hirano, wearing his trademark tenugui around his neck, is pictured after his second run in the men’s halfpipe qualifying round at the Beijing Winter Olympics on February 9, 2022, at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, China China. (Kyodo)

Aizawa said he was bombarded with restock requests from snowboard fans who were desperate to get one.

“I’m expecting a restock in early March. I heard they were scalped, so I’m trying to restock them as soon as possible,” Aizawa told Kyodo News.

“Fortunately, the response to the brand exhibition was amazing. It was so cool to see a Japanese athlete using a tenugui as a face mask and competing on the big Olympic stage. Ayumu embodied the samurai spirit,” a- he declared.

Aizawa, a 22-year-old who competes internationally and is backed by major sponsors, is the man who should be credited for Hirano’s current status as a fashion icon. He said the two men first met at a ski resort in Yamanashi Prefecture in the summer of 2020.

Aizawa gifted the tenugui he wore to Hirano after the then two-time Winter Olympic silver medalist complimented him on his fancy headpiece when they reunited at a training camp in Swiss.

Aizawa only founded tenugui brand Ukiyo last October, and his company was thrust into the limelight by surprise. But he’s making the most of this turn of events, taking the opportunity to get his brand’s message across to young people.

“The word ‘ukiyo’ means ‘transitional’ and I wanted the brand name to convey the message ‘live free’. I believe snowboarding is an act of self-expression that is an art form. Conveying a artwork that represents Japanese culture is similar to snowboarding,” Aizawa said.

This photo shows Ukiyo brand tenugui fabric of the same design worn by snowboarder Ayumu Hirano when he won gold in the men’s halfpipe at the Beijing Winter Olympics. (Photo courtesy of Gyro Technology/Kyodo)

The word “tenugui” literally means to wipe hands, but the versatile towels have been used for everything from drying and cleaning to packing. They are commonly used in Japanese homes and bathhouses, and also make excellent souvenirs.

There’s even a Tenugui Day in Japan, the March 21 “holiday” recorded in 2016 to celebrate age-old traditional craftsmanship.

While tenugui prices vary depending on size, design, and whether the edges are hemmed, the one Hirano made such a popular item costs 3,800 yen (about $33).

Hirano was asked about his tenugui when he spoke to a local TV station the day after he became an Olympic gold medalist, at which point he said his “snowboard friend” owned the brand and that he used the tenugui in and out of snow parks because “they’re cool.”

When not tying a tenugui around his neck as a replacement for a neck warmer or scarf, Hirano uses his tenugui as a face mask or as a headband over his trademark dreadlocks.

Many netizens took to the comment sections to send congratulatory messages to Hirano on his gold medal-winning achievement, but others shared their own unique ways of using the tenugui and how a simple Japanese invention improves their performance. life.

Time has shown that style still finds its place in sport, and now Hirano is inspiring the masses not only with his revolutionary snowboarding, but by putting a little Japanese cultural twist on his Gen Z sport fashion.


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