In my Feb. 17 column in The Japan Times, I wrote about ブルマー (burumā), the high-cut, body-hugging gym shorts most Japanese schoolgirls wore from the mid 1960s through the late 1990s. I normally pair each column with a photograph, but this time I arranged for an illustration by Kenma Sunafuki, who worked from the 1970s photo above. The girls are participating in a relay race, and are waiting for their teammates to run up and pass on the baton. The headbands indicate which team they are on. In the illustration in the paper we used the common 紅白 (kōhaku) combination of red and white, used at the school my children attended. But schools in the ’70s were crowded and they needed more colors. Judging from the headbands on the girls in the background, this school had at least three teams. By the way, the shorts on these girls are pretty loose as pittari(tight-fitting) bloomers go. As synthetic fabrics improved and got stretchier. the shorts got even briefer and snugger. That’s why so many girls disliked them. And why the boys and men around them found it hard to tear their eyes away.
I work in a public junior high school and often visit elementary schools. In every elementary school I’ve visited, the kids still wear pittari buruma- all the way through the 6th grade.
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