It’s hard to see why this should be an issue, but apparently it is.
In the modern era, on most days Japanese women wear Western-style clothing. Sure, kimono look nice, but they’re less practical and more time-consuming to put on than a shirt and pants or skirt.
An exception, though, are waitresses at fancy restaurants that serve Japanese cuisine, who are generally required to wear kimono while on the job. For these restaurants, a large part of their appeal comes from culinary and gastronomic traditions that stretch back generations, and by extension their classical Japanese decor and staff attire.
Japanese Twitter user @wine_kimono has worked in numerous restaurants where she needed to wear a kimono, which doesn’t seem to be a garment she’s averse to, given her online name. However, there’s another common part of the dress code at fancy Japanese restaurants that she’s far less happy about.
着物きたソムリエ@英語勉強中 (@wine_kimono) October 16, 2019
“The most puzzling thing about working in a Japanese restaurant is being told ‘Take off your glasses,’” @wine_kimono tweets. “I’ve worked in large Japanese restaurants and small independent ones, and about 90 percent of them won’t let you wear glasses.”
When @wine_kimono has asked why, the three reasons she’s been told are:
● Your glasses might drop into the food as you’re serving it.
● It’s rude to look at customers over the rims of your glasses.
● Kimono and glasses are a weird combination.
The first one two are already odd, since glasses aren’t more likely to fall into Japanese food than they are any other kind of cuisine, and it’s not like waitresses at non-Japanese restaurants in Japan are constantly having their eyewear slip off their faces. Likewise, peering at a customer over the top of your glasses can make it look like you’re glowering no matter what kind of food is on the menu, and seems easy enough to prevent by simply, well, looking at customers through the lenses, like people with glasses do in polite interpersonal interactions regardless of whether or not they’re working at the time.
But it’s the third reason, that glasses and kimono aren’t an appropriate combination, that really has Japanese Twitter users scratching their heads. The ostensible logic seems to be that since Japan didn’t have eyeglasses until after contact with the West, they make the waitresses attire seem less “Japanese,” and since orthodox etiquette in Japan has a major preference for thorough aesthetic singularity (such as with the attitude that “women dressed for business need to wear formal heels”), the restaurants feel that wearing glasses with kimono would be a sloppy, or at least respectful, manner of dress.
▼ “Wow, we sure have been getting a lot of parties of fuzzy, cloudy blobs for the dinner rush recently!”
Just because commenters could envision the line of logic, though, doesn’t mean that they agreed with it, and reactions included:
“Eyeglasses are practically a medical device. What’s weird is for an employer to prohibit their use.”
“Would they say the same thing if a waitress had a hearing aid or prosthetic leg?”
“For people who need glasses, they’re like a part of their body.”
“Some people have eye conditions that don’t allow them to wear contacts instead.”
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wearing glasses with kimono. My mom does, and she teaches tea ceremony…I think it would be much ruder, and dangerous, to serve guests food when the waitress can’t see.”
Adding another wrinkle to the discussion is that the clientele for high-end Japanese cuisine in Japan tends to be, on average, older than for many other sectors of the restaurant industry, which leads to an even greater preference for old-fashioned fashion. On the bright side, online reactions show that many people have no complaints about kimono and glasses, so hopefully @wine_kimono’s observation that around 10 percent of fancy Japanese restaurants do allow glasses is a figure that’ll increase in the future, even as Japan holds on to its kimono history.