Sailor-style uniforms sported by schoolgirls across Japan have a special presence in the Japanese psyche.

As such, this mode of dress that has its roots in British Royal Navy outfits introduced to schools by foreign missionaries a century ago forms the centerpiece of an unusual exhibition in Tokyo.

The “Sailor-fuku and Schoolgirls” exhibition is now under way at the Yayoi Museum in the capital’s Bunkyo Ward through June 24.

The 300 exhibits include uniforms that were de rigueur of long-established schools, as well as prewar magazines with prints and photos of uniform styles that were current in those days.

The style was introduced for girls in or around 1920.

“The greatest charm is that everyone, regardless of age and gender, can talk about them, and the style remains little changed after 100 years and is still cherished,” said Shizue Uchida, 48, a curator who organized the exhibition.

A surge in female students numbers led to calls for outfits that were more comfortable than the traditional “hakama” skirts that were then widely worn.

Heian Jogakuin in Kyoto, Fukuoka Jogakuin in Fukuoka and Nagoya-based Kinjo Gakuin apparently were the first schools to adopt the new style.

All the institutions are Christian schools founded by foreign missionaries. As such, they actively incorporated Western culture into many aspects of school life in line with the modernization program that had been under way since the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

Featured at the venue is a replica of the oldest uniform worn by students at Heian Jogakuin, as well as those currently in vogue at Fukuoka Jogakuin and Kinjo Gakuin.

Sailor-style uniforms quickly caught on with other schools around the country. They are now uniformly adopted by Japanese public and private schools.

The sailor-style outfit is a popular motif in Japanese pop culture, notably featuring in the movie “Sailor Suit and Machine Gun” starring Hiroko Yakushimaru and the anime “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon.”

A school uniform currently used at Yakushimaru’s alma mater in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward and an original drawing created by the “Sailor Moon” author are also on display.

The venue is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. Admission is 900 yen ($8.20) for adults, 800 yen for senior high school and college students, and 400 yen for children attending junior high and elementary schools.