Photo/IllutrationTokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, right, unveils the metropolitan government’s wearable parasol at a news conference at the metropolitan government office on May 24. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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Looking a bit odd is a small price to pay if it means staying cool under the blazing summer sun.

This seems to be the philosophy employed by the Tokyo metropolitan government when it came up with head-mounted parasols for volunteers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

A test-run of the unique sunshades kicked off July 26 at a beach volleyball event in Shiokaze Park in the capital's Shinagawa Ward, with the temperature in Tokyo topping a balmy 33 degrees.

While the wearable parasols have drawn a storm of criticism online, the government countered that the "avant-garde" design should be seen as one of their merits.

HANDS-FREE COMFORT

Decked out in the unique sunshades, staff members held up information boards with both hands at the venue under the sun. The 60-centimeter-diameter parasols can be used by men and women and are fixed to the head, featuring headbands inside.

"To be honest, I was embarrassed at first, but I later found that wearing a parasol blocks the sunlight and makes me feel cool," a 55-year-old male volunteer said.

"People may laugh at it, because the conventional view is that umbrellas are held with the hands, but I've become accustomed to wearing it."

A 72-year-old woman agreed, saying, "I was ashamed that I looked like a traditional Japanese courier, but it helps lower the temperature more than I expected, while freeing both hands."

She added that a visitor from Argentina admired the headgear, saying, "It's cool," and that she felt cooler thanks to the opening created between her head and the umbrella, unlike hats.

As the headbands can be adjusted to fit a user's head, the sunshade is designed in a way that it cannot be fastened too tightly. The parasol weighs as little as 180 grams. And the only problem, at least to some, appears to be its unusual design.

DARE TO WEAR

The metropolitan government unveiled the wearable umbrella in late May.

Speaking at a news conference, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said, "Shy men who hesitate to use ordinary parasols should take the leap and give this peculiar item a try."

After an image of a male metropolitan government official in a suit wearing the sunshade was shown to media, comments piled up online, referring to it as "remarkably funny" and "embarrassing."

As a first step, the government developed 900 of the sunshades at a cost of 1 million yen ($9,380) so that volunteers could try them at test events this summer and on other occasions.

Tokyo will decide whether to use the article during the Games next year after receiving feedback from users.

As the wearable umbrellas could potentially knock into surrounding people in cramped stands, the government is considering having only volunteer staff wear them.

ECCENTRIC CAN BE GOOD

A little-known fact, wearable umbrellas have already been on sale by several fashion item producers.

Western-style umbrella maker Lieben in Kyoto has been producing several hundred umbrellas worn above the head annually since about 10 years ago.

"We wanted to develop a peculiar product inspired by the wearable umbrella used in Southeast Asia," a Lieben official said.

The official said its products are mainly used for staying out of the sun while gardening and doing farm work.

"It may be inappropriate for us to say this, but the wearable parasols are too eccentric for use in town, which has led purchasers to wear them in places where nobody is watching them," the official said.

Luxury fashion brand Fendi offers its own wearable parasol called the Headband Umbrella. The item made its debut in the men's collection for autumn and winter 2018, touted as "a unique and playful item symbolizing the Fendi concept."

Koike said she bought a brand-name wearable parasol priced at 30,000 yen to help develop Tokyo's own umbrella.

On July 28, the last day of the beach volleyball test event, Koike promoted the wearable parasol in front of news reporters during her visit to the sports venue for an inspection.

"One characteristic of the hands-free umbrella that creates shade is that it enables (volunteers called) City Cast to stand out from others, allowing spectators to identify them easily," said Koike, indicating that the unusual design could prove to be an advantage.