For a delicate piece of sun protection that doubles as a fashion strategy, one need only look to Japan where, on each bright, cloudless day, a kaleidoscopic stream of umbrellas winds its way through the streets—shielding its bearers from the sun entirely. The wagasa, as it’s called, was handcrafted from reedy bamboo stalks and oiled paper in centuries past, then painted with brilliant colors and ink-wash motifs. The cultural ties run deep: The geishas of Gion donned violet ones, while vivid crimson wagasa traditionally could be seen in the hands of brides. Now, there’s the higasa (hi meaning sun), an artistic, but ultimately practical way to protect the skin in summertime, and a quick glance through the Japanese hashtag reveals the parasol’s enduring power.
From Tokyo to Kyoto, Sapporo to Osaka, women, men, and children of all ages unfurl them whenever and wherever the sun shines. These modern iterations come in colorful UV ray–blocking fabric, and the singular skin-care approach exists, too, across South Korea and China, where undamaged complexions are equally prized. Judging by the pristine faces peeking out from beneath them, we’d say that a shameless sun parasol might be the ultimate Japanese beauty secret—one we’d like to see make its way stateside, and stat.
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