Washingtonians had a lot of things to get off their chests this weekend. And they did it, graphically, in Japanese. Only they didn't always know what they were saying.
Bold, black brush strokes like oriental calligraphy decorated T-shirts, bowling shirts, bags, jumpsuits and minis in Georgetown Saturday with Japanese words that shouted "God Bless America," "Fifth Avenue" and "Kamikaze." At least that is what some of the wearers thought their symbols said.
"I'm not really sure what my shirt says," admitted Bruce Youngblood, who works in a pawn shop. "I think it has to do with friendship, and it may be the symbol for shogun. It makes no difference; for me it's got esoteric appeal," he said of the shirt he got as a gift when he changed jobs.
Ray Blehar, a geographer, thought his ripped shirt with a red sun might say "kamikaze," but he bought it "because I like the way it looks." Beverly Smith, a premedical student at Howard University, assumed that her T-shirt read "Washington." And Karen Skinner, who was wearing a mini with an all-over pattern of brush strokes, simply shrugged when asked what her dress print said. "It makes no difference. I just like the print."
Pam Harris, who works for the telephone company, had the recognizable word "kamikaze" written under the brush strokes on her shredded T-shirt. "I know they the kamikazes were fighters. I just don't know which war."
Japanese graphics, or at least what appears to be such, have become the late summer rage in part because of the visual appeal of the black and white designs, the increased doting on fashions from Japan and perhaps even a spillover from the movie "Blade Runner," the futuristic film set in California with a strong Oriental influence.
Enrique Pordoy, the owner of a boutique called Chelsea on Wisconsin Avenue, thinks the popularity of the Japanese T-shirt suggests the start of a wave of Japanese-designed clothing. "By next season the writing will be gone and the clothes will be truly Japanese," he said.
Down the street at Commander Salamander, there were only two shirts left with scrawling letters on the back that manager Theresa Shew was sure meant "Fifth Avenue." Shew, who was wearing a T-shirt that was a mix of Hebrew, Japanese and English writing that said "Jewish Jap," said she sold eight shirts with Japanese symbols the first hour the store was open that day.
Linda Robinson, who was wearing a white jumpsuit by Kansai Yamamoto with lettering on the shoulder, said she thought her shirt said, "God Bless America."
"At least I hope it does," Robinson added quickly.