No kimonos for APEC leaders in Japan

YOKOHAMA, Japan Thu Nov 11, 2010 1:40pm EST

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YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) - Chinese President Hu Jintao won't have to worry about maybe having to put on a kimono at the weekend APEC summit in the midst of his row with Japan over disputed islands.

The leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have been asked to wear "smart casual" for the commemorative photograph of their summit, being held this year in Japan's port city of Yokohama, a Japanese government official said.

Summit hosts usually try to keep the APEC leaders' costumes under wrap, so to speak, to provide a little frisson at the otherwise anodyne convocations.

The 21 APEC leaders usually dress up in native attire for what's come to be known as a "silly shirts" class photo that concludes the summit. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton began the fashion show tradition by outfitting the leaders in black leather bombardier jackets at the 1993 summit in Seattle.

Previous meetings have seen the leaders don Chilean ponchos, Chinese silk jackets, batik shirts, Korean Hanboks, Vietnamese silk tunics, Mexican sombreros, New Zealand sailing jackets and Australian Drizabone raincoats.

The leaders gamely grin for excited photographers but some have looked decidedly ill at ease in tight silk gowns or rainbow ponchos.

The government official declined to give a reason for this year's fashion decision, but traditional kimono, once the preferred dress of samurai, aristocrats and workers alike, could have made some of the leaders look uncomfortable, including Hu, who favors dark Western business suits.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has been angling for a bilateral meeting with Hu in Yokohama. Sino-Japanese relations have taken a sharp dive due to a feud over claims to isles in the East China Sea near potentially huge maritime gas and oil reserves.

Perhaps they will have an opportunity to chat at the Kabuki show before the photo session. The highly stylized classical Japanese dance drama is known for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.

U.S. President Barack Obama will host next year's summit in Honolulu. He has joked that he looks forward to seeing the leaders "all decked out in flowered shirts and grass skirts."

(Reporting by William Tarrant; Additional reporting by Yoko Nishikawa and Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

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