INTRODUCTION: In Britain, "Pearly Kings and Queens" -- men and women dressed up in pearl covered costumes -- have long been used to help raise money for charities.
INTRODUCTION: In Britain, "Pearly Kings and Queens" -- men and women dressed up in pearl covered costumes -- have long been used to help raise money for charities. But in this age of synthetic materials and the current trend towards man-made plastic buttons instead of genuine pearl shells, it has become increasingly difficult for the "Pearly Kings and Queens" to maintain the tradition of their unique and colourful costumes owing to the lack of suitable shell buttons.
The Pearly Kings and Queens, are particularly famous in London and Lady Elwyn-Jones, the wife of the Lord Chancellor and patron and friend of the Pearly Kings and Queens, thought of a solution. She asked the Japanese Ambassador in London, His Excellency Mr. Tadao Kato, if he could possibly get some real shell pearl buttons from Japan. Mr. Kato finally managed to get in touch with a private button manufacturer in Japan -- Japan Export Button Manufacturing Company Limited -- and on Monday (17 January) Mr. Kato presented the buttons to "the Pearly Kings and Queens" of London at a reception in the Japanese Embassy.
SYNOPSIS: The Pearly Kings and Queens were still wearing their synthetic pearl costumes when they were introduced to Mr. Kato and his wife.
Today, 90 per cent of all buttons are made of plastic. The remainder consist of expensive pearl shells, costly to buy in quantity.
The Pearly Kings and Queens collect for the sick, disabled, blind, handicapped and other deserving people -- but from now their costumes should return to some of their former glory. Mrs. Kato, the Ambassador's wife, presented the buttons which weigh 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms) to the secretary of the Pearly Kings and Queens, Mrs. Maria Rackley.
When he heard why the pearl shells were needed, the Managing Director of the Japan Button Export Manufacturing company, Mr. Ichiro Yukawa, donated the buttons as a gesture of friendship and goodwill to the people of Britain, especially the Pearly Kings and Queens.
After thanking Mrs. Kato and giving her a plumed hat in return, the Pearly Kings and Queens livened up the reception by singing the most well known of all London songs -- "Knees Up Mother Brown".