If you are familiar with Japanese culture, you have probably seen in pictures or in real life, women dressed to the nines in beautifully patterned gowns.
These lovely robes are called kimonos!
In this blog post, learn about a special type of kimono called yukata, including how to rent one to wear yourself when visiting Kyoto!
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Table of Contents
- How Are Yukatas Different From Kimonos?
- When Do People Wear Yukatas?
- Do Guys Wear Yukatas Too?
- How to Rent a Yukata
- Tips When Renting a Yukata
- Yukata Photoshoot in Kyoto
- Where to Stay in Kyoto
How Are Yukatas Different From Kimonos?
While traditional kimonos are reserved for more important ceremonial events (like Coming of Age, marriage, and graduation), yukatas are a special type of casual summer kimono. Compared to traditional kimonos, yukatas are less expensive and the fabric is lighter and cooler to wear.
Below, a kimono is shown on the left while a yukata is on the right.
When Do People Wear Yukatas?
Yukatas are typically worn at summer festivals, while watching fireworks, or when visiting a particular town or shrine. Wearing a yukata is a wonderful way to dress up for a special outing and experience a part of Japan’s unique fashion culture.
The limitless designs and colors available make yukatas a great way to express each individual’s personal style.
Do Guys Wear Yukatas too?
Many think that yukatas are for women only, but in fact, men wear them too! While designs for males are not as brightly colored or plentiful, and accessories are few to none, men too can take part in the yukata-wearing experience.
How to Rent a Yukata
Yukatas are beautiful, so how do you rent one to wear yourself?
Luckily for those eager to try on a yukata, rental shops are common in tourist destinations all around Japan.
By searching online you can find shops located in the area you are staying in. Be careful to note the store’s return time, booking procedure, pricing, and add-ons available.
The place I rented from in Kyoto was called Kyoetsu. This company has two branches – one in Kawaramachi and the other in Arashiyama. Online you can view their different plans and prices.
Before visiting, make a reservation using the form on the website. Don’t worry too much about knowing Japanese as the website has an English version and the shop is used to working with those who don’t speak the language.
I arrived for my appointment at 9 am. After filling out a few forms, I was given the most difficult task: choosing my yukata! With so many styles and patterns to choose from, it was definitely a bit overwhelming.
In front of me, everything looked so pretty it was hard to decide.
Once I had finally chosen the yukata, a light colored piece with big, bright flowers splashed across it, the next task was to choose the obi or belt
The obi is a piece of fabric that is tied around your midsection. Functionally it helps keep everything in place and stylistically it adds a pop of color to your ‘fit!
Similar to the yukatas, there were many colors as well as fancier options (for an added cost), to choose from. The staff helped me pick an obi that complimented my yukata’s colors.
With my yukata and obi selection in hand, I headed upstairs to the dressing room. Compared to kimonos, the process of putting on a yukata is much simpler. After slipping on an underlayer, a staff member wrapped me with towels, straps, and more fabric to create a flat surface for the yukata to wrap nicely over.
The yukata and obi were tied tightly to keep everything in place, but not too tight that I found it uncomfortable.
Once dressed, hair styling came next. I was shown a variety of styles and accessories. The lady doing my hair was so speedy, she had my updo done and ready to go in less than 10 minutes including curling, pinning, hair spraying, and adding an accessory. Amazing!
Next up is to select a bag to hold your belongings. There are different sizes and styles depending on how much you need to carry. I picked out a traditional woven one that easily fit my wallet and phone.
For 500 yen more I rented an umbrella. Look how it pops with the background!
The last thing is footwear! Geta are traditional wooden sandals worn when dressed in a yukata. All of the options available were ridiculously narrow and small but somehow ended up being more comfortable than they looked. (My feet still hurt at the end of the day, but I lasted much longer in the shoes than I expected).
Because of the small shoes and tightly wrapped clothes, don’t expect to be prancing through the streets when you’re in a yukata. It’s hard to walk fast or take long strides.
Additionally, if you’re renting in the summer, it’s going to be HOT.
Prepare yourself for taking small, shuffling steps the entire day and being incredibly sweaty. But believe me, it’s still worth it!
Reminder: Yukatas are a symbol of Japan and its culture, not just a costume. Be respectful when wearing one!
Tips When Renting a Yukata
It can be quite difficult to choose a yukata pattern and obi when all the options are presented before you. To make the process easier, look at inspiration before your appointment so you go into the shop with an idea of the colors and types of designs you like.
As mentioned above, wearing a yukata is hot and you won’t be moving quickly in it. With this in mind, try to travel light and bring only the necessities with you on your trip. (No tripods or bulky suitcases!)
If you want to be extra glam, don’t forget to swipe on a bit of makeup beforehand to complete your look!
If you plan to go to Arashiyama in the summer to take photos in the bamboo, don’t forget to bring bug spray as the mosquitos are plentiful and hungry.
Yukata insurance is available to account for any stains or damages upon return. For a few extra dollars, it can give you peace of mind especially if you plan to be eating, sitting, or moving around a lot during the day.
Yukata Photoshoot in Kyoto
All dressed up for the first time in forever, I decided to hire a photographer to capture the experience and beauty of Kyoto. It was a long day as the photographer and I traveled to several spots in the city, but I was super happy with how the photos turned out, and I came away with memories I could share with friends and family back home.
Photographers in the area each offer different packages and pricing so see what works for you. I had a great time with Matt from SnapKyoto and his work is awesome so be sure to check him out!
Where to Stay in Kyoto
Looking for a place to spend your time in Kyoto? For an affordable location in the heart of the city, check out Hotel the Point! This hotel offers rooms full of amenities at a reasonable price.
Looking for other unique experiences in Japan? Be sure to check out these too!