A Kimono in Kawagoe

One of the cultural experiences I got to partake in was being dressed in a traditional kimono + accessories and walking around a street festival. I had never been to a kimono rental shop before so I was looking forward to seeing how the dressing process worked. As soon as I entered the shop, ladies quickly bustled to get my shoes off and bags stowed away. They took me and the other girls to cabinets lined with shelves of neatly folded kimonos. There were so many colorful patterns, flowers, stripes, pinks, blues, greens, and purples. It was difficult to choose so quickly with all of the options, but I settled on a dark blue print with bright white and teal flowers.

Shelves of kimonos. They were all so beautiful, it’s hard to choose one!

After choosing the main fabric, the next step was to choose the sash. This thick piece of fabric wraps around the hips and stomach and securely holds everything into place. A tightly tied bow is sometimes attached afterwards. I picked out a bright golden yellow fabric to contrast the blue of my kimono.

Accent sashes

With all of the fabric chosen, it was then time for the transformation process. In a curtained room, I first slipped into a white underdress. Next, the main kimono was fitted on. The lady helping me firmly tucked, wrapped, tightened, and pulled – her hands worked expertly and quickly until I was snuggly wound into the fabric and it rested at the correct length above my ankles. A thin, flat piece of fabric held the kimono in place. After, the yellow sash was tied around my stomach with an equally firm tightness.

After the kimono was on, I thought my transformation was finished. However, I soon realized that my hair was next on the list. I got to choose my favorite hair accessory from an assortment and then let a different woman work her magic to try and tame the maris-bun hair. She made a nice bun, and poofed the top with skill I wish I had.

Getting the hair tamed

With my hair under control and accented with a baby blue flower, I had to then choose a satchel to carry my belongings in while I walked around the street. (I thought I would just carry my backpack but apparently backpacks don’t pair well with kimonos).

The last step of the dressing process was to replace my dirty converse shoes with traditional wooden sandals. I thought that the sandals were going to be uncomfortable and difficult to walk in, but was pleasantly surprised otherwise. The only weird part was that they were so skinny my toes hung awkwardly off the edge… and I have narrow feet!

Narrow wooden sandals

Ta-da! The store owners successfully made me look and feel like a proper kimono wearer.

Fully dressed and ready to walk

After I was suited up, it was time to walk around the festival. About five minutes after leaving the shop and snapping a few pictures, it began to downpour. I hid with friends under an overhang since all of us were too forgetful to remember our umbrellas and too stubborn to buy a new one. We ate refreshing ice cream as we waited out the weather (I had delicious peach), then continued walking in and out of the shops. I munched on some yakitori as I walked as well as a fresh oyster.

Skewers on the grill
A fresh oyster
A small theater performance

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