Written by Bond
All About Yukata: Traditional Japanese Summer Kimono
The yukata is a light summer kimono. This article explains how to wear a yukata with a video, when to wear it, how it differs from kimono, yukata styles. Learn more about how you can appreciate and wear this traditional Japanese garment yourself.
How to Wear a Yukata?
At first, wearing a yukata, a type of traditional Japanese clothing, can seem intimidating. However, there is no need to worry. The process is actually simpler than you would think. First, begin by putting the yukata on as if it is a robe, tucking the right side of the yukata underneath the left. The left side should be covering the right and pulled over to the side of the body.
This difference is important, as in Japan, corpses are often dressed with the right side of the clothes placed over the top before burial. Therefore, be careful when completing the first step of dressing.
After that, place the obi (also known as the belt or sash) around the middle of your waist, so that the belt is touching the front of the yukata but not the back. Then, wrap the obi around yourself, crossing your back once, with the two ends of the obi back towards the front of your body. Tie the belt in a bow at the front and then move the knot slightly off-center of your body.
Rent a Yukata at a Kimono Rental Shop!
Picture from How To Put On A Yukata By Yourself (Men's Edition)
In Japan, you can use the services of kimono rental shops to borrow a yukata or a kimono for a day. Licensed kimono professionals will dress you up and, at most of the shops, you can even have your photo taken!
In Tokyo, we recommend the services of Asakusa Terakoya-i (2,500 yen for 4 hours) in Asakusa. Asakusa is a traditional neighborhood famous for Sensoji Temple and the Sumida River and is an ideal place to wear yukata and take pictures. The cherry blossom season in spring brings sakura blooming along the river, which would make lovely photos.
If you visit Kyoto, you can wear a yukata and have your picture taken against the background of beautiful temples. We suggest looking into local kimono rental shop Yumeyakata in the Gion area. Gion is the old geisha district in Kyoto and has a traditional townscape complete with shrines and temples. Arashiyama is also famous for sakura, and also red and gold foliage in the fall, and has many rental shops.
What Is a Yukata?
As mentioned above, yukata is a style of traditional Japanese clothing. It is most commonly worn in the summers, but they are often offered to guests who stay in ryokan (a Japanese inn with tatami mats, onsen, food, and other uniquely Japanese experiences).
In accommodations that offer yukata to guests, the clothing can be worn anywhere; when sleeping at night, when traveling from room to the hot bath, and even into the surrounding town.
How Is the Yukata Different from a Kimono?
A girl wearing a kimono
Oftentimes, people make the mistake of calling the yukata a kimono. While there are similarities between the two, they are fundamentally different clothes.
A girl wearing a yukata
Firstly, the fabric choice is completely different. Kimono are made from silk whereas yukata generally come in cotton, or other light and breathable textiles.
Yukata is worn generally in the summer season, whereas kimono, which have more layers, and are heavier to wear.
The yukata is a more casual style and far more affordable than a kimono; therefore, it is easier for people to purchase one and wear around on a more regular basis.
When to Wear it?
Yukata are most popular during the summer months, where the unlined cotton fabric is most suited to combat the hot temperature. They can be worn around every day; however, it is most common to see young people enjoying them during the firework viewing festivals, known as hanabi in Japanese.
At these hanabi festivals, both girls and guys wear their favorite yukata to watch the stunning nighttime displays. Yukata can also be worn at summer matsuri (festivals), specifically the Buddhist bon-odori matsuri which honors one's ancestors.
They are offered to guests year round who stay at ryokan, accommodations with onsen, Japanese hot baths, and in these occasions, yukata can be worn regardless of the season. Even in the cold winter months, these yukata are worn when traveling from the room to the onsen.
The style of yukata is much more relaxed than that of kimono; generally, there are more whimsical options and brighter colors offered for purchase. Although yukata were initially made of indigo dyed cotton, making them mostly a deep blueish color, in modern times there is more freedom in design.
Generally, younger women and children wear more lively patterns, while older women wear more subdued styles. Men’s yukata generally comes in darker colors and often lack a pattern.
Put On a Japanese Yukata!
During the hot Japanese summer months, a yukata is a must-have item in order to fashionably combat the heat. An iconic Japanese outfit, which is often mistaken for kimono, the yukata stands out for its light fabric and more whimsical designs.
More affordable than buying a complete silk kimono, which can cost upwards of a thousand dollars, a yukata exists in a price range that makes it a perfect gift to buy - either for yourself or as a souvenir for someone else. This summer season, enjoy the weather the right way - by wearing yukata!