All About Yukata: Traditional Japanese Summer Kimono

All About Yukata: Traditional Japanese Summer Kimono

2017.05.31

The yukata is a light summer kimono. This article explains how to wear a yukata, when to wear it, how it differs from kimono, and what styles are available!

Written by Bond

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What Is a Yukata?

A 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 style of Japanese inn that generally feature tatami mats, onsen, 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.

Outside of ryokan and hotels, the typical Japanese person generally wears yukata to festivals, firework viewings, or temples. The yukata is light and made of a thin material, such as cotton, and unlined, making it perfect for the hot summer days and nights.

How Is the Yukata Different from 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.

Everything You Need to Know About Yukata

Girl wearing a kimono

Everything You Need to Know About Yukata

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.

How to Wear a Yukata?

At first glance, wearing a yukata can seem intimidating, but fear not! 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.

When to Wear it?

Everything You Need to Know About Yukata

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 accommodations with onsen, Japanese hot baths, and in these occasions yukata can be worn regardless of season. Even in the cold winter months, these yukata are worn when traveling from the room to the onsen.

Yukata Styles

Everything You Need to Know About Yukata

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 the more lively patterns, while older women wear more subdued styles. Men’s yukata generally comes in darker colors and often lack a pattern.

Rent a Yukata at a Kimono Rental Shop!

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 Mine Kichijoji (yakata rental package: 3000 yen) or Asakusa Terakoya-i (yukata rental fee: 2500 yen/4 hours).

If you visit Kyoto, you can wear a yukata and have your picture taken against the background of beautiful temples. This is a service provided by the local kimono rental shop Yumeyakata.

In Closing

During the hot Japanese summer months, a yukata is a most 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!

To learn how to put on your yukata, watch this MATCHA tutorial!

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