Ever since our first visit to Kyoto, I’ve loved wearing Yukatas while lounging around in hotel rooms and ryokans.
A Yukata is a specific type of kimono made from cotton. It is intended to be worn during summer festivals (with a silk Obi/belt and wooden clogs/sandals) or as a bathrobe or loungewear. It is considered very informal. Ryokans provide them for guests to wear in their room’s, at meals and at communal places like gardens. We loved the feeling of wearing a fresh Yukata after a traditional Japanese bath.
Western hotels supply ‘Nemaki’ for guests, which are another kind of cotton kimono but with narrow (western style) sleeves, front pockets and little ties on the inside and outside to fasten it closed. The belt that comes with a Nemaki is made of the same material as the robe.
Last year, we went to a couple of department stores and tourists shops to try and buy one but did not like any of the patterns or styles. The owner of the ryokan we stayed at last year gave us the address of a shop in Kyoto’s Gion district which was unfortunately closed every time we passed by. So I ended up leaving Japan without a Yukata.
This year, I tried again. Again, we went to the same shops and again, nothing really grabbed me. They were ‘ok’ and I probably would have settled just to get one. But then, as we were passing through Gion, Husband remembered the shop recommendation and this time it was open.
It doesn’t look like much. It is a tiny shop on the lower ground level with stacks and stacks of traditional Japanese clothing, shoes and jewellery.
There were two elderly shop assistants and when I said ‘Yukata’ they showed me a few racks of them. So many different patterns. I chose two (one on the photo below and a black with white one with grey lilies) and asked if I could try them on. I actually thought that they would just take it out of the packaging and let me try it on like an overcoat to see how the pattern looked on me.
That was not how it went! They unwrapped the first one, put it on me and brought out cotton ties and Obi. They did not muck around with the ties and belt. I felt inclined to stop breathing when the belt was pulled tight around my waist. They really wanted to make me smaller. It felt like a corset. A beautiful bow was made on my back (see photo below) and I was given wooden clogs to wear in order to complete the ‘look’. They looked pleased with the result. When the ladies finished dressing me up they asked/motioned if i would like to leave the shop like that.
I didn’t, but the question wasn’t very surprising as we kept seeing lots of young girls wearing yukatas around town (some of them were Western tourists).
They were so nice and there was no a chance that I would leave without buying it. I didn’t get the silk Obi as I would never use it at home and would never be able to reproduce the bow (though there are lots of online tutorials). Anyway, it is mostly to be worn in public – which I am not planning to do. For now, I have some simple cotton ties called ‘koshihimo’.
Buying one was definitively a fun experience. A great recommendation.
This is the yukata I bought. Flower petals remind me of cherry blossoms. I have been wearing it on long, lazy mornings at home. Love it. It makes a fantastic bathrobe and is perfect for hot summer weather.