Summer festival season is upon us. For many Japanese people it means garnishing portable shrines and dusting off traditional costumes to parade through town. For all people it means enjoying fun in the sun, food stalls and fireworks. Nothing tops off the festival season better than doing it in style!
Traditional summer attire is a lightweight kimono called a yukata. Last year I enviously watched elegant women sauntering through the streets in these long, flowing robes, so this summer I’m doing things right. Although you can buy a yukata online for around 3000 yen or at UNIQLO for a cheap price, my friend Chris and I hit up a kimono store in search of authentic Japanese yukata.
So how do you know what yukata to buy? What accessories you need? Well, wait no further!
Typically, men wear darker shades, young women wear vibrant colors, old folks wear subdued tones, and children wear bright colors. There are basically two components to a yukata: The yukata (robe) and the obi (sash). Women will need two koshi-himo (ties… one for men) to secure the yukata under the obi.
When looking for the right size yukata pick one that is long enough to fold over at the waste with the bottom coming to your ankles. For example I am 172 cm tall and my yukata is 168 cm. When in doubt seek out a little old lady to help.
I also recommend traditional geta (wooden sandals) because anything else looks out of place, and if you are going to get decked out in traditional garb, you might as well go the whole way!
Fashionistas embellish their obi with colored ropes and don decorative pins in their hair. For all the ladies out there, we must always consider our handbags… am I right?! Guys, you luck out here! The wrong handbag can ruin your make-the-ex-jealous outfit, and such truth cannot be more pertinent when wearing yukata. I recommend buying one of the square bottomed purses. They can be expensive, but you could easily make one from a basket, cloth and string from the dollar store, or buy cheap at a second-hand shop. I will add that the sleeves of the yukata are perfect places to stash phones and wallets.
Now that you’ve got the gear, here’s how to get dressed:
- Put on the yukata as you would a bathrobe.
- Lift it off the floor just above the ankle and tuck the right side snugly across your body and hold it at your hip.
- Wrap the left side over and hold it at your hip. Try to align the seams and be sure to wrap your left side over the right!
- Secure the yukata around your waste with the first koshi-himo. The yukata should be fitting snugly and flat over your lower body. There should be excess baggy material above the koshi-himo.
- Smooth out the top by reaching into the miyatsuguchi (holes) under the sleeves, then fold the material down over the koshi-himo. The bottom of the fold should hit around your hips/bellybutton.
- Guys, you can stop here and tie your obi, wrapping it around yourself twice with the knot/ends in the back… voila!
- Ladies, tie the second koshi-himo around your upper torso to secure the yukata. Now the hard part…
- Tie your obi around your torso just below your chest. There should be about 4 cm of folded yukata material poking out below the obi. You can opt for the authentic obi and learn to tie it using the directions on this web site: Tie an Obi, and 3 hours later you’re done! Or you can cheat like most young women now-a-days and buy the pre-folded bow and sash. In my opinion an authentic obi looks more elegant but they can be a headache. When in doubt seek out that little old lady to help!
Good luck and ganbatte!
Rough estimate of costs:
- Yukata, 3000-5000 Yen
- Obi, 2000-3500 Yen
- Koshi-himo, 200-400 Yen
- Geta, 1000-2500 Yen
- Purse, 2000-10000 Yen (ladies)
- Obi-ita, 300-800 Yen (ladies)
- Yukata underwear, 1000-1500 (keep you from sweating all over the yukata)
Thanks to Andy Siriapismai for the photo.