Yukata: The Spirit of Summer in Kyoto

April 14, 2009

by Miho Hattori
Have you ever seen a yukata before? A yukata is similar in design to a kimono, but it is a more casual and much less expensive kind of clothing worn mainly in the summer. It is usually made of cotton and easier both to put on and to wear than a silk kimono. The men and women of Kyoto have worn yukata for a long time, and even nowadays in the summertime it is natural to wear yukata and walk around the town. If you have never worn a yukata, why don’t you try?

Maybe you don’t know what you should do. I’ll introduce some ideas.

Choose a yukata you like

You will need to buy five items: the yukata itself, an obi (belt), geta (clogs), a pair of koshi-himo (the belts tied around your waist and chest before you put the obi over them) and obi-ita (a thin stiff board that keep your obi in place; it also prevents the obi from wrinkling).

You can buy these items at a number of shops on Shinkyogoku Street or Teramachi Street. There are many kinds of yukata patterns and ornaments. Recently, the yukata fashion style has changed. Young people like bolder colors and designs.

How do you like these?



Men’s yukata

A couple wearing yukata

How to dress in a yukata (for women)

ΠPut on your underwear, a slip-camisole or tank top is also OK.

Put on the yukata. Hold both ends of the sleeves and tug them outward slightly. Make sure that the yukata is centered on your body.

Hands down. Adjust the yukata to ankle-length by grasping the two positions shown in the picture and pulling the cloth upwards, and folding it over itself.

Now bring the left front panel around and over the right one, and fit it to the side of your right foot.

Hold the front panel in place with your right hand and put on the first koshi-himo a little under your waist. Start at your belly and wrap it behind you and then back around to the front. Next, tie it off by wrapping the strap around itself.

Place your hands into the openings under the yukata’s armpits and pull down the ohashori as in the picture.

Straighten the collar by pulling down on the yukata’s back panel. Leave a fist-sized space between your neck and the collar.

Put the second koshi-himo around your lower chest and wrap it behind you and then back around to the front, then tie it up.

And next, let’s move on to the obi. The latest obi are made up in two convenient parts: the wide belt and the big bow. The bow just hooks onto the belt, so you can put it on easily.

Wrap the obi around your body and tie it up as shown.

Conceal any loose strings by tucking them underneath the obi.
Ž Hook the bow part of the obi onto the belt part at the back and tie it up at the front. Again, hide any loose strings by tucking them under the obi.

You are done!

If you like, you can decorate your yukata even more with ornaments of obi and heko-obi.
For example

Even if you are awkward at first, don’t worry! Some yukata shops offer a service of teaching how to wear a yukata, with fees beginning at 1,000 yen. And DVDs or books which offer instruction on how to dress in a yukata are also available in order to allow you to do it all by yourself. (You’ll just need an interpreter!!)

Wear yukata at festivals!

In July and August, there are many festivals in Kyoto. The main festivals are Gion Festival on July 14th, 15th, 16th and Gozan-no-Okuribi on August 16th. You can feel Kyoto’s summer spirit by dressing in a yukata, even when no festivals are being held. Why not walk around the riverside of the Kamogawa and enjoy the breezes?

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