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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kimonos in Kyoto

Last weekend, Elena and I went to Japan. It was a quick 2-day trip to get me out of Taiwan because I don’t have a visa. We did Osaka the first day, and a quick day trip to Kyoto the second day. Elena had told me all about her first trip to Japan in the spring, and as soon as she mentioned that many people rented kimonos and wore them around the city, I knew that was something that I would love to do. When I was little, I adored playing dress-up, and even now I still do.

Kyoto is the main city in which to dress up in kimonos, and I did substantial research into a shop that was in the right location. I managed to find one store ( that was near a metro stop and Gion street, our final destination in Kyoto, making it easy to return them.

We walked into Kyoetsu kimono shop at 9am, fresh off the train, ready to start. After taking off our shoes, we had to choose between wearing a kimono and a yukata. They explained that a kimono is worn all year round, though mostly during the winter since it is made of a heavier material and more layers are worn underneath. Yukatas, on the other hand, are worn during the summer as they are made of a lighter material and require fewer layers of clothing underneath. After remembering how hot the previous day in Osaka had been, Elena and I both opted for the yukatas. We had fun going through the dozens of colorful yukatas hanging on racks, and choosing ones that coordinated.

After choosing yukatas, we picked out matching belts from the stacks sitting against another wall. Then we took all of our things upstairs to a big room for getting ready. They gave us skirts and a thin garment that looked like a cross between a dress and a bathrobe to put on before we slipped into our yukatas. From there, they wrapped all kinds of things around our waists—a towel, a rope (to keep the towel in place), some kind of stretchy string that reminded me of a bungy cord (to hold the yukata in place), a plate of thin plastic (to keep the belt flat), and finally, the belt or obi. When all was said and done, the obi was quite tight around my waist and a little uncomfortable.

They also did our hair for us and took our picture before we picked out pairs of clunky wooden flip flops and sending us out into the city. The whole process took about an hour. We shuffled our way to the metro, off to Arashiyama bamboo grove and Fushimi Inari Taisha temple to take lots of pictures. Funnily enough, we saw many Asian girls in kimonos, as well as a few men, but only two or three other white people, whom we shared a knowing smile with.

After all day of taking small steps in our skirts and teetering on the little blocks of wood, we finally decided around 3pm, after Arashiyama, to head straight back to the kimono place before going to Gion street because we were so hot and uncomfortable. We had a lot of fun parading around the city in kimonos, but it was a relief to be back in normal clothes—they felt so light and free! I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone visiting Kyoto, though.

A little practical information about our kimono experience:
Location: Kawaramachiten
Cost: about $30/person for the basic yukata, town walk plan, and free hairstyle (with reservations)


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