Wearing a Kimono in Kyoto: A Kimono Rental Experience
Kimono were the traditional clothing worn by Japanese and are often still worn today for festivals or very formal events. Some of the older Japanese men and women still wear kimono on a daily basis. If you are looking to really delve into and experience Japanese culture, renting a kimono for the day is probably one of the best ways to do it. Find out what it’s like wearing a Kimono in Kyoto, how much it costs, where to rent one and more!
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- My Experience Wearing a Kimono in Kyoto
- Where to Rent Kimono in Kyoto
- Prices and Options
- Hours and Duration
- Etiquette When Wearing a Kimono
- FAQ About Wearing Kimono in Kyoto
My Experience Wearing a Kimono in Kyoto
I was so stoked to finally be able to wear a Kimono when I went to Kyoto. It was something I had been wanting to do ever since I arrived in Japan for my study abroad program. Even better, I had a fantastic experience renting the kimono, and it lived up to my expectation in every way.
At a friend’s suggestion, we chose to get our kimono from Kyoto Kimono Rental 41, right by Kawaramachi station. Unfortunately, the shop keepers didn’t speak a whole lot of English, and at the time I didn’t speak a whole lot of Japanese, so my friend did most of the communication. (You can find a list of some English-friendly kimono rental shops further down in this article.)
I was able to pick out my own kimono from a set of racks that they showed me (which rack I was allowed to choose from was based on the rental package I had chosen). Once I had made my choice, the shop keepers showed me various obi (the belt or sash that goes around a kimono) and obi cords (usually a rope that goes over top of the obi) that they thought would go well with the kimono I picked.
I was a little bit worried when it came time to actually put the kimono on, as I was separated from my friend and left to fend for myself when trying to communicate. However, I was thrilled to find that it wasn’t as bad as I expected. If the ladies that were helping me dress grew impatient or frustrated with my inability to understand what they wanted me to do, they certainly didn’t show it. They were super nice the whole time, and with lots of hand gestures and motioning, we made it through it without too many problems.
I knew that kimonos were rather complex, but didn’t know what went into actually wearing one. I quickly found out that kimono have a LOT of layers to them, and the type of kimono that you are wearing often determines what gets worn. However, before they started dressing me in the kimono itself, they had me put on the tabi socks, which get worn with the traditional Japanese shoes they provided called geta. This was a little counterintuitive to me, since putting on socks is usually one of the last things I do when getting dressed. However, once you start putting on all the layers of the kimono, it can be pretty difficult to bend over, making it practically impossible to put the socks on after you put the kimono on.
From there they helped me put on the undergarments. A towel was used to tie the undergarments and another was put around my neck/shoulders. After that they put a kimono slip on me. It was the same shape as the kimono but was white and really light. Next they put on the kimono itself. A piece of cloth was put around my waist and then the obi was put on top of that. Around the obi was a cord with a flower on the front. Finally, I put on the traditional Japanese sandals.
I’ll admit, wearing the kimono around Kyoto was more difficult than I expected it to be. Wearing a kimono with all those layers in May with 84°F (29°C) weather was extremely hot. Plus, it was incredibly difficult to walk, only being able to take short steps at a time. Going up steps was also quite the challenge. I tried visiting Fushimi Inari the same day I rented the Kimono and really struggled since Fushimi Inari is on the side of a mountain. Most importantly, it’s not like you can take it off and put it back on, which means no bathroom breaks.
MAKE SURE TO USE THE RESTROOM BEFORE HAVING THE KIMONO PUT ON!
However, despite the above mentioned challenges, I absolutely loved the whole experience. Wearing a Kimono is one of those unique, only-in-Japan experiences. The amazing memories were 100% worth the effort and price.
Where to Rent Kimono in Kyoto
There are A LOT of places to rent kimono in Kyoto. As I mentioned above, I got mine from Kyoto Kimono Rental 41, however, if for whatever reason, you don’t like the price or options, there are plenty of other places you can check out.
An example of kimono rental locations in Kyoto:
Kimono Rental Prices and Options
Rental prices typical vary based on:
- Whether renting kimono or yukata
- Whether renting for men or women (or both)
- How elaborate the kimono
At many kimono rental places, you will often see that two or three different plans are often offered for women. The cheaper option is usually for more simple kimono while the more expensive option is for a more elaborate kimono.
Below I have listed the various kimono rental prices and options as of May 27th, 2018 for Kyoto Kimono Rental 41.
|Ladies’ Kimono Plan A*||¥3024|
|Ladies’ Kimono Plan B**||¥5400|
|Men’s Kimono Plan||¥4860|
|Pair Kimono Plan
(Men’s Plan & Ladies Plan B)
|Ladies’ Yukata Plan||¥4104|
|Men’s Yukata Plan||¥3024|
* Hair styling an additional ¥1080, rental hair accessories ¥342 per piece
** Hair styling an additional 540, rental hair accessories 342 per piece
Other Kimono rental locations in Kyoto offer other servers at an additional cost, such as storing luggage, permitting the return of kimono/yukata to a hotel reception desk instead of the store, and photo shoots. Some places also offer a discount if you make a kimono rental reservation in advance.
Some kimono shops also offer various plans and pricing for children.
Kimono Rental Hours and Duration
Most kimono rental stores open around 9AM or 9:30AM and require you to return the kimono around 7:30PM. Please keep these times in mind when planning your Kyoto itinerary.
Some stores close on certain days of the week. For example, Kyoto Kimono Rental 41 is closed on Mondays, so make sure to keep this in mind when trying to figure out which day to wear kimono in Kyoto.
Etiquette When Wearing a Kimono
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to wearing a kimono. Some of the tips are to simply make wearing a kimono a bit easier, while others are based on kimono etiquette and cultural practices.
#1: Sitting Down
When you sit on a bench, chair, etc. you typically want to sit closer to the front edge of the seat and prevent your back from resting on the back of the chair. This helps prevent the kimono, belts, and sashes from getting ruined.
When sitting on a floor cushion, you typically want to sit on your legs or with your legs tucked behind you. For women, when you go to sit on the floor, use your hand to press the bottom part of the kimono closer to your legs to keep it tucked in before bending your knees and resting them on the ground. Attempting to bend over at the waist can not only mess up the kimono, but is also an easy way to fall over.
#2: Long Sleeves
When wearing kimono, it is considered bad manners to expose more than your wrist. If you need to lift your arm for any reason, use your free hand to hold the sleeve of your kimono to prevent your bare arm from showing.
#3: Direction of the Kimono
When wearing kimono, the left side should be on top of (or crossed over) the right side during normal use. Having the right crossed over the left is typically reserved for funerals (considered “burial clothes”). In general, you won’t have to worry about this as the attendants at the rental shop will be sure to get it crossed the correct way.
However, BE CAREFUL WHEN TAKING SELFIES. Depending on the phone and photo app, a selfie may create a “mirror image,” which will make it look as if the kimono is crossed the wrong way. Please keep this in mind when taking pictures.
FAQ About Wearing Kimono in Kyoto
How long does it take to put the kimono on?
In general, it takes about an hour to put on a kimono, however, most places recommend allotting an hour and a half in case they are busy. Also, if girls choose to have their hair done, that will take about another half hour.
If you plan on doing the full kimono experience, I would plan to spend about an hour and a half at the kimono rental shop.
Will I be the only one wearing a kimono?
No, there are a lot of people who rent kimono in Kyoto for a day out on the town. You don’t have to worry about looking out of place or anything like that.
Will Japanese think it weird for a foreigner to wear a kimono?
Actually, I saw a Japanese friend of mine post a response to this question on Facebook a few weeks ago, and she said that she loves seeing foreigners wear traditional Japanese clothing because it means that they have an interest in her culture and want to be a part of it. I can’t promise every Japanese person will have the same opinion, but it shouldn’t be a big deal. Personally, I was always stared at while I was in Japan because I was a foreigner, regardless of the clothes I was wearing, so renting a kimono for the day didn’t make a difference.
How does sizing work for kimono?
A typical women’s kimono is designed for women of 150cm (5ft) to 175cm (5ft 7in). A typical men’s kimono is for men of 165cm (5ft 4in) to 200cm (6ft 5 in). Some stores do have additional sizes in limited quantities, but it is best to check with the shop first and make a reservation.
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