The chirping sound of birds and crickets tells me that summer has finally come. People change their warm attire to cool, short sleeves and sandals. The increasing temperature sometimes makes me feel too hot to be comfortable. The rainy days in June moisten my skin and make my shoes wet, but after all, those annoying weather conditions cannot take away the excitement for the upcoming summer.
Summer may not be the most popular season for traveling in Japan, especially in August and September when several typhoons hit the island. However, Japanese summer can offer tourists an exotic experience with numerous local festivals. 夏祭り(NatsuMatsuri) or summer festival is organized in most local communities. Some big events attract more visitors by lighting beautiful fireworks. Most enhance the festive mood with dances (Bon Odori/盆踊り) and parades, using traditional decorated cars (Dashi/山車). The sight of participators in Japanese traditional summer robe or Yukata (浴衣) is quite common at all of these events. Not only can you see or take pictures of people in Yukata, but tourists can also easily rent and wear a Yukata themselves to enjoy summer in traditional Japanese style.
Unlike Kimono (着物), Yukata is the leisure wear, wore primarily at home. It is usually made of cotton, with a simple dressmaking pattern to suit hot and humid weather. In the past, Yukata was worn after coming out of the hot spring. It requires fewer layers of clothing and decorating pieces, because you do not have to wear the full-length undergarment as with the kimono. Thin underwear made of cotton crape is enough for Yukata. The belt, or Obi (帯) is tied in simple way without Obi-makura, Obi-age or Obi-jime, which are essential in wearing the Kimono. For the footwear, Geta (下駄) or wooden sandals are more preferable. Prints and color on Yukata represents the cheerfulness and freshness of summer.
In order to wear the Yukata, you need these following essential garments and accessories; Yukata: The outer robe with beautiful paints and colors Yukata undergarment (Hadajuban – 肌襦袢 ): The underwear, mostly made of white thin cotton crape, giving a comfortable and airy feeling. 3-4 robes: To tie the undergarment and Yukata to your upper and lower waist Date-jime: A 5-inchs wide waistband tied to keep Yukata undergarment in place Obi: Belt Obi-ita: Obi-stay inserted in Obi to keep it from wrinkling. Geta: Wooden sandals Obi accessories Hair accessories Japanese-style pouch Approaching June, not only the Kimono specialty stores, but also normal fashion brand stores will release their Yukata-with-Obi-set as a part of their summer collection. Leading department stores, namely PARCO and OIOI (the pronunciation is ma-ru-i), which are popular among younger generations, will set up special corners for Yukata throughout the summer. There, customers will find every essential accessory for the dress and get shopping guidance from experienced shop assistants. These stores show that the Yukata is a timeless summer fashion among Japanese teenagers.
When buying Yukata, one has to be careful with the color and prints on the robe and Obi. Matching up colors(色合わせ) is one challenging task. It is considered to be an art, which indicates the occasion, age, and taste of Yukata wearer. To ensure a successful color match, I recommend that you choose an Obi that has the same color tone with the flower print on the Yukata, for example, a purple Obi looks good with a Bluish hydrangea print on white Yukata, while red Obi goes well with pink rose print on dark Yukata. For Yukata with modern geometry prints, bright green or yellow Obi will make the pattern looks more interesting and stylish. However, if you are not sure about the color rules, Yukata-with-Obi-set is another safe and easy choice. The set always comes in three to four pieces; Yukata, Obi, Geta and accessories. Some designers even offer an easier way to tie Obi with the ready-made bow tie (つけ帯).
Wearing a Yukata can be difficult, even for Japanese. Some have to go to the Kimono school to learn the right way to put on this traditional wear. Hence, this job is harder for tourists who are not familiar with the dress. Still, you must not underestimate the ability of a Japanese hair salon. Most of the salons can help you put on the Yukata (or even Kimono) and select the up-do hairstyle to suit your face shape and the yukata the most. They, then, put the cute make-up on your face and transform you into a beauty in Yukata(浴衣美人), getting you ready for the firework festival night in no more than 2 hours. The service usually comes in a package including the Yukata dress up, make-up and hair-do. Some salons offer Yukata rental, too. The price ranges from 3,000 to 10,000 yen.
1. Hair Salon Nuance Omotesando (no rental) Price: 3,150 – 6,720 yen
Located near Omotesando and Aoyama, which is very close to the Jingu Firework Festival avenue (神宮花火大会), where you can see up to ten thousand beautiful fireworks. The schedule for this year is the 17th of August. For more information please visit http://www.jinguhanabi.com/
2. Gekkabijin Roppongi (with rental) Price: 2,500 – 8,000 yen
There are several salons, especially for Kimono and hair styling, located in downtown Roppongi, which is close to famous hotels and many subway lines. This particular salon mentioned above, also has a variety of Kimono for both formal and informal occasions.
3. Asakusa Shichi Henge (with rental) Price: 2,000 – 20,000 yen
This salon is located near Asakusa temple and the avenue for Sumida river fireworks festival (for more information: http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com). The shop has a variety of dresses, from casual Yukata to Kimono for Performance and Geisha. There are also second-hand Kimonos for sale.
Dalby, Liza Crihfield. 1993. Kimono: Fashioning Culture. Yale University Press. New Haven and London
Slade, Toby. 2009. Japanese Fashion: A Cultural History. Berg Publisher. New York
Yamanaka, Norio. 1982. The Book of Kimono: The Complete Guide to Style and Wear. Kodansha International. Tokyo