July 16, 2016
Yu-ka-taaaa!!!! I’m so excited about this TL;DR video! With the hot weather in full effect in Japan, my friend mentioned in passing that he was going to go buy a yukata. I was like…what is that. Well turns out a yukata is a light and casual summer kimono that many people wear out to the various summer festivals. It was originally created as an easy piece of clothing to wear between the bathhouse and the home back in the golden olden days of Japan. So essentially…this is a classy bathrobe…HAHA! Now technically the yukata is a kimono in the sense that kimono literally means “a thing to wear” but most people understand that “kimono” specifically means the more classic Japanese costumes while yukata is a casual outfit.
In my attempt to learn more about the yukata, I discovered a lot of interesting things going on regarding the drama of the kimono world. The yukata is actually coming back into style and is rekindling a fire in the younger Japanese generation due to the yukatas ability to be reinterpreted and redesigned. Funky shops are popping up selling crazy bold prints, fashion designers are using new types of fabrics (like polyester rathe than just cotton), and they are even printing graphic designs based on famous Japanese novels or classic movies. But the kimono comes with so many rules, it is having a hard time being modernized.
I read an eye opening quote by Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, who said, “The real reason why traditional kimono culture is about to (become) extinct is because of its tendency to aspire to ‘perfection’ as a style that does not allow any other foreign item to be added to it. My advice for anyone wearing kimono is to challenge this rigidity; let’s forget about attending kimono lessons.”
At first, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of the kimono not being cool and going extinct. But I guess I can relate to the concept of the kimono becoming extinct if you think about the era of silk stocking, huge ballroom gowns, boning, corsets, and petticoats being now extinct. While some people might enjoying wearing this type of Victorian fashion, it was eventually made extinct with the changing times. If the kimono doesn’t change with time, it might be left behind which is really really sad for Japan.
In recent years the sales of kimonos have plummeted and majority of people in Japan don’t even own one. With the popping up of kimono rental shops, a lot of Japanese people simply rent a kimono if they have to go to an event that requires one. Sadly, the more people attempt to keep the kimono as a sacred ceremonial dress with tons of rules, the more it is causing the kimono to become die out. Traditional kimono fabric makers have no one to pass the business onto and all their skills are ending with them. The younger generation has complained about the complication of having to go to a kimono lesson to learn how to wear them properly and in the end, they just don’t bother going.
So what are all these rules people keep talking about? The traditional kimono is usually made out of silk or another heavy fabric, has over 12 parts to it, and has many rules attached to it. The rules of wearing a traditional kimono will change according to many different things: if you’re young, eligible for marriage, looking for a date, or married. If you’re young or old. The month of the year can change the colour! AHHH!!! Putting it on is another set of complicated rules. Plus they are really expensive. We’re talking a new kimono, with all the parts, can cost up to $10,000. Did you read that? DID YOU!!?? That is insane. That is a car. No wonder the rental shops are so popular! Plus, you can’t even put a kimono on by yourself! It requires many little pieces to be matched and secured in a special way and you often have to go to a licensed professional kimono dresser to help you put it on.
So this is where the yukata comes in. With its lack of strict rules and its ability to be featured in the fashion world, I think it could make the kimono cool again. Not in my book, because I think Victorian fashion and the kimono are STILL super cool!!! Haha but you know what I mean.
Also, a couple notes on anyone worried about offending people by wearing a yukata or kimono in Japan. Unless you are wearing it incorrectly (for example, the left side of the yukata is wrapped OVER the right side, while the other way is for dead people) Japanese people are super excited to see people taking part in their culture. And I’m specially talking about Japanese people in Japan. If you’re invited to a Japanese festival (a matsuri) and you wear a yukata, everyone will be thrilled! The yukata is just comfy and pretty summer clothing. It doesn’t make you Japanese no more then a Japanese businessman wearing a business suit is trying to American.
If you’re visiting Japan, check out a local furugiya (a second hand kimono shop) to buy a cheaper yukata/kimono in the $100 price range or check out the shop Tansuya. If you’re visiting Kyoto, I heard there are many shops that will rent you a kimono for the day.
Lastly, we have some extra scenes from our Yukata shopping, including Martina’s bizarre way of wearing her shoes…