pretty ethnic clothing: the yukata

this is the last of a 3-part series on ethnic clothing, this time, focusing on the yukata, the summer kimono.

how i ended up in a yukata was serendipitous. it was my last day in japan, and i had a few hours to roam about shibuya before heading to narita. i stopped outside a shop window to admire the fabric on display, when the shop assistant beckoned me in. i flicked through the rack to look at the kimono fabric – mostly in modern japanese prints (some were honestly quite bizarre – like the modern tokyo skyline amidst a japanese zen garden setting. she then brought a basket over and got me to set my bag down, so that i could try one on. i protested, and tried, in my best broken japanese, to inform her that i had no intention to purchase anything. she gestured, ‘no problem!’ and after a while i went along with it. perhaps she was feeling bored..? or work ethic – not expecting anything in return for good service?

after but a few days in japan, one gets to know the japanese penchant for the beauty of wrapping – your purchases are wrapped in paper, then placed in a plastic bag, then put inside a paper bag to go. (it’s like a turducken, only prettier and in paper form).

the process of wearing a yukata pays tribute to the legendary japanese attention to detail.

there’s an inner white layer, lightly patterned in geometric shapes, fastened with a belt. then the yukata proper – wintry white flowers on a red background, again fastened with a belt hidden under the folds of the yukata. an obi, untied, held together with a binder clip. then a decorative blown-glass charm, strung on a thick blue-and-white ribbon, tied around my waist to accentuate the obi. lastly, a pair of geta to complete the look.


i was amazed at the intricacy, the careful layering, and how seemingly clashing colours could come together.

later, i wondered how this counted as summer wear, given the layers, when the fabric is fairly thick. and then – if this is thought of as informal, what on earth would wearing a kimono be like?

before i left, she asked whether it was my first time trying on a yukata. i exclaimed that this was my very first time visiting Japan, and thanked her profusely for this unexpected experience. and then there was that slightly awkward bit where we kept bowing to each other as i was walking out of the shop.

i hope she’s doing well.

will be following up with a couple more posts on my short trip in june to tokyo, so stay tuned!