“What? You can rent a Kimono?”
That was my reaction when I found out that yes, there is such thing in Japan and yes, it is quite common, even for Japanese, to rent and wear them to walk around especially in Kyoto.
It always amazes me how the Japanese culture is still so much intact and in practice within the Japanese people, both old and young even up until now. Go to any shrine or temple in Japan and you are bound to witness someone in the traditional Kimono. We’ve seen a few younger Japanese couples and a few tourists in the shrines in Tokyo, but, to my surprise, almost 40-50% of visitors (both foreign and local Japanese) were seen walking around Kyoto in a Kimono. Felt like it was “the thing” to do in Kyoto. I remember reading a Shoujo (meant for teenage girls) manga back in the days and remembered how the students would always wanted to wear the kimono when they have a field trip to Kyoto. It’s not fictional apparently, it’s real!
When I first found out that you can actually rent a kimono for a day, all in a package including a selection of kimono and obis and obijime (the sash and string on the waist), a clutch bag of your choice, a pair of sandals (geta), a pair of socks that goes with the sandals (tabi), and a choice of hairdo to go with the Kimono, all at a price of 5500 yen (about 55USD equivalent), I jumped on the opportunity! After all, there’s no way I’m ever going to spend to buy an actual kimono and even if I did, there’s no way I know how to wear one.
There’s a few companies around Kyoto that you can rent your kimono with. I went with Okamoto. Mainly because they seemed to have more kimono selections that I like and they have a few branches across Kyoto so I was more flexible in choosing the location and time I wanted to go.
So what do you need to do? First things first, look through the packages available on the website and choose the one you want. Then, book online. You will be asked to put in a time and date and location you want yours done. Basically, the rental is for a whole day (until the shop closes) and the earlier you get them done, the longer you can wear them! I’ve booked mine at the earliest time slot available. Once you’ve reached the shop on the day itself, you will attended by different ppl at different stages.
Stage 1: You will be asked about your height and to choose the Kimono of your choice based on the patterns available for your size. I am 164cm (not too tall, but in Japan, I was considered tall) and was told to choose mine from the L section. Looking through the racks, you will realise that there’s so many different patterns, styles and colours to choose from. It took me a while but I did have a colour palette that I have in mind to choose from and it didn’t take me too long to find what I wanted. It was a beautiful silk kimono in light blue/turquoise with flowers in shades of purples. I was aiming for an elegant look. Though a lot of the girls aimed for cuter looks. Next you’re told to look for an obi (sash) and obijime (string) to go along with you kimono. Because I have purple flowers on my kimono, I thought it’ll be safer to go with a purplish sash. The attendee gave me a thumbs up for my choice of colour and he chose a white obijime for me as he say it’ll bring the colour out more. Next, he also gave me another layer of white rope with purple collar and I was also told to choose a clutch bag of my choice.
Stage 2: Wearing the kimono. I was next hoisted to another part of the shop where customers are taking turns to be attended to wear the kimono. After waiting for 5-10 minutes, it was my turn. I was taken to a room full of kimono stylists, each attending to a single customer. I was lead to one of the stylist and was told to remove my clothes except for my undies and was told to wear a white rope. I had a tank top on though and that’s was recommended for winter. The white rope form the innermost layer of the kimono. She tied a few strings around the waist to hold the rope in place. Next, she told me to wear the next layer of white rope with the purple collar I got earlier. Again she tied a few strings around the waist to hold it in place.Finally she put on the actual silk kimono layer. I can see how hard it is to adjust the kimono by urself. She was, of course quite professional and was very quick. After aligning the kimono, she tied another string around my waist. Now the sash. I couldn’t see much of how she was doing it but I did saw her putting a piece of rectangular thing in between the sash before putting on my waist, fold around my waist before tying it to a ribbon behind to secure it. Lastly, she put on the obijime. All my clothes and shoes were then put into a big shopping bag with my name on it and was stored in their store room until I return.
Stage 3: Hairdo. With an addition of 500 yen (5usd), they can make your hair to any hairstyles you want. Again, I thought of going to the elegant route, so I chose something safe. In hindsight, I think the style make me look old. Should have chosen some braided updos for a younger look. Having said that, I was still very impressed with their skills and their speed! I’ve had my wedding, I knew how long it took for the hairstylist to make my hair. This in comparison took only 15 minutes! Hair accessories are also included and you can choose whatever that you like.
Stage 4: I was then brought to another place to choose an outer wear because it was winter. The outer wear covers the kimono ribbon pattern at the back and look like an obachan (old grannie with a hunched back) from the back haha. But it kept me warm. Tho, I did took it out at some point to take better photos of the kimono.
Stage 5: Lastly, I was asked to choose a geta that fits my feet and that’s it! I was free to roam around Kyoto in my kimono for another 7 hours until return. All in, it probably took about 1.5hours to get from stage 1-5 so do account that time lost in your itinerary.
Walking around Kyoto in a kimono didn’t feel weird at all. No one will be looking at you because it was so normal. Almost 50% of girls and women of the age of between 14-40s were wearing a kimono and even some men were seen in a men’s kimono. It wasn’t hard to walk around with either and the Geta was quite comfortable to walk in, even in long distances. I’ve pretty much walked the whole day that day. Many of you would probably be curious on how to go to the toilet in a kimono. Surprisingly, it wasn’t all that hard. All you have to do is open the openings of the layers on both sides and lift it up! Easy! Walking around Kyoto in a kimono is definitely an experience I will never forget. It felt like I’ve went back in time especially when you’re in a town as historical as this. Too bad the hubs wasn’t game enough to wear the men’s kimono. Otherwise, we would have taken so many couple photos in Kyoto in kimono.
Have you ever wanted to know what it feels like to wear a kimono? I hope my post inspired you to try it on you next Japan trip. 🙂 If you have any questions to ask me about my experience, please feel free to leave me a message below.
Til the next post, keep experimenting~!