Summer in Japan means festivals, and the yukata is the perfect thing to wear to a festival! The yukata is a lighter version of kimono that is usually worn only in summer. If your Japan summer holiday includes checking out a local matsuri or two, or even just an evening stroll by the river or beach, consider trying on this iconic traditional summer wear!
Yukata + Hanhaba (half-width) Obi
Geta (pretty flip-flops or beach sandals are OK)
Undergarment (You can also wear regular undergarments such as a low-cut t-shirt, singlet, or camisole. They should be made of breathable, non-slip material such as cotton. Uniqlo’s Airism series is also suitable).
3 koshihimo (These can be substituted with 2-metre-long strips of cloth, but the cloth must be non-stretch and non-slip, such as cotton or wool).
Datejime (optional – can be replaced with a koshihimo)
Now, let’s learn how to put on a yukata!
It’s recommended to use a full-length mirror when dressing. Put on your undergarments, and have your koshihimo and obi ready at hand so you don’t have to bend down to get them. If you want to wear tabi, put them on before you begin.
Step 1: Slip your arms through the sleeves of the yukata. Pull the collar band up close to the back of your neck. Holding the front edges in your hands, align the back seam with your spine.
Step 2: Bring the right side across your body to your waist above your left hipbone. At the same time, lift the bottom hem until it is at the level of your ankles.
Step 3: Wrap the left side across to your waist above your right hipbone, making sure the hem is level with the layer underneath. Tie one koshihimo around your waist to secure it, making the knot over to one side.
Step 4: Adjust the front of your collar so the point where the left crosses over the right covers the hollow of your collarbone. Tie another koshihimo snugly under your arms and around your chest to keep the collar from shifting as you continue to dress. (Don’t make a dead knot.).
Step 5: Smooth the pulled-up fabric down over the koshimo at your waist to form a horizontal fold (ohashori). Slide your hands through the side openings to adjust and flatten the bunched fabric underneath. Make sure the outer surface is flat and the hem is level all around. Don’t forget the back.
Step 6: Fasten the datejime (or tie another koshihimo) around your waist, slightly above your waistline. Put on the obi over the datejime. (If not using a tsuke-obi, see the next page for a simple knot).
Step 7: After tying your obi, neaten your ohashori and collar, and remove the koshihimo at your chest. Check to make sure your obi knot is straight. Now you’re all done!
Find the Right Fit
Women: The length of the yukata from shoulder seam to bottom hem should be the same or more than your height.
Men: The length from shoulder seam to hem should be the same or close to the measurement from the base of the neck to the ankle.
It is better to buy a yukata that is too long rather than too short.
Yukata for wearing outdoors to festivals and other informal events are different from yukata provided in hotels and ryokan for sleeping or loungewear. These are called nemaki and usually come with a narrow matching belt, not an obi. Please do not wear nemaki outside of your accommodations in Japan, as you will look like you are wearing pyjamas!
When walking in yukata, bend your legs at the knees instead of striding from the hips. This will keep your yukata from flapping open and coming loose. Try to avoid running or walking fast.
Generally, men’s yukata is a lot simpler to wear because the ohashori is not needed – just put on the yukata over undergarments, tie on the obi, and you’re ready to go! But if the yukata is too long, just adjust the length at the waist using the method described above.
Kai-No-Kuchi Obi Knot
There are many different knots that can be used to tie the obi. This is a simple kai-no-kuchi (clam’s mouth) knot that can be worn by both women and men.
Step 1: Start by holding the end of the obi in your left hand, and stretch your arm straight out to the side. Hold the rest of the obi in your right hand firmly at the middle of your chest.
Step 2: Fold the free end (tesaki) in half lengthwise. Drape the tesaki over your left shoulder with your right hand holding the rest of the obi at your solar plexus.
Step 3: Wrap the long end of the obi somewhat tightly around your waist from left to right until you are left with a length about as long as your arm. It should not be loose, but make sure you can still breathe!
Step 4: Bring the folded tesaki down. Then fold the long end down over and then under the tesaki, and pull it back up to make a half knot.
Step 5: Fold the long end down again, and fold its end up diagonally to make a loop.
Step 6: Fold the narrow tesaki end up and slip it through and out of the loop made by the long end. Pull each end to secure the knot. If the wide end is too long, fold it down and tuck the end behind the knot.
Step 7: Turn the finished knot around to the back from left to right. Make sure it is centered at your back.
Practice Makes Perfect!
Don’t be disappointed if your yukata doesn’t look perfect after your first try at dressing. With practice, you’ll soon be able to wear one beautifully! There are many guides and videos you can look up online too.