Kimono and Yukata
Kimono and Yukata are traditional Japanese clothing that has both charmed their way around the world due to their unique individualistic beauty and style. Both kimono and yukata are full-length T-shaped robes that have long sleeves and are secured with a decorative belt, worn by both men and women. Kimono and Yukata have their types that I will discuss as we go along. Both of them also have special occasions where they should be appropriate to wear one. Whilst they may look very similar, there are subtle variances between a kimono and yukata that a truly Japanese culture enthusiast should be aware of.
Kimono is a general term for clothes that one usually wears as the name implies. Before the introduction of Western clothing in the Meiji era, all clothing was called “kimono.” Therefore, all clothes have come to be called kimono.
Kimono is known as the “Japanese folk costume” which has been handed down while changing over a long history and is one of the traditional cultures that Japan can be proud of. Some locals in Japan had stated that it is only in kimono which brings out the inner strength, suppleness, and grace that only Japanese people can have.
A Brief History of Kimono
The origin of the kimono is said to be “kosode”. Kosode is a kimono with small cuffs, which was developed mainly by the common people. It is said that the origin of this kosode can be traced back to the Yayoi period. During the Yayoi period, men wore skirts with a piece of cloth wrapped around their bodies called Kanpui, women wore skirts with their heads through holes and sleeveless called Kantoui, and then men wore trousers.
In the Kofun period, the Yamato court promoted exchanges with the continent, and it seems that there was an influence from other countries such as China. The girls wear the tops of the “tsutsusode”, which seems to be imitations of China, and the skirt-like costumes (kinumo) similar to the Korean chima jeogori, and the boys also wear the sleeves. It is said that the trouser-shaped skirt called “Ayui” and a skirt with a string was tied around the men’s knees.
In the Asuka/Nara period, a clear identification system was established, and small sleeves of hemp suikan (ruby/suikan) tube sleeves were used by the common people of the working class for the ruling class, who had hidden limbs and were dressed to be difficult to move. The width of the body and sleeves gradually widened, and eventually employed costumes of silk woven crests such as kouchiki and sokutai were born. In this era, the custom of layering was born to aristocrats, and you can see the unique Japanese sensibility of expressing the seasons and scenes by layering colors. At this time, the “front right collar” was stipulated by law, and the culture is still being inherited today.
With the rise of the samurai family, Samurai women wore uchikake on their kosode to form a formal dress, and the kosode, which was the daily wear of samurai and ordinary people who served aristocrats, became the mainstream. In the latter half of the Muromachi period, Kosode, which gradually became flashy, began to be worn by competing for sunny clothes with an auspicious pattern called “ruby basara”.
The word “kimono” was coined for the first time in the Kamakura and Muromachi periods. This is because small sleeves with skirts have come to be used, and to distinguish them from small sleeves with tubular sleeves, the small sleeves with skirts are called “kimono”. In this era, most people other than public houses used kosode with a skirt, so the recognition that “kosode = kimono” became common and will continue to show posterity.
In the Edo period, restrictions were placed on the material and color of the kimono depending on the status, and the difference in the kimono depending on the status became noticeable. For example, wealthy merchants wore gorgeous embroidered kimonos, while ordinary people were only allowed to wear kimonos in a shade called “Shijuhachahyaku Nezumi”. Therefore, it is said that ordinary people have come to enjoy fashion by using kimono patterns and obi ties.
In today’s daily life, clothes are the main focus, and there are few opportunities to wear kimono. In general, kimono has a strong sense of being sunny, and it seems that it is mostly used for new ceremonies such as weddings, formal wear such as funerals, and formal wear. Many traditional events in Japan are suitable for kimono, such as New Year’s Day, coming-of-age ceremony, and Shichigosan. There are also events or occasions where the Japanese don’t wear kimono such as the entrance ceremony, graduation ceremony, reunion, festival of the summer, Tanabata, theater, shopping, and many more.
Characteristics of Kimono
Wearing a kimono in Japan is such a promising thing and one should follow the rules regarding the wearing of kimonos. Usually, there are various patterns seen in wearing a kimono. Those patterns also have their own meanings. Here are some of those patterns and their meanings.
Auspicious and Favorable Patterns Meaning
The crane has the image of longevity as it is said to be “a thousand years,” which is a pattern that symbolizes longevity and a happy couple. It is often used for wedding uchikake.
The phoenix is a legendary creature in China and is a pattern that symbolizes peace and harmonious marriage. Often used for wedding kimonos, it’s the perfect congratulatory event.
Shochikuume which combines “pine” that keeps green leaves even in winter, “bamboo” that grows straight, and “ume” that blooms early at the end of winter, symbolizes patience and the birth of life. It is often used for weddings, but it is recommended to wear it for baby gifts and children’s events.
Kanzemizu which represents the flow of water is a pattern that symbolizes the future. It shows that the future is constantly changing so that water does not stay in place. It’s a good idea to wear future events such as entrance and graduation ceremonies.
Flower Patterns Meaning
Sakura (Cherry Blossom)
Sakura, which is also the national flower of Japan, is a pattern that symbolizes affluence and the beginning of things. It is also a flower reminiscent of spring when many plants sprout, so it marks the beginning of auspicious things. There is an image of wearing it in spring, but it can be said that it is a pattern that can be worn regardless of the season.
Peony, which has large petals and is gorgeous, is a pattern that symbolizes nobility, wealth, and beauty because of its luster. Since it is often a large pattern, it is a good idea to choose a peony pattern when you place importance on gorgeousness.
This has been used as a cosmetic product since the Heian period, is a pattern that symbolizes nobility and sacredness. It was once used as a medicine for immortality and longevity, so it seems to have been popular among aristocrats in the past.
Animals and Insects Patterns Meaning
Since it grows in the order of “hornworm-> pupa-> butterfly”, the butterfly has become a pattern that symbolizes the healthy growth of women. Also, the butterfly was known as a pattern that symbolizes the harmoniousness of a married couple, as it seems to be in a relationship with each other.
Rabbits have been called a lucky charm because they have a rabbit pattern on the moon. Due to its high fertility, it is also a pattern that symbolizes the prosperity of offspring.
Types of Kimono (Female)
Wearing a kimono for women also has its appropriate time and scenery. It is also decided according to the type. Here are some of those types.
Rei Wearing (First Dress)
The first dress of Miss is wearing a bridal gown and five kimonos.
It is a modern wedding bridal gown such as pure white and colored uchikake.
This kimono is the first dress for married women and is mainly worn by the mother and relatives of the bride and groom. Choose a pattern that suits your age, and make it a dyed five-crest, whitefly.
It is the first dress kimono for unmarried women. It features a splendid picture of feather pattern and long sleeves. It can be divided into furisode, medium kimono (for weddings and parties), and small kimono (tea parties and casual parties) according to the length of the sleeve.
It is a mourning dress with five crests in plain black worn by relatives during the wake-up and farewell ceremony.
Abbreviated Wearing (Quasi-religious)
The abbreviation wearing is second only to the bow wearing. Because of its gorgeousness, it is used for entrance ceremonies, wedding receptions, and first pots.
A kimono with a hem pattern other than black, which is worn by married women and unmarried women who have graduated from furisode as formal or semi-formal wear. It is suitable for unmarried sisters and relatives at weddings, and can also be worn at gorgeous parties and first pots.
Visiting Dress (Houmongi)
This is the second-best kimono after visiting clothes. Although it has the same picture feather pattern, Houmongi is a kimono that is dyed after cutting the white cloth, while the attachment is a kimono that is dyed as a piece of cloth.
Street Wear, Casual Wear, Yukata
Street clothes (machigi), everyday clothes, and yukata (yukata) are suitable for a little outing.
In the past, it was classified as an everyday wear, but now it’s okay to wear it on a place where you don’t feel like going out. However, no matter how expensive it is, it is not acceptable to wear it on formal occasions.
It is a dyed pattern that is woven in a “smeared” pattern in places or a woven fabric that has such a pattern. The expression by weaving is called woven Kasuri, and the expression by dyeing is called dyed Kasuri. Like the pongee, it is originally casual wear, but now it is also used as outing wear.
It is a kimono for everyday use dyed in stripes and lattices with the broth of plants that grow naturally on Hachijojima.
It is a cheap and durable kimono for everyday wear. Along with cotton, it is a representative kimono for everyday wear.
It is a kimono for everyday wear that can be washed at home and is easy to maintain. Along with wool, it is a representative kimono for everyday wear.
Types of Kimono (Male)
If there are rules regarding the wearing of kimonos in women, there are also rules regarding the wearing of kimonos in men. There are some similarities with men on how women usually wear their kimono on specific events or occasions. They also have the first dress or formal wear and for their fashionable outing.
Men’s Formal Wear white (First Dress)
Regardless of age, men’s formal wear is a haori and hakama with five crests. It is worn as clothing for wedding grooms and matchmakers.
It is used as a formal dress that follows the black crest. Depending on the material and how to attach the crest, the range of applications can be widely used. You can feel the individuality of the men’s kimono, which is relatively plain in color. The material of habutae, rinzu, and crepe is dyed in plain color such as white, gray, brown, and navy blue. In modern times, it has five dyed crests and is worn as a groom’s outfit. It will be the same as the female colored tomesode.
Men’s Fashionable Outing
Just like the going out type under the women’s section.
If you add three crests or one crest to the plain color of the dressing and pongee, it will be the same as a woman’s colored plain crest and visiting clothes. It is worn for guests such as weddings, and new visits and outings.
Since it is not courtesy wear, it does not have to be crested, and depending on where you go out, you may wear it without wearing a hakama. However, it is still a good idea to wear a hakama for a new visit.
Since there are restrictions on movements when wearing a kimono, one is required to act differently than their usual behavior. Kimono is selected by considering “balance as an outfit” and “balance with the surroundings”. The former is a balance from the perspective of what to match with what. The charm of kimono is that you can enjoy the feeling of the season depending on the material and pattern. Also, the real thrill of kimono is that you can get a sense of the season not only with kimono and obi, but also with small items such as sandals, bags, and half-collars.
Occasions for Wearing a Kimono
Japanese are keenly aware of the four seasons, and the clothes they wear are always in keeping with the season. The Japanese are also very tuned in to the stages of their lives. For instance, special events like those events that are held to mark milestones in children’s growth, and people change their kimonos to fit both the season and the occasion.
First Shinto Rites of Passage (Hatsumiyamairi)
The first visit is when the parents, siblings, and grandparents visit a shrine together to report the child’s birth after 30 and 100 days of being born. The baby is dressed in a white under-kimono. On top of that kimono, the baby wears a brightly colored yuzen-dyed kimono if it is a girl, and a black kimono decorated with the family crest if it is a boy.
Second Shinto Rites of Passage (Shichi-go-san)
Another key event in the child’s life during the month of November is the Shichi-go-san Festival or the seven-five-three festival. On this day, parents take their five-year-old boys and seven-year-old or three-year-old girls to the local shrine to thank the gods for keeping their children healthy and making them grow. The kids are dressed in kimonos for this occasion too.
Third Shinto Rites of Passage (Seijin no Hi)
Upon reaching the age of 20 years, on the second Monday of January, young people celebrate their passage into adulthood by visiting a shrine on Seijin no Hi or the Coming-of-Age Day. For this occasion, girls wear furisode (kimonos with long flowing sleeves) and boys wear haori (half-coats) and hakama decorated with their family crests.
After the coming of age, wearing of Kimonos now depends on whether if a person is married or not. Furisode kimonos are worn only by unmarried women. And once a woman is married, she no longer wears a furisode. Instead, she wears a tomesode, a kimono with shorter flaps on the sleeves.
Yukata is known as the “Japanese Summer’s Traditional Clothes”. There are various designs of yukata such as “colorful patterns” and “simple patterns”, which are indispensable for events such as summer festivals and fireworks displays.
A Brief History of Yukata
Yukata has been in Japan way back before then. The oldest origin of Yukata is the steam bath of the drugstore built by Emperor Shomu’s wife, Empress Komyō, in the 2nd year of Tenpyo (730). The name yukata comes from the word “yu” (bath) and “katabira” (under clothing). In the Heian era (794-1185), it was said that some court nobles wore linen “yukata” which were draped loosely after taking a steam bath. The public bath at that time was a mixed bath, but the structure was such that men and women could come together through the entrance called Zakuroguchi. It is said that it is bad practice, and so, women wear yukata in the bathroom to block the eyes of men. Because the linen absorbs sweat and is well-ventilated, it becomes clothing to wear after a bath and as nightwear at bedtime.
It was from the middle to the latter half of the Edo era (1600-1868), Japanese warriors wore the yukata and were later on, widely worn by the public when public baths became a popular recreation in Japan. They wore it like a bathrobe to wipe off sweat after bathing. Also in the Edo era, going out in yukata for Bon festival dance and fireworks became natural and was also worn by a Kabuki actor on stage. Common people imitated these costumes and wore them themselves. Yukata culture was born and was spread among the people.
In the Meiji era, it became possible to wear it not only as a yukata but also as nightwear, the obi was worn as nightwear as it was, with an obi that can be easily tightened, such as ironing or date tightening. From the Taisho era to the Showa era, it will be worn not only as nightwear but also as loungewear. Also in this period, a new dyeing method was invented. When mass production becomes possible, yukata has become established nationwide as summer everyday wear. Now completely as a fashionable summer outfit that colors the fireworks display. It is an indispensable item for children and high school girls.
Characteristics of Yukata
Originally, the hemp material used for “Yuchoko” in the Heian period was mainstream since it can be worn as bath wear or nightwear. After being able to wear, cotton has come to be used and at that time, the principle was to dye white cotton with indigo. Traditionally, Japanese yukata were mostly made of indigo-dyed cotton, and like the more formal kimono, the general rule is the younger the person, the brighter the color, and the bolder the pattern. A child might wear a multicolored print and a young woman, a floral print, while an older woman would confine herself to a traditional dark blue with geometric patterns.
Since the late 1990s, Japanese yukata have experienced a bit of a revival, and many young women now wear them in summer in personally distinctive ways not limited by tradition. This garment is very traditional. The proper way to wear a yukata is the left side of the yukata should be wrapped over the right side and the other one is to be avoided as only the dead at a funeral wear the right over the left side. An obi (belt) is used to keep the yukata from falling open when worn in public. The inside of the belt is a velcro belt, so wrap it around your body and fix it neatly. After that, wrap the obi along your body, and finally, insert the plastic plate attached to the end of the obi into the obi from above to complete the process. In private, as after a bath, the yukata is usually simply belted. Also, a type of thonged wooden sandal called “Geta” is usually worn with the yukata.
Today, the Japanese yukata is widely worn as casual wear in summer, as well as at festivals, and has evolved into a summer kimono. Also, a yukata is most commonly made from breathable fabrics like cotton or thin, synthetic fabric. Further, the yukata is also widely worn in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). The yukata is loved for its lightweight cotton material. Fabric designs vary from the traditional plain cross-hatch pattern to the more colorful designs. A cotton sash is usually worn with the yukata for casual daily or nightly wear. In attending festivals and public occasions, the yukata is worn with a wider belt, which can be simply wrapped around the waist and tucked in at the end. For a more formal appearance, the Japanese yukata is worn with an obi belt, along with a matching geta (wooden sandals) and purse to complete the attire.
Types of Yukata
When it comes to knowing Yukata, there are various types of fabrics one should know about. A person can easily buy general yukata such as combed fabrics at clothing stores, but some fabrics such as cotton red plum and cotton roast are not easily available. Here are the following eight fabrics that are often used in yukata.
Menasa (cotton linen)
This type of fabric is a mixture of “cotton” and “hemp”. The hemp has the advantage of being highly breathable and also quick-drying. But despite this, hemp is known to be prone to being easily wrinkled and so, the weaving cotton combined with it reduces this weakness of the hemp. The texture of the yukata changes depending on the ratio of cotton and linen it has. When the ratio of cotton is high, it gave the yukata the soft-touch and the color of the yukata becomes darker when the ratio of hemp is high.
Mentsumugi (cotton pongee)
Mentsumugi is a fabric made from knotted cotton thread. It has a firm texture and a unique texture. The yukata is considered to be thick in proportion when this type of fabric is used and has a relatively low sheer feel, so it can be worn even in spring or autumn.
Menro (cotton roast)
Menro or cotton roast is a fabric made of cotton. It is woven with fine holes like a dot pattern, which is called “Karami weave”. The material is silky and transparent, so it can give a refreshing impression to the appearance. It is comfortable to wear as the fabric is smooth to touch.
Menchijimi (cotton pancake)
Menchijimi is a type of fabric that uses strongly twisted cotton threads. The thread is rotated in the weaving process, and when the thread tries to return to its original state, a “squeeze” or wrinkles are created on the surface of the fabric. Therefore, it does not cling to the skin and is well ventilated.
Sayama Chijimi (Sayama Shrink)
Sayama Chijimi is a fabric that uses a strongly twisted yarn-dyed cotton thread. It has a crisp texture and does not stick to your skin even if you sweat. There are many simple patterns, and it is recommended for men’s yukata.
Menkobai (cotton red plum)
Menkobai is that kind of fabric that is made from cotton By weaving thick cotton thread into a thin ground, a grid-like unevenness can be created on the surface. It is said that the name was red plum because of the unevenness = gradient. Cotton red plum is more crispy than silk red plum.
Kinukobai (silk red plum)
Kinukobai or silk red plum is a fabric made of silk Similar to Menkobai or the cotton red plum. It has a thick cotton thread is woven into a thin ground to create a grid-like unevenness on the surface. Compared to flat fabrics, it is easier to wear due to its unevenness, and it has good breathability, so it does not get stuffy.
The combed fabric uses highly refined cotton yarn (combed yarn). It is the most commonly used fabric for yukata, and there is a wide variety from thick to thin depending on the thickness and weave of the thread. It is a simple cotton fabric, and the price varies from cheap to expensive.
Occasions for Wearing a Yukata
Today, the Japanese yukata is widely worn as casual wear in summer, as well as at festivals, and has evolved into a summer kimono. Many young girls prefer to wear it in personally distinctive ways not limited by tradition.
Yukata are most popular during the summer months. It is most common to see young people enjoying them during the firework viewing festivals, known as Hanabi in Japanese. At these Hanabi festivals, both girls and guys wear their favorite yukata to watch the stunning nighttime displays.
Compared to the past, the wearing of yukata has now extended to the summer festival season. Yukata can be worn at summer matsuri (festivals), specifically the Buddhist Bon-Odori Matsuri which honors one’s ancestors.
At a Ryokan
Yukata are automatically offered to guests year-round who stay at a ryokan, accommodations with onsen, Japanese hot baths, and on these occasions. The history of yukata wherein it becomes a bathrobe after soaking in for a bath is still there and this means that yukata can be worn regardless of the season.
Differences between Kimono and Yukata
One of the main things that local Japanese would know about the difference between kimono and yukata is that yukata has fewer rules and less memorization compared to kimono, so it is easier to wear. A person can conclude that the two both look-alike with each other when they saw it for the first time and don’t know about it so here are some of the differences they have.
The garments used on Kimonos are more traditional, and so it is costly to have one. It . usually made of silk or brocade, as silk is considered a more luxurious material. The traditional kimono is worn with at least two collars while yukata is more affordable than a kimono because it uses cotton and breathable fabrics such as polyester which is ideal for Japan’s long hot summers and making it the ideal material for soaking up any extra moisture left on the body post-bath and more efficient at evaporating moisture away from the skin.
A kimono has more layers and it can come with all sorts of accessories to make it suitable for all seasons. Usually, a fur shawl can be used to accessorize a kimono during the winter. There are also summer kimonos called “hitoe” kimonos (single-layer kimono), which are unlined and worn with a summer kimono undergarment. Similarly, in the summer months, you are less likely to see someone in a kimono but rather in a yukata as it has a lighter material. Yukata are associated with summer and summer activities. They are worn in other seasons inside a ryokan (Japanese inn) or onsen (hot spring) building, as they are handed out to guests for use, but they rarely will be worn outside in colder seasons.
Yukata are festive and are often worn for parties, festivals, and events such as firework displays however Yukatas are not worn for formal occasions because it would come across as too casual. As for Kimonos, they are most commonly worn for more formal situations, such as ceremonies at shrines and temples, weddings, or graduation ceremonies. Also, even though it’s less common nowadays, some people still wear casual types of kimono for daily errands around the city.
Regardless of the differences between kimono and yukata, there is one very important rule for both. You must wear the left panel over the right. Wearing them the other way round is seen as extremely rude in Japanese culture, as those who have passed away are dressed in a right-over-left kimono.