Renting a Kimono with Yumeyakata
Kimonos are a distinct piece of Japan’s culture and can still be seen today on people who like to keep up the tradition. Unlike what a lot of people believe, kimonos actually have no religious significance and it’s actually a broad, old blanket term for clothing in general. Kimonos were created over a thousand years ago and were significant because they were easier to make and could be worn in all types of weather, and were worn by the Japanese for hundreds of years (though the styles of course evolved). Even though a strong majority of people wear modern clothing, you can see a handful of (mostly older) people still wearing kimonos, and they’re often available for rent in major tourist areas.
So of course I had to spend a day wearing a kimono in Kyoto.
After searching online a little bit, I was able to find a company called Yumeyakata and I fell in love with their social media profiles. As I like to plan ahead, I decided to go with their services (and a reservation is required to rent a kimono with them). Making my reservation was easy but you do need to confirm it with the email they send you. After all that was done, I headed out one morning to get my kimono.
Everyone in the store was really nice and helpful, and they make a point of knowing several languages to help people from all over the world. First, you check in and are given some paperwork (that works like a temporary ID) and a bag for your personal affects. There’s a room with a bunch of kimonos to choose from, and they have a variety of colours and designs. They’re mostly modern and bright but there are also some more toned-down kimonos available. I found a few which I liked but decided to go for a more traditional-looking green kimono.
For the obi belt, I chose a purple and green design which brought out the colours of the kimono itself. However, the fun thing about kimonos is that there are several parts so you can mix and match different colours and patterns to reflect your mood and style. Note that both sides of the obi belt will be visible so make sure you like the colours and designs on both sides.
There’s also an option for decorative underclothes and accessories (which costs more) but I decided to go with the default package of a kimono and obi only.
Then, you go on to get dressed. You get a pair of tabi socks to wear that you can keep, and then professionals dress you in your kimono of choice. First, you put on a basic-looking underdress. On top of that, the dressers will put on a white skirt and top that gives the kimono its form. Then goes on the kimono, and this was pretty neat to see. Kimonos are for the most part cut the same, but they’re actually tied on your body so that they can fit your measurements and meet your height. So even though I am short and small, the long and relatively large kimono I put on was snug on my body and came up a few inches above my ankles. Of course, the kimono needs to be tied on tight so that it doesn’t grow loose.
Here, you can see the layers of dress.
After that, the obi belt goes on. It’s pretty stiff around the waist and holds everything just was just tied up in place. It’s tied in a specific manner so that both sides of the obi are shown, and they’re tied back into a bow-like form. You then get to choose a pair of sandals and a kimono bag to put your things in, which provides more opportunities to have fun with the design of your outfit. I initially wanted to be very matchy-matchy with my outfit selection but that was really tough. However, if you go with a solid colour scheme, the entire entourage will go well together and will be much prettier and more interesting than an outfit where everything matches.
A lot of people headed out after getting their kimono on, but I decided to go all out and also stayed to get my hair and make-up done. Yumeyakata has several hairstyles to choose from, and I decided on a pretty braid. For an additional price, you can upgrade to a more traditional hairstyle, but I was very happy with what I got. One hair accessory was included in my price (though they may have been having a promotion), so I chose a bright floral clip that complemented the colours I was wearing but also brought a pop more to the outfit. I was super happy with how my hair turned out!
At the same time, I got my makeup done. You can select what colours you want for the eyes and cheeks, and it’s a pretty straightforward makeup look. I’d never had a full face of makeup on before so it was also fun to see how I look with concealer and blush as well as eyeshadow and lipstick. Even though I’m usually one for a bold lip, I liked how the makeup was toned down so that everything else could shine.
I enjoyed every bit of my outfit and thought my ensemble was a perfect combination of traditional and fun.
Walking in a kimono is not as difficult as it looks. The area around the waist is stiff and tight but it’s not constricting or shape-changing like a corset is. I wore the kimono for several hours and didn’t feel uncomfortable, however I was more surprised that nothing loosened when I was walking around. Usually cloth unties or something goes wrong, but the kimono kept its form for the duration of the day, which I was of course super happy about. I was also able to go up stairs (but with decreased mobility) and eat, though I have no idea how one would use the restroom in a kimono. Especially since there’s so much fabric in the sleeves, I didn’t want to find out and potentially have a mishap.
It was so fun to try on a thousand years of Japanese history and a Japanese staple. There’s always an appeal to trying cultural activities firsthand rather than just seeing or hearing about them, so renting a kimono was a perfect way to do just that. Like many people getting kimonos, it was also great to have some cute pictures taken (especially since I never get my hair and makeup professionally done). Yumeyakata offers professional photography as well, but I opted to have my brother take my photo since that’s what he was there for, right?
It’s also fun to see what designs others picked out to express themselves in a way they may not have normally done so. I mean, it’s not every day I wear green and purple floral textiles.
Many Japanese cities, especially Kyoto, are filled with different kimono rental companies. I chose Yumeyakata before I even left for Japan because I liked their online presence. I cannot speak on the performance and selection of other kimono rental agencies but I do know that Yumeyakata was a great experience. Everyone was really nice and I was able to book professional hair styling and makeup at the same company before heading out. If you check out their social media pages, you’ll see that they also do great photography services. I am unaware of and did not see any other companies that perform all those services. So if you’re ever in Kyoto, I’d recommend renting a kimono and keeping Yumeyakata in mind. You can visit their website and book a reservation here.
Have you ever tried wearing a kimono? What was your experience like?
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Posted on Saturday, November 24, 2018 in Stories