The yukata, a type of traditional Japanese clothing, is popular during summer in Japan. You can often see both men and women wearing yukata at summer festivals and fireworks displays. This beautiful outfit is well-known around the world, and it’s an important part of Japanese culture.
What is a Yukata?
A yukata consists of a single layer of cotton. It’s a simple, casual piece of clothing usually worn only in the summer. They are typically made from cotton, polyester, or hemp — light and airy materials perfect for a hot day at a festival.
The kimono, on the other hand, has twelve individual parts, and the wearer must don one or more special undershirts, nagajuban and hadajuban, respectively. The kimono is a formal garment usually worn only on special occasions throughout the year.
Yukata as Bathrobes
During the Heian Period (794-1185), it was popular with the Japanese nobility to enjoy steam baths similar to modern saunas as a way to cleanse their bodies. Rather than enter the steam bath in the nude, the nobles would wear yukata to preserve their modesty.
Over time, the concept of the yukata changed, and during the Azuchi-momoyama Period (1568-1600) the yukata came to be used after all kinds of bathing rather than just during a steam bath. The clothing grew in popularity, and by the Edo Period (1603-1868) both nobles and the common people used the yukata daily as a bathrobe. At that time, yukata were made from cloth rather than the towel-like materials we use today.
Where to Wear Yukata in Japan?
If you’re interested in wearing a yukata, you may be wondering when it’s an appropriate choice of dress.
Let’s take a look at the occasions to which yukata are typically worn.
Fireworks festivals are a popular summer event throughout Japan. These are held after the rainy season from July to October. People of all ages look forward to these yearly displays, and many people wear yukata when they attend. On the way to these events, the variety of colorful yukata in the crowds can be just as beautiful as the fireworks their wearers are hoping to see.
During Obon in August, there are Bon-odori (Bon-dance) festivals everywhere. People wear yukata to these events and enjoy the food and drink offered by the stands that spring up around the festivities. The main event is the dancing performed in a large circle around a raised central platform, atop which taiko drummers and singers perform.
For Japanese people, the yukata is a symbol of summer, and we get excited to wear them, attend festivals, and enjoy the season.
During the summer, some Japanese people wear yukata on the weekends, no special occasion necessary. If you visit Asakusa, Ginza, or Kyoto in the summer, you’re sure to see at least a few people wearing yukata. Plenty of Japanese people enjoy wearing yukata as normal outfits and feeling connected to traditional Japanese culture.
If you’re thinking of picking up a yukata for yourself, you’re probably wondering how much they generally cost. It really depends on the shop, and yukata can be priced anywhere from 2,000 to 50,000 yen. While premium yukata can be very expensive, those who don’t care too much about the brand can easily find a serviceable yukata for a just a few thousand yen.
Yukata can also be purchased online, but I recommend buying them in person. It’s important to find the right fit for you.
Summer in Tokyo can get as hot as 30-35℃, and the high humidity makes it feel even hotter. Cool summer clothing like the yukata can be a big help.
Yukata come in a wide variety of patterns and styles. I recommend picking out a few for yourself and building your own Japanese summer wardrobe.
Yukata are a fashionable way to stay cool, so please try wearing one!