A yukata is a light cotton kimono. Unlike the traditional kimono, which is a complicated and very expensive garment, the yukata is inexpensive and easy to wear. Though they are apparently a common sight on summer evenings, they are more often used for relaxing at home. Before we came to Japan, I had decided that I wanted one to use mainly as a dressing gown. I bought it at Hayashi Kimono when we went to Ginza on Sunday. It’s a tiny shop tucked into a narrow and crowded shopping arcade but is advertised as Tokyo’s largest kimono boutique for foreigners. The staff speak English and the gentleman who waited on me was incredibly helpful. In spite of the fact that it was obvious that I didn’t intend to spend a great deal, he encouraged me to try on as many garments as I liked before making a choice. He graciously showed me a variety of colour choices and tied each one carefully so it would look it’s best on me. My yukata is brighter and more colourful than many but the more subdued colours made me look completely washed out.
Each yukata comes with a narrow belt made of the same fabric but when the salesman showed me how much better they look with the wider silk sash in a contrasting colour, I decided to buy one of those as well. The entire ensemble cost me only 5400 yen (about $54). The fabric is a very fine cotton and is completely washable.
Before we came to Japan, our employer sent us a handy little book entitled “Living Japanese Style”. It gives a couple of important tips for wearing the yukata correctly. Apparently, I need to remember to cross the left side over the right when dressing. Crossing the right side over the left would be a terrible faux pas as this is done only when dressing a corpse! Apparently, I would also be laughed at if I wore my yukata with shoes. Since it would look completely ridiculous with most of my shoes, this won’t likely be a problem. Special sandals and socks for wearing with kimono are sold here but I doubt I’d ever find any to fit. If I ever do decide to go out in my yukata, I could probably get away with wearing it with my flip flops.