Does Japan’s traditional clothing amaze you? In this comprehensive article about Yukata vs Kimono, let us learn more about them!
Traditional clothing and costumes are important components of Japanese fashion, as they indicate a particular group’s national, cultural, or religious identity. In Japan, one of its most iconic and well-known traditional garments is the kimono and its summer counterpart – Yukata. The two are full-length T-shaped robes with long sleeves. Men and women secure it with a decorative belt. Although they might look very similar, Kimono and Yukata have subtle differences that are noticeable in the keen eyes of the experts.
So what could these differences be? To know about the uniqueness between a Kimono and Yukata, their long history, and deep cultural meaning, keep on reading as we discuss this famous national dress of Japan that fascinates all travelers from around the world with its history and elegance.
Yukata vs Kimono: Important Things to Know
To better understand the similarities and differences, let us discuss the unique characteristics of each piece of clothing one by one. Let’s start with the kimono.
The kimono is one of the world’s well-known traditional garments. It is a wrapped-front garment with square sleeves and a rectangular body typically worn with the left side wrapped over the right unless the wearer is diseased. The kimono traditionally comes with a wide sash called an obi and accessories like zori sandals and tabi socks.
The word Kimono literally means “clothing,” and everyone in Japan wore them until the middle of the 19th century. With the gradual introduction of suits, gowns, and other Western trends throughout the Meiji era, this progressively started to change. The kimono-clad maiden became one of the iconic images of Japan due to the success of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in the West around the turn of the 20th century. One of the more well-liked activities for the visitors is dressing as a geisha or maiko by donning a kimono and other fashion accessories.
Kimono has a specific construction process. It comes with a tanmono, a long, slender fastener of cloth. There are several types of kimonos for men, women, and children, depending on the wearer’s occasion, season, age, and marital status.
Types of Kimono
The kimono has a reputation of being a formal and challenging garment to wear. Notably, there are varieties appropriate for formal and informal settings. Several types of kimonos include:
1. Furisode (振袖)
The Furisode is the most formal type of kimono. It is for unmarried women. Most of the time, it has very bold and dramatic designs in order to catch attention. The brightly colored designs also represent the wearer’s youth. This type of kimono is also distinguishable by its long sleeves that measure between 100 to 107 cm long.
Furisode is commonly for rent for girls who celebrate their Coming of Age in the year they turn twenty.
2. Hikizuri (引きずり)
Hikuzuri translates to “trailing skirt” since this type of kimono is extremely long. It measures up to 230 cm long, and not shorter than 200 cm from shoulder to the hem, which allows the kimono to drag along the floor. Apart from its length, the hizuri is different from a normal kimono in the way they are sewn and worn. Its collar is sewn further and deeper back into the nape of the neck, and the sleeves are set unevenly, which is shorter at the back than at the front. The hikizuri kimono are mainly worn by geisha, maiko, actors in kabuki, or traditional Japanese dance stage performers.
3. Tomesode (留袖)
This type of kimono is the highest rank of formal dress for married women. It is comparable to the evening dress of the West. The tomesode came from the custom of sewing up the small opening in the side of some traditional Japanese clothing like Furisode to hold up the sleeves after the wearer is married. This kimono style, known as tomesode nowadays referred to as the “edozuma” kimono, was originally worn by geisha but later gained popularity with women in Edo. It has patterns sewn only in the lower body portion.
4. Houmongi (訪問着)
Huomongi is the “visiting kimono.” Its level of formality makes it appropriate for events like wedding receptions, tea parties, graduation ceremonies, theater performances, concerts, and museum exhibits. In other situations, huomongi is considered to be worn for going out to lunch. Notably, wearing it for more commonplace activities like traveling, shopping, and the practice of traditional arts like ikebana and dance may be regarded as being too fancy.
5. Iro Muji (色無地)
Iro Muji kimono is a simple colored kimono apart from black since white or black has a different connotation. Most of the time, the tones used for iromuji kimonos are mellow to give them a dignified or mature feel. This type of kimono has practical use and is commonly worn by young women to their graduation ceremony, while mothers wear it to a family party. At some events, a quiet blue or gray-colored one is worn on condolence visits. Additionally, People enjoy wearing Iromuji at tea ceremonies since it does not disrupt the ambiance. It is also worn solely for going out on the town.
6. Komon (小紋)
Komon has recurring motifs or patterns all over its fabric. Although the word “komon” translates to “small prints,” these patterns aren’t exactly small; rather, they are simply repeated. This is in contrast to a houmongi, where there are patterns all over the garment that are not repetitive. This type of kimono is an informal kimono. It is appropriate for hanging out at home, going to casual gatherings, walks, or shopping. Hence, komon typically does not have crests that add formality. However, certain komon can be seen as semi-formal depending on the pattern and fabric. Wool, for instance, is thought to be more casual than silk and synthetic textiles. A komon is less casual if the motifs have silver or gold embellishments; the same goes for accessories.
7. Wedding Kimono
A wedding kimono is a ceremonial bridal outfit that was first worn during wedding ceremonies in Japanese culture. Kimonos are best for ceremonial occasions and events in the Japanese culture, not only weddings. The bride’s kimono or ‘Shiromuki’ is white like most wedding dresses. This color of wedding dress for women originates back from the days of the samurai when women have to show their submission to the family of the man she is marrying. More so, the color white further enhances the beauty and grace of the bride during the special ceremony.
8. Men’s Kimono Types
The men also have their kimono style. It is simpler and has more subdued, dark colors like black, dark blue, deep green, or brown. In contrast to the sleeves on women’s kimono, the men’s kimono has sleeves attached to the body of the kimono with a few inches unattached at the armpit. It has a matted fabric and a comparatively narrow obi or sash. Men’s most formal type of kimono comes in a plain black color with crests, a kimono overcoat, and a trouser skirt or “hakama.”
Accessories for a Kimono
There are several accessories that go well with a Kimono, including:
- Obi – The obi pertains to the sash worn with traditional Japanese clothing and uniforms for Japanese martial art styles. It does not necessarily keep the kimono tight closed but is more of a decorative piece. It comes in different sizes, proportions, lengths, and tying methods. The informal ones are narrower and shorter, while the formal obi is longer, wider, and more intricately decorated.
- Hakama – This pertains to the traditional Japanese trouser-skirt, worn with the kimono. Hakama are usually for graduating ceremonies, as wedding attire for men, and for traditional Japanese sports. Also, they are parts of the uniform for people working at a shrine.
- Haori – The haori pertains to a kimono overcoat or jacket. It can be worn open over a kimono or closed by a string that ties the lapels. They are usually a jacket-length, but there are also full-length versions to choose from. Haori is essential during winter or colder seasons to keep you warm.
- Geta and Zori – These are two types of traditional Japanese footwear. Geta has wooden slits called “teeth.” Rarely, there are times when geta has no elevated wooden base or thick soles at the bottom. Zori is flat, thonged sandals with no teeth. These are usually made of rice straw, cloth, leather, or synthetic materials.
- Tabi – The tabi refers to toe-divided Japanese socks worn with zori. It usually comes in white, similar to the color worn during formal ceremonies. There are also colorful ones for casual occasions.
What is Yukata?
Yukata is the traditional Japanese garment’s summer counterpart. “Yukata” means “bath clothes,” although their use is no longer limited to bath wear. It is more casual than the conventional kimono and is popular among young women. Yukata is commonly made of cotton fabric that allows the air to flow through. It can also be worn without the kimono underwear, which makes it the perfect summer wear. Most of the time, it’s worn by young women to go to special summer events like firework displays or bon-Odori dance festivals.
In response to people’s demand for a more relaxed kimono that can be worn to summer festivals, they started to be produced in a wider range of colors and patterns around the middle 1980s. Since then, they have evolved from their original purpose as bathrobes into more formal attire, with expensive, less colorful yukata occasionally taking the place of komon.
More specifically, a single-layered silk kimono worn in the bath by members of the upper-class fave rise to the yukata as it is known today. Priests started taking baths for purification in 1800. Samurai and upper-class people soon followed suit. However, because silk was unsuitable for wetness, people began to wear cotton or materials that looked like linen. Finally, the practice reached the lower and middle classes, and public bathhouses started to appear in Tokyo. The modern yukata developed due to people wanting better yukata to wear in public after a trek from their houses to the baths.
Yukata vs. Kimono: Prime Differences
Here are several differences between a yukata and a kimono according to the materials used to make them, the style, accessories used, and when and where to wear them.
When comparing yukata vs kimono, one key difference is their collars. Comparably, a yukata has a half-width and firmer collar, while a kimono has a soft, full-width collar. Additionally, the kimono usually has at least two collars. The first one is close to the neck and the other is located just below, called a juban collar. Another distinction in its shape lies in the length of the sleeves. The kimono sleeves vary depending on the age or formality of the event. Meanwhile, the yukata does not have sleeves longer than 50 cm, so they wouldn’t touch the ground.
Regarding the materials used to craft kimonos and yukata, kimonos are more traditional and expensive than yukata. The former is usually made of silk and brocade and is worn with at least two collars. Since silk is considered a fancy and expensive material. The design and patterns of the kimono tend to be more intricate to reflect a luxurious and elegant feeling. On the other hand, a conventional yukata uses a less expensive material such as cotton or synthetic fabrics. This is because of two primary causes; first, these types are more comfortable and breathable, which makes yukata an ideal summer garment. Second, cotton is ideal for drying the body from any extra moisture left from a bath since cotton is quick to dry. However, yukata and kimono have variations in silk, cotton, and polyester today. It depends on whether you want something traditional or commercial.
Yukata are much easier than kimonos as they do not require as many fashion accessories. Unlike the kimono, wearing a yukata does not require wearing kimono undergarments; you need one or two strings to tie it, while a kimono requires three or four strings. Additionally, yukata comes with a more casual sash or obi. Most of the time, Japanese girls even tie it on their styles, while kimono usually comes with either a formal or semi-formal sash, depending on the formality of the occasion. Yukata also goes well with geta and bare feet, while kimono goes with zori and tabi.
There is also a narrow variation in the composition when it comes to yukata vs kimono. A lining goes beneath the patterned silk layer when wearing a kimono. On the other hand, the yukata does not require a lining since they are made to be worn comfortably during hot summer days in Japan, and using a lining underneath it would make it too hot to wear. The kimono also has more dimensions than just patterned silk and lining.
When considering yukata vs kimono, it’s important to note that yukata are more suitable during summer, especially for summer events like fireworks and attending festivals. Hence, the yukata wouldn’t be perfect during winter since it does not have a lining and would not be able to protect you from the cold. Meanwhile, the kimono has a lot of accessories that can be perfect for any season, like a shawl for the winter to keep you warm. Although one can wear a yukata inside hot springs resorts since they are usual complementaries for guests, you can’t still wear them outside in the cold weather.
Yukata and kimono are ideal for different occasions; yukata are worn in ryokan or onsen, to attend Japanese festivals and other summer activities, or for walking around. They tend to have brighter patterns and colors since they are less formal. On the other hand, kimonos are for more serious or formal events like weddings, graduation, or visiting temples or shrines. Still, even though people wearing these traditional clothes are becoming less common, you will find ordinary people wearing kimonos while doing daily activities around the city.
Foreigners wearing kimonos: Is it cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation happens when one exploits or disrespects the cultural elements or practices of a particular minority group. Since trying on the kimono is at top of the list of tourists in Japan, it is important to learn if it would be disrespectful in Japan’s culture for foreigners to wear a Kimono.
The answer is no. Foreigners are free to try on kimonos as long as they wear the traditional clothing appreciatively and with dignity. Whatever you do, you have to keep in mind not to do offensive acts while wearing the kimono as a foreigner to show respect to the culture and the generosity of the people in allowing you to wear their traditional clothing that represents the identity of their country.
Yukata vs Kimono in the Present Day
Traditional clothes are a very important part of every nation’s history and culture. They keep the nation’s identity alive since it symbolizes one’s belongingness to the nation. Hence, keeping them alive, well-known, and remembered is very important in keeping the culture thriving as well.
Just like any traditional garment or even practice, Yukata vs Kimono is currently undergoing crucial changes, but through the help of dedicated experts that are keeping these traditional garments alive and with continuous education on their importance, yukata and kimono will keep on flourishing and continue to leave people from around the world in awe for far more years to come.
Although they could be different in some ways, they both have unique features and uses that make them equally important in preserving their nation’s identity.