Kyoto- the very mention of the city evokes exotic images of a world away from the world- a world of geisha, of narrow tree lined streets ending in quiet temples, of peace, tranquility and zen. A walk around the Gion district in Kyoto and it is almost like you stepped back in time.
One of the things I had most wanted to do was to try on a kimono when I travelled to Japan. And looking at the number of kimono toting tourists in Kyoto I certainly wasn’t alone in that thought. Kyoto is a great place to try on a kimono because you can actually walk around somewhere like in Gion and feel part of the ambiance.
So what are your options if you wanted to rent a kimono- actually you have plenty of options- a simple google search will present a mind boggling array of choices. Blogs like this help narrow down the choices. But finally it’s a question of logistics (and if you’re travelling in peak season like I was- just availability).
I decided to book with Yumeyakata. They have a basic kimono plan with about a hundred add on plans including one where you have your own photographer accompanying you to wherever you wish to go in Kyoto.
So basically you turn up at the store at the chosen time (if you wish to have the kimono for a longer time, then book earlier on during the day). You then get given a basket and get taken to a room where you get to choose your kimono and your obi. It’s awfully difficult to choose so after a certain point you just go with the first thing that catches your eye and don’t look back. You can then choose a few accessories like beads, hair and make-up etc. Kimono slippers and handbags are free. And then you’re off!
It’s fascinating because the kimono rental places operate like a factory and you’re moving along the assembly line- you strip and then you’re progressively dressed in layer over layer until you feel almost double in size, you then get moved one floor to deposit your bags and then down another floor for your footwear. And yes they have separate floors for men and women.
Once you get out of the store with your kimono you’re politely told (by an employee having a placard) to be on your way and not inconvenience other pedestrians by hanging out on the pavement- wow! Japan!
I don’t know about warmer weather but wearing a kimono in fairly cool weather made it very comfortable. All the layers make sure you don’t feel a thing. When you’re finally out of it after a few hours and wear something regular you almost feel naked- like where’s all my layers dude?
Wearing a kimono by oneself certainly seems a challenging prospect. Just tying the obi sash around oneself and knotting it at the back seems a monumental effort. I guess it takes a knack and years of practice!
So if you’re heading out to Japan make sure you don’t miss out on wearing a kimono!