How to hire a kimono in Kyoto, Japan.
There are so many places throughout Japan to hire a kimono. Don't feel perturbed either, my experience showed me that the people of Japan love to immerse you in their culture and teach you more about their traditions. I chose Kyoto as the place to hire kimono, it has so many pretty places to take photographs in. In the major tourist districts there are kimono rental places every few metres but if you are really worried you can always book online.
Melissa and I hired our kimono from Okamoto Kimono, near Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Gion. It was a central enough location that there were plenty of places within walking distance that we could visit. That didn't stop us from heading all the way out to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
The staff at Okamoto were welcoming and helpful, telling you what colours would work and what to do. You could choose one of two options: to stay there once dressed and have a photoshoot in the tiny garden; or to spend the day wandering Kyoto in your kimono. We chose the second option. This cost around 5500 yen each, including getting my hair done. Not bad considering how special this whole day turned out to be.
Choosing a kimono to wear was exciting, but difficult! There are so many colour combinations to choose from, it seems almost impossible. The staff at Okamoto were very helpful, though we did have a bit of a giggle when they showed us to the X-Tall section (I was the tallest in the room I think). We had to choose a kimono, undergarment shirt, under undergarment, obi belt, bag, accessory belt, coat, hair pieces, two-toed socks and shoes. This wasn't even the most labour intensive part of getting dressed. That came after we had finally decided on our colours.
Getting dressed in a kimono gave me some idea of what women in the eighteenth century had to go through when getting dressed. It is a long process, though for the majority of it I was just standing in front of a mirror. I had to take everything off except for my own undergarments (standing in a room full of tiny Japanese ladies no less). The ladies then wrapped me in towels and other fabrics in order to get the desirable straight figured look (curves aren't big there). Then it was layer after layer after layer, each cinched in tighter than the last. It felt like what I imagine wearing a corset to be like. Finally the kimono comes on. Then the belt and belt accessory. I wasn't near done yet though.
Then it was on to get my hair done. I chose to have my hair done by the stylists because I am utterly hopeless at styling my hair on a normal day, let alone a day where I am living out of a suitcase and in a place where my curler does not like the electrical sockets. Plus, it only cost around 500 yen ($5). It was difficult to sit down at this point but I managed. I had to spend most of the time whilst in the chair trying not to laugh at the poor woman's determination to squish my curls into submission. I'm not entirely sure she knew what to make of all the crazy ringlets and curls that adorn my head.
Once my hair was done I got to choose a hair accessory and a coat to wear (it was freezing outside). The last part of getting ready was putting on the shoes. My feet being a size twelve (42 euro size), I had to opt for the mens pair. Once dressed they send you off into Kyoto, with the promise that you will return in the evening. All in all the process took well over an hour, far longer than I think I have ever spent getting ready.
It was so much fun gallivanting around Kyoto in traditional Japanese dress. Melissa and I visit Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Gion and Kiyomizu-dera Temple whilst in our kimono. We took lots of photographs with each other and had just about as many taken with strangers who wanted a photo with us. It did feel rather like being a celebrity, what with everyone staring and hounding us for photographs.
Travelling about in a kimono is not exactly as simple as it may seem, with so many layers on it got rather difficult to walk! Plus those shoes are basically platform thongs, not a fashion statement I will likely be making again. However, the excitement and fun of the day will make you easily forget these little worries.
Renting a kimono was in all honestly the highlight of my trip, and getting to do so with my best friend was even better. It is well worth the effort and expense, not only because it is so much fun but because I learnt so much about Japanese culture this way. This is something that I would say is an absolute must do whilst travelling in Japan.
For more photographs from the day and a more in depth guide to wearing kimono in Japan, be sure to check out Melissa's post on the subject.
Hi! I'm Louise. I am a writer, photographer, traveler, book fanatic and blogger. I love to post about my adventures and the little things I do that make life fun.
MARLEE'S INSTAGRAM: @marleethecat