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The Kimono, Yukata and Obi – Traditional Japanese Fashion

Are you soon embarking on a journey through Japan? Perhaps you are studying Japanese culture for a class in school or just have a high level of personal interest in Japan’s wonderful aesthetic. The reasons for your curiosity may be as unique as Japanese culture itself, but there are certain aspects of traditional Japanese culture that just about everyone is intrigued by. One of these is the style of fashion exemplified in the traditional clothing of Japan.

You may be surprised, during a stay in Japan, at just how many people you are likely to encounter dressed in a traditional style of clothing and footwear. You may also be surprised at just how fashionable the aesthetic of much of this clothing truly is.

Hopefully, you will also be adventurous enough to try your hand at wearing a traditional garment yourself and enjoy a stroll through a historical area of Japan with the appropriate attire. Let’s take a look at a couple of the various kinds of traditional Japanese clothing so you can better understand what is involved.


You are probably already familiar with the concept of a kimono, as it is the traditional style of Japanese clothing that is likely most popularly known around the world. Historically the kimono has its origin in styles of clothing fashionable in classical China. As many aspects of Japanese culture were historically influenced by imports from China, so too was traditional Japanese attire.

The kimono is, at its most basic, essentially a sleeved robe tied with a sash. This is, however, an extreme over-simplification of what is actually involved in wearing a proper kimono. The kimono is an elaborate subject and even people of modern Japan will call on a professional kimono expert to make sure they choose the right style of kimono for the occasion and also wear it properly.

The customs involved in kimono wear became quite detailed over the course of history and formal kimono for women, in particular, became a rather extensive art form. There are many special kimono for both men and women to wear on numerous occasions such as weddings, funerals, festivals, and so on.

Thankfully for those new to kimono, the extensive number of formal styles has been simplified in modern Japan. The places you are most likely to see formal kimono will likely be at weddings and other such ceremonies, or on the days of special celebrations. You will still likely see some kimono enthusiasts walking around in their full kimono at random times during a stay in Japan. You may also become a kimono enthusiast yourself and help to popularize the modern trend of classical style.


While “kimono” may be the most popular name for the traditional style of Japanese clothing known around the world; the most common style seen today is actually the “yukata”. The yukata is essentially just a lighter and more casual form of kimono. If kimono looks at all like an elaborate bathrobe to you then you may be surprised to hear that the word “yukata” basically means “bath robe”. While yukata are very commonly worn as a casual form of public attire, especially during the summer, they are also commonly worn as bathrobes.


One last aspect of both the kimono and yukata is the sash used to tie both of them. The “obi”, as it is called, is an elaborate subject unto itself. There were classically many ways to wear the obi, which had various meanings depending on how it was tied. A person in classical Japan could likely understand a lot about someone from simply glancing at how his or her obi was tied. Even today, though most people wear only a few variations of obi knots, knotting it properly is a very important aspect of wearing a kimono!

Hopefully you will try a kimono or at least a yukata at some point. There are actually places in Japan where you can rent an elaborate kimono for a day. It is a great way to have a day of photography in classical Japanese attire!