One of the things that you absolutely should do when visiting Japan is try on their traditional full-length garment called: the kimono. This beautiful and elegant piece used to be worn by the Japanese on a daily basis; but nowadays, it is mostly only being worn by the locals during formal events, graduation programs, tea ceremonies, and festivals (Japan’s geisha still wear it almost every day).
That being said, it can be quite a rare sight to witness a crowd of Japanese people wearing kimono on the streets — unless there’s an event. In fact… if you see someone dressed up in a kimono in public, that person would most likely be an expat or a tourist!
With that in mind, as a non-Japanese person, it IS possible for you to put on a kimono, walk around with it for a day, and take lots and LOTS of photos; you can do this simply by going to kimono rental shops that are spread out all over Japan.
The quintessential place to rent and wear a kimono would be in the ancient city of Kyoto; but if you’re short on time and can only explore the capital of Tokyo, don’t fret! Much like what I did, simply head over to the district of Asakusa and make full use of its picturesque shrine and temple as well as its olden Edo era buildings and surroundings as perfect backdrops for your pictures.
Now… don’t think that you can just buy your own kimono and proceed to put it on by yourself! First things first, a full kimono set customarily costs a fortune (a lot of Japanese people actually end up renting since it’s a lot cheaper; plus, they rarely use it too). Secondly, a kimono is an extremely intricate piece of clothing to put on as it involves a LOT of layers and knots; so, you can’t just wear it whimsically without any prior experience and knowledge. (Besides, someone typically helps put on a kimono for another person anyway, and these professionals usually take classes to learn how. Truth be told, one of the reasons why the Japanese rarely wear kimono nowadays is because they can’t put it on by themselves.)
With all those factors considered, it’s truly best that you head on over to a professional Japanese kimono rental shop in order to get a hassle-free experience that will save you time, effort, and money — and with the help of this guide post, it’s my hope that the overall process will be smooth for you.
After all, I personally rented a kimono for a day while I was in Asakusa, Tokyo during my first trip to Japan, and it was an experience that I will truly never forget and that I absolutely recommend for you to try alone, with friends, with family, or with your partner!
READ: Sample Japan Itinerary
How to Rent a Kimono for a Day in Asakusa, Tokyo
» Where to rent a kimono
Finding a good kimono rental shop can be tricky if you don’t speak Japanese since many of the owners in Asakusa — or just Japanese people in general — don’t speak English fluently, or at all. Rest assured, there are shops (like those I will list below) that do have employees who can speak decent English.
So where did I go off to? I rather went to a rental shop called YAE. Why did I pick them? Well, when I was browsing for rental providers online, I noticed that YAE was providing more luxurious and sophisticated-looking kimono ensembles and designs compared to the other rental shops in the area (it was complete with ribbon obi, decorative strings, etc.). To illustrate:
What’s more is that a matching tote bag, zori (traditional Japanese slippers), tabi (socks), a complete hair styling session, and several hair accessories were already included in their base price. Also, it’s close proximity to the Sensoji Temple was a big plus for me!
Website to book: KKday
Hours: 9:30AM to 5:30PM daily
Google Maps: Near the train station [link] or you can also see this illustrated map of directions
If, however, you want to check out the other kimono rental shops in the area who offer other options on kimono (but often with simpler/modern design), click the (+) symbol below to expand the following section:
**CLICK TO OPEN** : Other Kimono Rental Shops in Asakusa
» The cost and duration of the kimono rental
When it comes to YAE, the cost of their regular kimono rental is only ¥5,340~ yen (or Php 2,600~ or $50~) for females and ¥5,030~ yen (or Php 2,450~ or $47~) for males.
- This is complete with FREE clothing accessories, tote bag, complicated hair styling, and elaborate hair ornaments.
- In winter, a coat or haori and fur shawl is provided for FREE (other stores charge for this — the photo on the right shows a fur shawl on top of the kimono).
- They also have a kids plan (under 10 years old and height under 140cm) priced at ¥4,090 (or Php 1,990~ or $38~).
- If you want a more luxurious kimono which is called a ‘furisode’, you can avail it for ¥18,000~ (or Php 8,800~ or $168~).
- Wanna rent a kimono overnight instead? Returning it on the next day costs ¥6,340~ (or Php 3,090~ or $59~).
The duration: With the above regular kimono rental rates, the shop will allow you to walk around Asakusa in your kimono for a day. You only need to return on 5:30PM to return the kimono.
» How to book your reservation
It’s simple and easy! Just go to KKday to book your kimono rental request.
To date, they have several time slots available (since dressing up in a kimono takes time), namely:
Under the “Notes” section though, please provide other preferred time slots in case your initial selection turns up to be full. Once everything is paid and booked with, you will receive your e-voucher within 48 hours. You just need to print this and show it to YAE on your scheduled date.
» My thoughts and experience
The shop staff such as Miko-san were very warm, friendly, and patient. Their English was fine and I found out that they can also communicate in Chinese if need may be. Once they ushered me into their store, they let me take my time in choosing the kimono design that I wanted, while also making suggestions once in a while.
Since I was there during sakura (cherry blossom) season, I chose a pink kimono from the thousands of other designs that they had. Miko-san immediately suggested a golden obi (sash belt), a pink obijime (cord) and purple obiage (inner scarf) and they all matched perfectly with my kimono! Before dressing me up though, she first styled my hair beautifully and this took about 15 minutes.
She then proceeded to dress me in hadagi (some undergarment) and I was astounded at the number of tight knots that she did around my waist before finally putting on the 2nd layer: a pink nagajuban (silk robe).
When she finally put on my kimono and obi (this all took less than an hour), she made me pick a hair accessory. Naturally, I picked a bunch of pink sakura to go along with my outfit.
TRIVIA: Apparently, a lot of layers are needed to be placed above the hadagi in order to hide the curves and contours of a woman’s body. Unlike other dresses, this is a typical feature for wearing a kimono. I asked Miko-san why and apparently, the traditional view of beauty in women depicts a straight figure with clothing that is elaborate and which constricts their footsteps. Additionally, she believes that it originally gave men the chance to wonder what’s ‘underneath’.
Miko-san even told me that putting on all these layers and knots are an art in itself because it’s important to not only keep me comfortable and keep the kimono’s shape, but to also ensure that all these robes won’t fall apart nor open once I start walking around.
Feel free to watch the video below to see how the overall process went, as well as the number of places that I visited around Asakusa as I wore this wonderful kimono!
» READ: For ideas on what to do around Asakusa, read here. Of course the places that are not to be missed are Sensoji Temple and Nakamise-dori Street, among many others!
One of the amazing perks when you rent a kimono for a day is that you turn into some sort of mini celebrity. The moment that I stepped out of the shop and walked a few meters away, a rush of tourists started to take pictures of me AND with me! Several Japanese people also started smiling and throwing compliments my way — well… I don’t know exactly what they said but I did pick up the words kirei (beautiful), utsukushoii (pretty), kawaii (cute) and sugoi (amazing) from their speech. Additionally, some old grandpas and grandmas even gave me a thumbs up!
NOTE: If you’re a white or black gaijin (foreigner), the attention and picture-taking spree will surely double!
TIPS: When walking, don’t take wide strides; revel in small in-toe steps. When you sit down and stand up, put your hands and feet together with your back straight — actually, it’s not hard to keep your back straight because the stiff obi helps keep it that way. As for when you’re taking photos, make your stance a bit diagonal in order to slightly show your obi’s back bow as well as your hair accessories. It also helps to put one foot on top of the other as you lean a bit backwards.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
◘◘ Can males rent a kimono too?
Yes of course! It helps to note though that a male kimono is more simple and subdued, and if you’re really tall, there might be fewer choices on the kimono.
◘◘ Are there any other traditional Japanese clothing that I can rent to wear?
In summer which is during the months of June, July, and August, kimono rental shops like YAE usually rent out yukata which is basically like a kimono but a lot lighter and thinner in material.
Another traditional Japanese clothing you can try on is a ‘hakama‘. This is often worn by shrine maidens or by students during their graduation ceremony (price would be around ¥7,000 yen or Php 3,000~ / $60~). If you want a more ‘luxurious’ kimono clothing, try the ‘furisode‘ that is distinguishable by its longer sleeves, worn by young unmarried women in Japan.
For a more special kind of ‘dress up’ experience, there are other rental shops (mostly found in Kyoto) that can transform you into an oiran (traditional Japanese courtesan) or a geisha (traditional Japanese entertainer). The price for both can start at around ¥13,000 yen or Php 5,500~ / $110~ and up (with the oiran dress up experience mostly only done indoors).
» NOTE: I tried dressing up as an oiran when I was in Kyoto. Watch out for my post + guide about that SOON!
◘◘ Is it cultural appropriation to wear a kimono in Japan as a foreigner? Or to dress up as a geisha or oiran?
Not at all. The Japanese never refer to it as cultural appropriation because they deem it more as cultural ‘appreciation’. Besides, they like it a lot when other nationalities take an interest in their culture, customs, and clothing (which is much like South Korea’s attitude towards foreigners renting their traditional clothing called as hanbok). This is the reason why makeover studios and kimono rental places are so popular in Japan! My experience also serves as proof because as I’ve mentioned above, a lot of Japanese people walked up to me to appreciate the fact that I was wearing a kimono. Some of them even gave me a thumbs up!
◘◘ I’m very tall. Will there be problems if I wear a kimono?
For women, YAE generally have kimono pieces that can fit a height of up to 180cm; whereas for men, up to 195cm. My friend, Jonas was with me during this kimono-wearing experience and YAE had a kimono that fit him perfectly — mind you, he’s 6’4!
◘◘ Is it possible to rent even on a rainy day?
Absolutely! YAE will just make sure that you wear a kimono that won’t drag along the ground.
◘◘ What if the kimono gets soiled while I’m using it?
There is no cleaning charge for soil due to spilled food, a splash of mud, abrasion, etc. So you need not worry about soiling the kimono when you are wearing on a rainy day. However, in the case of irreparable stains such as oil-based paint, etc. or damage (cigarette burns, etc.), YAE may require compensation in the amount of 5,000 yen (exclusive of tax).
◘◘ After changing into my kimono, can I leave my stuff at the rental shop?
Yes, you can leave your luggage in the rental shop (they have secured lockers available), but make sure you bring your valuables with you by putting them in the matching tote bag that they will be providing.
◘◘ Is there anything that I should bring to the rental shop?
No, you do not need to bring anything since all of the items that you will need are already available and provided for in the rental shop. In summer YAE suggests wearing thin underwear such as a tank top because of the heat, and in winter they recommend that you wear thin thermal clothing such as heat-tech shirts, which have excellent heat retention as well as leggings to keep you warm.
◘◘ Are there any other things I can do while wearing my kimono?
Apart from the fact that you can wear the kimono and stroll around Asakusa for a day, almost all rental shops provide the extra services of doing an indoor shoot, an outdoor shoot, or a rickshaw ride for an additional cost (check my list above for the other rental shops that can provide this service).
◘◘ Can I take my time choosing a kimono?
Sure thing! But as a courtesy, make sure you don’t spend more than 30 minutes looking through their kimono designs.
◘◘ Can I select my obi or kimono accessories? How about my hair accessories and the kind of hairstyle I want?
The staff of the rental shop will usually suggest matching accessories for you; but of course, you’re absolutely free to choose what you want to put on your kimono and hair. If you want a certain hairstyle, it’s best that you prepare a photo of it so that you can show it as reference to the staff people.
◘◘ How long does it take them to dress me up in a kimono?
It normally takes about 40 to 50 minutes for women (including hairstyling) and 20 minutes for men.
◘◘ Can they do my makeup too?
Some of the rental shops can do your make up. Just ask them about it, and I believe it will cost about ¥4,000 yen (Php 1,700~ / $35~). If you ask me though, I think it’s best that you just do your own make-up.
◘◘ What if I want to extend for one more day?
Yes, YAE has a ‘next-day return plan’ costing ¥6,340~ (or Php 3,090~ or $59~).
◘◘ Can I buy their kimono?
Most of the rental shops sell their kimono, so feel free to ask.
» PRE-TRAVEL GUIDE
Do you need to apply for a Japan Tourist Visa?
If you’re looking for a unique activity that will totally immerse you in the Japan travel experience, renting a kimono and strolling around in it for a day is something that you should NOT miss!
After all, it makes for a wonderful memory and a great opportunity to take amazing pictures in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. Enjoy!
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Hey there! I am Aileen Adalid.
At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to pursue my dreams. Today, I am a successful digital nomad (entrepreneur, travel writer, & vlogger) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.
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@ChasingRonin LOL maybe not the kind I want ahahha
Sakura (cherry blossom) season is soon coming in Japan this 2019! Come check out this forecast to start planning yo… https://t.co/DgNWGyA4MZ