Sightseeing in Kyoto is always a delightful journey to the past. The narrow alleys and traditional wooden buildings are complemented not only by the Geisha and Maiko that are rushing around to jobs but also by all of the visitors joining in on the fun by renting kimono. If you are going to explore Gion, the Higashiyama District, and see all of the famous sights (such as Kiyomizudera) it is completely worth it to don a kimono and really get into the spirit of the city.
Where Can I Rent a Kimono in Kyoto?
There are many shops in Kyoto that specialize in exactly this. They have a number of plans that will of course, increase in price depending on how fancy you want to get. For a simple kimono (this means a mass-produced Kimono with a generic pattern) and accessory a lot of plans will start at around 3,000 JPY. You can choose your kimono and obi on your own. There is no rule for matching kimono and obi, it’s up to your personal style. If you’re unsure about it, choosing the same color as your kimono but in a lighter or darker shade is classic, or go for a contrasting shade to make it more interesting.
To rent an antique kimono, with a greater variety of patterns and styles, the price will be closer to 6,000JPY. Though it’s pricy there is also an option to rent a furisode, likely around 10,000JPY. This is a formal kimono with long sleeves that is usually worn now for Coming of Age Day (this is a celebration to celebrate becoming an adult, or 20 years old, in Japan). These days furisode are only worn by young women.
Some places also offer the option to rent a hakama, which is usually formal wear for men but you also see them worn by Miko at Shinto Shrines (the traditional red and white costume). I think the wide trousers worn over Kimono look really interesting, especially when they come in fun colors.
When renting a Kimono: Check your options online first
As I mentioned previously this is a popular activity in Kyoto so there are many places to do this, and they vary in price and reputation. They will also be running campaigns at different times and there will be chances for discounts or additional options (such as photography) thrown in free of charge. So definitely do your research first, and it’s always better to reserve in advance and get there early so the best kimono aren’t picked already.
Wargo boasts 20 shops around Japan, their website is packed with details and information, and they have excellent reviews on Tripadvisor. Likely there will be one or two people who speak English on site but most likely the person dressing you will not. It’s a good chance to have fun with some basic Japanese, so brush up on your small talk!
Kyoetsu has a few shops in Kyoto. They seem to have a nice selection and their photographs look professional. Setting your hair costs 1,000JPY. Tripadvisor reviews state this place has some of the best deals.
The best season to wear Kimono
The best time to wear a Kimono is during mild weather. The best weather in Japan, in my opinion, is in the fall. September through November are full of wonderfully sunny and warm days without the humidity of late spring and summer. Additionally, if you are traveling during the fall you will witness the spectacle of Koyo, or autumn foliage. Kyoto is especially beautiful framed by the brightly colored red and yellow leaves.
If you are traveling during the summer, be prepared! Summer Kimono, or Yukata, are fairly light but you are still wearing at least two layers of fabric during a time where humidity will be over 90%. You will be very sweaty. But that is ok, this is easily managed by stopping often in air-conditioned cafe’s, shops, and convenience stores, and this is an excellent excuse to drink frozen Matcha Parfaits!
The last time I rented a kimono in Kyoto was actually early December, so already heading into winter. The weather was pretty cold but not freezing yet, comfortable if you’re wearing a coat and scarf. Underneath my kimono I wore heat tech leggings and a shirt from Uniqlo. If you don’t have any heat tech garments I recommend stopping by Uniqlo before you wear a kimono. I also used those hot patches you can stick to your clothes that you can get in any drug store or convenience store.
However, I was still very very cold. When the sun was out it was okay but when the clouds came I was definitely shivering a bit. As I traveled from temple to temple I stopped often to have hot tea (okay okay, hot sake too) and tried to keep moving. There are many small stands serving hot beverages and some snacks among the temple route so you won’t have any trouble finding something to drink, and somewhere to take a break.
Many people come to Japan in Spring in order to enjoy the sakura, or cherry blossoms. I think this is likely the busiest time to come to Kyoto so if you don’t like crowds you might have a hard time of it. Spring weather (especially during cherry blossom season) is very mild and warm for the most part, it’s the perfect temperature for walking around.
Spring is unpredictable though, so there are chances of sudden rain showers. Be careful when walking around because the wooden geta on your feet do not mix well with slippery cobblestones.
If you have any questions feel free to comment below!