One of the cultural things that I wanted to try when I was in Japan was to wear a kimono. The trip to Kyoto gave me the chance to do that. It would appear that renting a kimono for the day is quite popular now in the Gion area. I could see many other tourists wearing kimonos and walking about all over the city. The kimono rental place that we did ours at was recommended by a friend of a friend – Okamoto.
There are three locations in Gion and we chose the Kiyomizuzaka location, close to the Kiyomizudera Temple. It’s right along the main street leading up to the temple so you can’t miss it.
Right when you enter the main building, you can already see the vast selection of kimonos.
Okamoto offers three different plans with different prices: 3000 yen, 4000 yen, and 5000 yen. The more expensive you go, the more selection of kimonos you can choose from and the better quality of what you’re renting. At first during our reservation, we chose the 4000 yen plan as it seemed the moderate plan. But after taking a look at the kimonos within the 4000 yen plan, we quickly realized that they were not as pretty or good quality as the 5000 yen. We decided there and then to upgrade our plan.
You get to select your kimono colors and designs. Which is great but also a little daunting when you’re looking at 600 different kimonos. I felt like I needed a lot of advice and assistance from my friend and the shop employees, who were all very helpful but limited in speaking English.
Aside from choosing the main kimono cloth, there were also the obi wrap that you have to choose and color-coordinate. You also get to choose an obi accessory and a purse to carry your things.
I wish I got a chance to take pictures during the actual fitting. But I was a little overwhelmed with the undressing and then the layers that they were wrapping me in. It seemed to be never ending with the cloth, the sashes, and the layers and layers of belts. For an extra 500 yen, we also got our hair done in a more Japanese style. I loved my kimono look… before the outer wear which seems to cover and hide everything about my kimono.
The rental of the kimono is for the full day. You have to bring it back by 6:30 in the evening or else they will charge you extra for every hour that you’re late. We decided to go to Kiyomizudera Temple in it and walk around the neighborhood. It was quite an experience – walking stairs or any kind of slanted hill. The two-toed socks were strange as were the slippers. But definitely a good cultural experience to have.
Here’s a better look at our full kimono attire. We also got to borrow the little purses that match our kimonos better than our own purses. We put our valuables into our borrowed purses and left the rest of our things at the kimono rental place.
I quite loved the look of the kimono on the streets of Kyoto. It definitely made for a out-of-time sort of look to the pictures – especially when I was surrounded by the normal-dressed folk. It was also an interesting part of the day when a young man asked me something in broken Japanese (not that I understand any Japanese anyways). I quickly told him that I don’t speak Japanese and he replied that he didn’t either. Him and his friends wished to get a picture with us. I kind of enjoy the fact that people think I’m local. I’m starting to think that I have a very general Asian face – they think I’m Korean when I’m in Korea, Japanese when I’m in Japan. I like blending in… which happens until conversation needs to be had.
If you want to consider renting kimonos when you’re in Kyoto, check out the website here. It’s best to make a reservation if you’re going to Japan during high tourist season. We went during low season and I did see walk-ins. Keep in mind that the dressing and hair process takes about an hour and a half.