Wafuku, which means Japanese traditional clothing, encompasses both the yukata and kimono. The two garments look almost similar in that they’re often indistinguishable from the untrained eye.
The truth is, they have plenty of differences. The main feature that differentiates a yukata from a kimono is that the former is lighter than the latter. Do you want to know what makes these garments unique from each other? Let’s explore their key features.
Varieties of kimono are found in the land of the rising sun, and among them is the yukata. Generally, the main differences between a yukata and the standard kimono are the materials used, style, when they’re worn, and how they’re worn.
Yukata is comfier than the traditional kimono because it is made of cotton. With a breathable fabric, yukata is ideal for Japan's hot summers. These days, makers also incorporate synthetics into the yukata as they are excellent at wicking moisture away from the skin, enhancing the comfort of the wearer.
Silk, on the other hand, is used for making kimonos. The fabric is considered more expensive and luxurious than cotton.
High-end kimonos are usually crafted from brocade, a silk fabric featuring raised woven patterns rather than embroidery. While these kimonos can be costly, they exude an elegance that perfectly suits ceremonies and formal events.
One look at the collar, and you can immediately tell whether the attire is a kimono or a yukata. If you only see one collar, then it is a yukata. Two collars mean that the garment is a regular kimono.
Now, you might be wondering why kimonos have two collars. Since kimonos are made of heavier materials, they are rarely washed. Hence, an inner layer called nagajuban (長襦袢 or long juban) is worn. This layer keeps the outer part dry and clean.
Yukata, on the other hand, looks like a dressing gown or a bathrobe. The light attire doesn’t require a nagajuban since the material is easy to clean.
During Japan’s summer festivities and fireworks display, yukatas are the go-to of the Japanese. Take note that these garments are considered casual. Unlike kimonos, they’re not meant for formal ceremonies.
Some people may ask this question: “Do Japanese wear yukata to sleep?” They do indeed, but not in the same way as pajamas. In hot springs or onsens, yukatas are prepared for guests to wear. After taking a good soak, the Japanese often change into yukatas to continue their relaxation.
Showing up at a formal celebration wearing a thin and vibrant yukata is strongly discouraged. It would be equivalent to wearing jeans and a shirt to a formal wedding ceremony.
So if you’re a foreigner attending a formal Japanese event, it’s important to know the difference between the two.
As you would expect from a summer garment, the obi for a yukata is narrower, thinner, and looks simpler. Belts paired with yukatas are called hanhaba obi. They come in a variety of colors, are easy to wear, and cheap. It is also acceptable to pair this type of obi with a kimono, but it still depends on the event.
Obi used for formal events are made of silk. Their designs are also more elaborate than the ones used for casual occasions.
Traditional Japanese footwear includes geta, setta, and zori. All of these kinds can be paired with the kimono.
Zori, however, has a formal design, making it unusual for the casual yukata. So when wearing Japan's spring and summer attire, go with geta or setta.
While it’s okay to wear sneakers while donning a yukata, it isn’t advisable. Sneakers can take away the authentic look of Japanese traditional clothing. Choose traditional Japanese footwear you feel comfortable with.
When wearing a kimono, a neat updo is ideal for women. The hairstyle is then finished with a beautiful hair ornament called kanzashi.
But for those who’ll go to summer festivals wearing a yukata, choose a hairstyle of your preference. Japanese summers can get extremely hot, so go with a hairstyle comfortable for summer evenings.
Japanese traditional clothing stood the test of time and is still being worn in the present time. But unlike in the past, yukatas, nowadays, are only worn on special occasions. You’ll see people donning them during casual spring and summer celebrations.
Just like kimonos, yukatas are worn by men and women. Although women can wear both bright and toned-down colors, men’s yukatas are often neutral and natural. Men’s yukatas also place emphasis on materials. Beautiful patterns on a yukata are reserved for women.
Nowadays, undergarments are a basic necessity. But when you want to wear a yukata, don’t choose underwear that emphasizes your curves. These are unfit for wearing yukata because such underwear can cause the traditional attire to lose its shape.
Indeed you can. If you want to appreciate Japanese culture during your stay in the country, wearing a kimono is greatly encouraged. The Japanese do appreciate it when they witness foreigners embracing their traditions and culture.
But, if you’re going to wear one, ensure that you’re wearing it properly. The country has lots of kimono rental shops where kimono experts can assist you put on all the layers correctly.
The yukata, with its light, breathable fabric and simple style, is designed for casual wear and comfort during the warm summer months. On the other hand, the kimono, made of luxurious materials and displaying a more elaborate style, is intended for formal events and ceremonies.
In the end, making yourself knowledgeable about these differences is not only essential to respecting and appreciating Japanese culture but also to ensuring the appropriate attire for specific occasions when visiting or living in Japan.