Yukata photo essay

A grandmother and her young grandchild in their summer yukata

Yukata are Japanese summer kimono: light, bright, unlined and hopefully stain resistant considering that all the festivals a yukata is worn to include delicious, greasy festival food.

Rather pensively considering the sticky choices available

Some highschool students pose for me on Hikone’s main tourist street.

Hikone is a beautiful town, and the streets nearby the castle have been preserved as a slice of older Japan, mainly to give a lovely atmosphere for visiting tourists and souvenir shoppers. On July 28th however (the same weekend as Birdman) city folk were encouraged to dress their best and “stroll through the nostalgic castle town”.

Along Hikone’s main street, all in festival mode.

I hope the slight blur in this shot emphasises the ‘dreamy’ quality I was going for. The little pink girl is too adorable.

Women’s yukata come in many different patterns. The grandmother and child in the first photo are dressed in very traditional sakura (cherry blossom) print, and the grandmother’s small bag is the very Japanese rabbit print.

Meanwhile, the high school girls below them sport neon butterflies and bright flower prints. For the even less traditional, everything from pirate skulls to watermelon print yukata can be found.

I realise I haven’t provided any photos of (adult) male yukata, which is because I usually don’t photograph them. Boy yukata tend to be more pajama-y in appearance, though there are the full length style mirroring the women. The diversity and brilliance of pattern just doesn’t exist in male yukata though, which are typically and traditionally brown, blue or black colours.

Examples of more contemporary styles

I love the expression on this mum’s face.

Many gaijin (non-Japanese) get into the festival spirit too, and clamp around in their wooden geta. Unlike my slack self, whose wardrobe is bare of native garb, a local JET named Erica not only owns boxes of kimono related finery, but has taken classes in dressing, and how to dress others, in the notoriously tricky garments.

Erica attempting to end my yukata drought. She looks a little stern. Note in her bag is the yukata she bought earlier.

An Eigo no Sensei (English teacher) mobbed by cheerful ex-students

August are the school summer holidays for Japanese school students, though unlike America the school year here begins and ends in April. Teachers on the JET programme however mark their contracts from August, and the last few weeks have seen many teachers leaving and their replacements arriving: hitting the humidity, wandering randomly into the most awesome festivals they’ve ever seen which they will never ever manage to find again (and no one will seem to know what they’re talking about), and amongst it all, hopefully falling in love with and buying their first yukata.

One of Hikone’s Pantheon of characters all following a cat theme, dressed up in her festival yukata

8 thoughts on “Yukata photo essay

  1. Sure is nice when a whole town really gets into a festive mood like that! It was National Day in Singapore last week, and really, all you have to do is wear red. It’s not that hard, and yet I hardly saw anyone doing it.

    I know there’s a lot of resentment about politics and all, but still…


    • Do you think it was the same in Australia with Australia Day when we were kids? (I think we’re about the same age). I can’t remember seeing many people making a fuss about it growing up, though I know a lot of people get into the swing these days.


      • Sadly I can’t answer that as Australia Day always comes at a time when I’ll be visiting family in Singapore!

        What would the colors be though? Blue/white/red, or the green/gold?


      • Actually our whole extended family did. My in-laws are really big on the whole festive thing, so red is a common sight at the family gathering.

        That said, I was wearing green/gold for the whole day before changing into red for the big dinner.


  2. Pingback: Where Next Japan? | Where Next Japan

  3. Pingback: Kishiwada: The Fast and Furious Japanese Festival | Where Next Japan

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