When a Kimono is not a Kimono

Red Kimono in Kyoto

When is a kimono not a kimono? In summer, when it’s called a Yukata.  Actually, a yukata is a lighter, more casual version of the kimono, typically made with unlined cotton fabric.  Kimonos are far more formal, have more layers of clothing and are traditionally made with heavy, lined silk.

Where in Japan is the best place  to do street photography of people in kimonos?   In Kyoto and Osaka … but it probably won’t be Japanese in those kimonos.

Dressing-up in a kimono for day is a popular tourist activity. For about 3,000 yen you can be fully  outfitted in a kimono of choice complete with make-up, hair styling and wooden shoes. For an additional fee you can even ‘rent’ a photographer the day.  In Kyoto I saw many young ladies in kimono/yukatas walking about.  I admired their vigor, especially  on the hot (36F degrees) days of August when I was melting in my shorts & t-shirt.

Yukatas at Sumiyoshi temple in Osaka

The ladies in kimonos offered good context for my holiday pictures.  Harder to find were interesting street shots.

My ‘Red Kimono’ picture was taken in Kyoto’s Shirakawa-minami Dori district. I like it because of the initial focus on the brilliant red pattern on the furi sleeve, then the elaborate obi tie in the back and finally, the girl’s incongruous blue french nails.

Kyoto & Osaka, Japan. August 2017


  1. I spent a day trussed up in a kimono in Kyoto back is ’98. Our hosts thought it would be fun to take me, 5’9″ and blonde hair, to popular tourist places. There were 16 sashes holding me together underneath. Don’t even ask what it was like to go to the washroom… I was given the kimono as a gift, now a heap of red silk without a purpose. Suggestions welcome!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The pictures are so beautiful, Sandy. Wow! You are a wonder photographer.
      Jane, I have a kimono that I purchased a couple of years ago. I am taking it on my September retreat and wearing it open as an evening jacket.
      They are too lovely to keep hidden away.
      You could also turn it into beautiful red silk pillows, but it would seem a shame not to wear it.


    2. Jane – Funny how an authentic souvenir purchase/gift makes perfect sense at the time but …

      When I was in Bangalore, all my colleagues wore shalwar kameez’s. Light, loose and beautifully patterned they looked both elegant & comfortable in the hot humid Indian climate. I bought one, brought it home to Canada & stored it in my closet for the next 15 years 🙂

      Suggestions on what to do with your kimono: I’ve seen them draped on a rod & mounted as a wall hanging. It’s quite nice but is very specific for your room decor.


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