Renting a kimono and walking around Kyoto in it is a very popular activity among tourists. Strolling around ancient shrines and temples in a traditional kimono is a very special experience. I am so glad I did it! In this guide, I will explain the kimono rental process.
Booking an Appointment at a Kimono Shop
Before going to Kyoto, I researched several kimono rental companies before choosing YumeYakata due to its positive reviews on TripAdvisor. I made a reservation three days in advance, but I would recommend making one at least a week in advance or even earlier because many timeslots were already full when I booked three days in advance. You can make a reservation online at https://www.yoyaku-yumeyakata.com/reserve or by phone. I chose the Kimono Rental Hana Plan which is ￥3500 per person. Like most other girls, I decided to add on hairstyling which is an additional ￥1500. You can also pay extra for makeup or professional photography services. Men can also rent male kimonos, but my boyfriend didn’t want to, so he was my photographer for the day.
Choosing a Kimono
YumeYakata is a short walk from Gojo subway station. Upon entering the store, you will be told to remove your shoes and given a plastic bag to put them in. There is a waiting area where any companions you have can wait for you to dress up. After checking in and paying at the counter, I was given a linen bag to put my shoe bag and other belongings in. Then it was time for me to choose my kimono and obi (sash). I chose a pink kimono. I found it hard to find a matching obi for my kimono, so one of the employees helped me out. YumeYakata has English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean-speaking staff so communication is not a problem. Once I had decided which obi to wear, I headed upstairs to the dressing room.
Kimono Wearing Process
After waiting in line for a few minutes (the shop was very busy because it was cherry blossom season), I was ushered into a room full of mirrors where several girls were being dressed by attendants. I had to store my clothes in the linen bag and strip down to my underwear. My attendant handed me a white undergarment and told me to put it on. Next, she expertly wrapped and folded the kimono onto me before knotting the obi. Then I was given a pair of tabi (kimono socks). The dressing process took less than 10 minutes.
On the fourth floor, I picked out a small purse that matched my kimono. There was a variety of styles, colours, and sizes to choose from. I put my phone and wallet in the purse and left my other belongings in the big linen bag. Then I went to the storage room, where I left behind my linen bag and was given a tag to claim it later.
After that I headed up to the 5th floor where I lined up for hairstyling. I was given a brochure with pictures of the different hairstyles to browse while I waited. If you have shorter hair, don’t worry, because they also offer hairstyles for short hair. There are 8 hairstyles for long hair and 8 hairstyles for short hair. There are also a few more elaborate hairstyles but you must pay extra for those. I decided to choose #8 for long hair. You can see all the hairstyles here.
My hairstyling took about 15 minutes. After that I went to the front desk of the hair salon where I was asked which country I was from for a survey. While waiting in line earlier I had noticed that most girls said they were from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Korea. I must have been one of the few customers that day from Canada. I decided to buy a hair accessory for my hair. The lady behind the counter helped me put it on.
Finally, I returned to the main floor where I picked out my zori (sandals).
Exploring Kyoto in a Kimono
First we took the train to Fushimi Inari Taisha where we climbed halfway up the stairs to the viewpoint. The section of the shrine near the entrance was very crowded, but as we climbed higher we saw less and less people and we could take some photos without anyone appearing in the background. After enjoying the view, we took another route to the exit.
We ate some street food near the shrine and then took the train to Kiyomizu-dera temple.
After admiring the temple and the cherry blossoms, we walked to Gion. We hung around the side streets of Gion for a while and were lucky enough to see two real geisha leaving their homes and walking quickly to the theatres. They really walk very fast, so it is hard to get good photos of them! If you are interested, you can see a traditional geisha performance in Gion.
After visiting Gion, we went back to YumeYakata as I had to return my kimono by 7:30pm (if you want to keep it for longer you can return it the next day for an additional ￥1000). There were many, many people (mostly men) hanging around the waiting room and dozens of women were waiting to return their kimonos. The lineup stretched all the way up the stairs. I had to wait a long time (definitely about 15-20 minutes), to pick up my bag, but once I reached the disrobing room, the process sped up. The attendant quickly helped me out of my kimono and I put the different clothing items I had worn in the corresponding bins. After that I headed down the stairs and that was the end of my kimono rental experience!
Overall, I was pleased with my YumeYakata experience. The selection, dressing, hairstyling, and undressing process all went very smoothly. I would definitely recommend YumeYakata to anyone who wants to dress up in a kimono while they are in Kyoto!
Additional Kimono Rental Tips
-Be careful not to spill anything on your kimono as you will need to pay a cleaning fee if you do so. Don’t wear perfume either because it is very difficult to remove the perfume scent from a kimono. Irreparable damage like holes, unremovable stains, and perfume odours will cost you ￥5000 yen.
-Don’t plan to do a lot of walking in the zori sandals. At first, I actually found the zori quite comfortable, even after climbing halfway up Fushimi Inari Taisha. However, by the time I reached Gion at the end of the day my feet were killing me! So, it would be a good idea to plan to stay in the same area all day or bring a comfortable pair of shoes just in case.
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