A yukata is a thin kimono that Japanese wear for summer festivals and events. Nowadays, it has also become a kind of special summer fashion.
It began as a garment worn for steam baths during the Heian era. Later, when people started bathing in water, it transitioned to after-bath wear. Being associated with relaxation, people also wore it at home—kind of like how people nowadays wear pajamas around the house. Despite looking similar to a formal kimono, Japanese people actually consider Yukata to be casual clothing.
There are some structural differences between mens’ and womens’ yukata. Women’s yukata have open parts under the armpits called Miyatsu-guchi. Another difference is length. Men’s length depends on their height, but you can fold women’s around the waist to the length you prefer. (The folded part is called ohashori.)
While mens’ and womens’ yukata have differences, there is one thing that both genders absolutely must do. You always need to fold the left side over the right side. It’s very important to remember, because wearing a kimono with the right side on top is how we dress the deceased for funerals. Wearing it like that means that you’re dead!
A long time ago, making yukata was seen as women’s work. Girls even learned how to make yukata at school until recently. I remember both my grandma and great grandma making yukata for my sister and I when I was still in preschool. It’s one of my happy memories about yukata.
The second Monday in January is Coming-of-Age Day in Japan. Ceremonies are held in each city to celebrate people turning 20 years old. In Japan, people are legally considered adults at age 20, and this holiday celebrates those who become adults during the school year.
Although the tradition has existed in one form or another since ancient times, it was made a national holiday in 1949. It was originally celebrated on January 15th, but Coming-of-Age Day was eventually changed to the second Monday in January. This gave people an extra day off over the weekend as part of Japan’s “Happy Monday System.”
People wear formal dress for the ceremony, so Coming-of-Age Day is one of the big opportunities for us to wear traditional Japanese clothes in modern culture. Most men choose to wear a western style suit, but many don “Haori-Hakama.” For women, it’s a chance to wear bright “Furi-Sode.”
“Haori-Hakama” is a type of kimono. “Haori” is a kind of jacket and “Hakama” is a kind of pants. The outfit is normally black, gray, and white, but some men choose to wear extremely colorful “Haori-Hakama” for their ceremony.
“Furi-Sode” is a type of kimono for young women traditionally associated with purity. “Furi” means swing and “Sode” means sleeve. The outfit has very long sleeves that swing when you move. The sleeves are used to display even more of the kimono’s beautiful patterns, which makes this version extra gorgeous and elegant. Accessories are also important to add a woman’s charm, so “Tsumami-Zaiku” hair ornaments are an important part of Coming-of-Age Day in Japan.
The ceremonies are very large events held in public places like gyms and concert halls, so many cities are cancelling them this year because of the Coronavirus. I really enjoyed Coming-of-Age Day in Japan, and I feel very sorry for those who are going to miss out. I hope that we will be able to have the ceremony next year, though.