University of Wisconsin–Madison

Kimonos!

5/19/18

Can you guess what I did this weekend in Kyoto? If you haven’t already pieced it together from the title, I got to finally try a kimono!! I can’t express how excited I have been for this day. I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to culturally insensitive, but the female coworker in my lab assured me it’s common to do so I continued to plan for this day!

I went with the other intern and Katie, the female coworker in my lab to the Gion area of Kyoto. Katie has worn kimonos many times before (you wear them in the summer for festivals like watching fireworks or when you graduate) so this was nothing too new for her, but for me I couldn’t decide what to wear! We had so many options for the kimono itself and obi (the part that wraps around the waist) I thought I would never decide!

Once I had chosen, we waited to be dressed by two women who had this art down to a tee! They just motioned how they wanted my hands as they wrapped layer after layer of clothes around me, tightening belts and sashes as they went. When it was done I could hardly move or breathe, but it was just so beautiful.

The company we used, kyokagami, also did you hair for us! And I got the most lovely updo. Then they gave us the geta (shoes) and tabi (socks with the big toe separated). We shuffled our way out the door, down the stairs, and into the stifling 27C (~90F) air in our many many layers of the kimono.

The first pit stop was Marayuma Park, nearby in Gion by also we knew it would have lots of shade and ice cream so we could cool down!

After cooling down, we shuffled over to Kodai-ji temple. I have passed the entrance to this temple so many times in my way to other places but never knew how amazing it was inside.

I think most people don’t realize to go in because it looks small, but it is massive and even has its own small bamboo garden! We spent a while here taking pictures in our kimonos.

I needed to see Tofukuji temple before leaving Japan and that was one of my must sees for the day. We took the train down but even from the train station it was a 15 minute walk! Normally I wouldn’t have minded (and it probably wouldn’t have normally been 15 minutes) but in the tight, hot kimonos with the geta slipping with the tabi, my feet were hurting in no time and soon Katie recommended I take off the tabi so I could walk better.

Tofukuji was another temple that doesn’t seem to be recognized for how beautiful it is. We spent so long on the bridge in the temple area we were actually the last people there before it shut! We also met a Taiwanese photographer who offered to take our picture for us and edit it for free!

Finally we headed back to the rental shop, and along the way stopped at the five story pagoda in the center of Gion for a last photoshoot before taking off the kimonos.

The experience was amazing and I would definitely do it again, but they are so hot and difficult to move in I don’t know how people in the old days used to do it! I probably just would not do very much with my day if doing anything required all the effort. I did stand out though like a sore thumb being the only white person wearing a kimono. I would catch many people taking photos of me (I assume they thought they were doing subtly). But overall I am very happy I did this, and didn’t let the nerves get the best of me. Wearing kimonos in Japan, especially in Kyoto when you are sight seeing, is seen as like a fun thing for especially women to do with each other. You get all dolled up, walk around some famous temples and take great photos. I am very grateful to the female coworker, Katie, who took me out to experience this!