When you hear about Japan or Japanese culture, the first images that come to mind are a beautifully embroidered kimono or maybe... a yukata. If you don't know this strange term, it is normal. In the collective imagination, the yukata is called a kimono and no distinction is made between the two.
However, although both have the same characteristics: they are typical Japanese clothing, they are T-shaped, they are usually long-sleeved, they are very often decorated with beautiful embroidered patterns and you put a belt around them, called an obi; the kimono and the yukata are indeed different clothes, and it is important to know the difference between a kimono and a yukata.
Like many people, you don't know the specific terms of traditional Japanese clothing, and this is quite normal. Kanji Streetwear is here to teach you how to differentiate a kimono from a yukata and will allow you to acquire knowledge that will make you shine during a discussion at a party or during a discussion with your group of friends who are passionate about Japan. Are you ready? Let's go!
Kimono VS Yukata: Determining the Fabric
The first characteristic that differentiates a kimono from a yukata is its fabric. Traditionally, the kimono is made from silk, which is considered the best fabric for a kimono. The kimono may be made of hemp fabric, a light material that does not stick to the skin, to make it lighter and therefore wearable in summer. On the other hand, there are also woolen kimonos for colder seasons such as winter or autumn.
The most luxurious kimonos can be made of brocade, a rich silk fabric adorned with brocaded designs in gold and silver thread, reflecting the elegance and attachment to the traditions of the Japanese. This kind of kimono is very expensive and is reserved for the richest people.
As for yukata, its origin comes from the onsen, the hot springs of Japan. The users of these baths used a yukatabira, a light garment made of linen. When these baths were democratized in Japan, yukatabira became yukata, a cotton garment more suitable than linen because it is lighter, breathable, and able to absorb body humidity.
Today's yukatas found in Japan and the West are either made of cotton or polyester, this inexpensive synthetic material that has the advantage of facilitating the evaporation of moisture from the body, making it ideal for bathing.
Kimono VS Yukata: The Presence of Underwear
The second element to differentiate a kimono from a yukata is the presence or absence of underwear. The Japanese wear an undergarment called nagajuban under their kimonos, an inner lining of cotton or silk to protect the kimono from sweat. It is usually white. Since the kimono is made of silk or brocade, which are fragile, delicate, and expensive materials, the Japanese avoid washing it too often to preserve its lifespan.
The yukata is a lightweight garment, made of less precious materials and easier to clean; it does not require the wearing of a nagajuban. You can, therefore, wear it as if it were a normal garment, without the risk of damaging it too quickly! 😉
Kimono VS Yukata: The Number of Collars
One of the easiest ways to determine if someone is wearing a kimono or a yukata is to look at the number of collars. As explained earlier, the Japanese wear a nagajuban under their kimono. Therefore, if he wears a kimono, he will have two collars. If he wears a yukata, consequently without a nagajuban, he will have only one collar. This kind of small clues can help you to differentiate a kimono from a yukata if you hesitate.
Kimono VS Yukata: Sleeve Length
Another difference between a kimono and a yukata is the length of the sleeves. Factors such as the age or social status of the person wearing the kimono, or the nature of the event at which the traditional garment is worn, affect the length of the sleeves.
We can take as an example the furisode (振袖), literally translated as "floating sleeves", which is a formal traditional kimono for single women, i.e. who are not married. This type of kimono is worn at the majority ceremony, called seijin shiki, as well as at weddings, by young women in the bride's family. The sleeves of this kimono usually measure one meter, sometimes touching the ground in certain situations. Traditionally, the men had information about the availability of women through this means. Today, this practice is less widespread.
As for them, yukatas have either short or medium-length sleeves. You will never see sleeves longer than 50 centimeters for a Yukata.
Kimono VS Yukata: The Presence of Socks
The kimono is a formal garment that you don't wear on any occasion. The wearing of socks matching your geta (traditional Japanese shoes) or zōri (Japanese sandals) is mandatory. These socks can go up to mid-calf and separate the big toe from the other toes to be comfortable in geta or zori.
Conversely, wearing a pair of socks is not mandatory when wearing a yukata. You can, therefore, be barefoot in your geta without any problem.
Kimono VS Yukata: Adapt According to the Occasion
You now know how to differentiate aesthetically and physically a kimono from a yukata, but there are still several points to see in order not to make a mistake in the choice of the outfit.
The kimono is a formal traditional garment that you don't wear every day. In Japan, it is worn at weddings, for the first prayer of the New Year, for graduation, or for traditional Japanese celebrations such as the National Day of Japan and the Emperor's Birthday on February 23rd, called Tennō Tanjōbi.
The yukata is a summer garment, casual, and used for parties. Japanese people wear yukata to go to summer festivals, fireworks displays, and folk festivals. It is not surprising to see Japanese people wearing yukatas for everyday life, as the garment is popular and much appreciated there.
Wearing a yukata for an official ceremony or an important event is strongly discouraged, it would be frowned upon. This is why it is important to know the difference between a kimono and a yukata.
Kimono VS Yukata: Depending on the Season
An original way to differentiate a kimono from a yukata is to look at the season we are in. The kimono being essentially made of thick, warm materials and completed with underwear to reinforce the warmth of the garment, it is mainly a winter garment. It can also be completed by a fur shawl very appreciated by Japanese women when winter arrives.
The yukata, being a light garment made of a single layer of fine fabric, light and allowing the body to breathe, is therefore a garment that is worn when it is hot, in summer or spring. So you are unlikely to come across someone wearing a yukata in winter.
Congratulations, you know all about kimono and yukata!
We saw together the differences between the kimono and the yukata. We listed point by point the details or traditions to distinguish whether a person wears a yukata or a kimono. You now know the difference between a kimono and a yukata, congratulations!
Whether you are a fan of Japanese culture or just a lover of Japanese clothing, you need a kimono or a yukata from our shop for your travels in Japan or simply to have an incomparable style in the country where you are. It's happening over here! 👇