Kimono Rental: Kyoto Things to Do
Updated: Jun 1
When you imagine Kyoto, Japan, a few things might come to mind. You might picture the darkened, wooded backdrop of the Arashiyama bamboo forest. Or you might imagine yourself walking under an orange canopy from the tori-lined pathways of Fushimi Inari Shrine. You might also fantasize about catching a glimpse of the geishas shading themselves with ornate umbrellas on their way to work.
If you enjoy sightseeing and also getting an immersive cultural experience, exploring Kyoto in a traditional kimono will feed both interests! Wearing a kimono is a somewhat tedious task as compared to modern clothing, though it can show you a new appreciation for the Japanese experience.
This article will discuss a popular Kyoto kimono rental, what it's like to wear kimono, and the overall experience.
What Is a Kimono
A kimono is a traditional style of clothing originating from Japan. While we may look at the garment as a luxurious article of clothing, the word Kimono literally translates to 'the thing to wear,' which makes a lot of sense when you think about its history.
Kimono was originally worn by commoners and as an undergarment by aristocrats until the 16th century.
The standard kimono is quite simple in construction, as it's straight-seamed, wrapped towards the right, and secured with a sash (obi).
Instead of the construction, the pattern was typically an indicator of class or hierarchy. Only elite individuals wore kimonos made of silk or with delicate embroidered designs.
Where to Experience Kimono Rental in Kyoto
While walking through the Gion district (the famous area known for its old-style wooden shop buildings and working geishas), you'll see signs advertising kimono rentals on just about every street.
I went to Ayastar Kimono, which was less than a three-minute walk from the Gion-Shijo station (exit 7).
My boyfriend and I were staying at a hotel only a few blocks from the location, so we chose to make our reservations for the following day. The reservation system is available on the Ayastar Kimono website, but keep in mind it may be busier on weekends or holidays.
We arrived a little late (thanks, jet lag) on a Wednesday but found the shop was relatively slow with a few associates ready to help us.
The prices for Kimono range from premium (4,500 yen, or $33 USD) to their most luxurious Furisode (29,800 yen, or $218 USD). The rental price is per day and will include shoes, socks, undergarments, the kimono, and the obi.
If you wish to purchase accessories for your obi, hair clips or wish to have hair and makeup done, there will be an additional cost.
Premium Kimono: 4,500 yen
Silk Kimono: 5,500 yen
Kids Kimono: 3,000 yen
Mens Kimono: 3,000 yen
Furisode Kimono: 29,800 yen
Couples Kimono package: 5,500 yen
The Step-by-Step Process
It took us a few minutes to locate the shop because it's located on the second floor. When you arrive, you might see a freestanding banner outside depicting two people wearing a kimono. Then you know you're in the right place!
Step 1: Pick Out Your Kimono
When we arrived at the shop, we confirmed our reservation with the associate up front and were asked to select our kimonos. There were a total of four rows for female kimonos, all categorized by colors and different patterns. Many of them were lacy and covered in feminine floral patterns, though there were plenty with solid colors.
The selection for men is quite limited by comparison and only has dark, masculine tones. Most of the fabric was just solid colors, though a few had patterns made of dark colors that matched the base fabric.
The kimonos are essentially all the same width size as the size can be adjusted by how tight you wrap it, however, the lengths do vary. So if you're taller or shorter than the general average you can ask them to show you different height sizes.
Step 2: Wrap Your Kimono
Let's face it, wearing traditional clothes doesn't fare well with a full bladder. If you need to use the restroom, it's best to do it before stepping into the changing room. There's a restroom you can use off to the side of the cash register.
Putting on a kimono can be a challenge for beginners, but luckily the associates working at Ayastar will do most of the work with your kimono. You will first change out of your clothes and put on a long shirt that covers your underwear. Then the associate will come into the dressing room with you and first wrap your kimono, then tie the obi behind your back.
Step 3: Pick Your Accessories
After step 2, you might feel like an intricately wrapped gift. At least, that's how I felt. The accessories were my favorite part, as Ayastar had a number of bejeweled chains for the obi and hair clips to match. You can also have an associate style your hair and makeup in a flattering way.
Step 4: Try On the Shoes
While some may not love the idea of stumbling up the rocky temple pathways in slippers, your footwear will complete the full outfit. If you opt out of your practical walking shoes, Ayastar has a full rack of traditional flip-flop-style shoes (called Geta).
Climbing the many hills of the Gion district in a pair of Geta isn't easy, but it's an experience!
Step 5: Check Out and Get Ready to Explore Kyoto!
If you selected any accessories or styling services, they will come with an extra cost. Once your outfit is complete, you'll pay for the add-ons, and store your personal items in a secured bag.
Now you're ready to explore!
You can go anywhere in Kyoto wearing your kimono, just make sure to follow their direction on the drop-off time. We were asked to come back before 4:30 pm because the shop closed at 5:00 pm that day.
Be ready to take lots of photos, feel super authentic, and potentially get lots of stares and photos taken of you.
How to Wear a Kimono
Wearing a kimono is a unique cultural experience that will introduce you to the rich, textile history of Japan. If you want to learn how to wear your own kimono without the help of a professional, you can check out this great tutorial video from Kimono Mom.
Kimono Rental as Top Kyoto Things to Do
Wearing a kimono for a day is ranked as one of the best things to do in Kyoto. If you find yourself in Kyoto city, which is full of ancient history, this is one way to appreciate Japanese culture.