What is a yukata? And how is it different from a kimono? A yukata (浴衣) is a Japanese garment, a casual summer kimono usually made of cotton or synthetic fabric, and unlined.
Yukata literally means bathing cloth, and was traditionally worn after bathing in a communal bath or onsen, functioning as a quick way to cover the body and absorb remaining moisture. It is also a typical garment and dress code for guests staying at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). Nowadays, yukatas are increasingly popular and worn more during the hot summer months (vs. a hot kimono). People wear them to summer festivals and events like hanabi (fireworks), and bon-odori festivals. In Okinawa, they're usually worn from around May to October (since it's hot here most the year).
Younger people normally wear brighter, more colorful yukatas with bolder patterns (as with the kimono), while the older generation normally wears duller, more subdued patterns and colors like dark blue with a geometric design. The men's yukatas are also darker and more subdued, usually just a solid color.
In November, I also got to participate in a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony and get dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono. The kimono (着物, きもの) is a Japanese traditional garment and actually means a "thing to wear" (ki "wear" and mono "thing"). When wearing kimonos, the left side is always wrapped over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial), and secured by an obi (sash) and worn with traditional footwear (zori or geta) and tabi (split-toe socks). Kimonos are more formal than yukatas and are worn at important festivals or formal moments, such as weddings, and tea ceremonies.
Speaking of tea ceremonies, besides getting dressed in a kimono, I also got to participate in one with 2 other ladies, Isabella and Dian. We learned all types of fun facts. #gettineducated #cultured #themoreyouknow The Japanese tea ceremony features the serving and drinking of Matcha (powdered Japanese green tea). Although green tea existed in Japan around the 8th century (introduced by China), match tea did not reach Japan until the end of the 12th century. The purpose of tea ceremonies is for the host and the guests to have an existential experience and preserve (and enjoy) the sanctity of the moment.
Tea ceremonies begin with entering the tea ceremony room, through the nigiri guchi (a small entrance into the tea room). The small entrance was used to prevent samurai from bringing their swords into the room. This helped ensure the tea ceremonies were kept peaceful and made it so everyone at the tea ceremony was equal. When crouching to get through the small doorway, helped show humbleness and that there was no class rank during the ceremony.
Tea rooms have a tatami (traditional Japanese floor mats). The host sits on the far end with the guests sitting around the edge of the middle tatami mat. The middle is where tea and food are put in and out; most tea rooms also have the tea pot/kettle in the middle. The host will begin by serving wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) to balance the slightly bitter taste from the tea. Normally namagashi (生菓子) are served at tea ceremonies and are made of rice flour and a sweet bean paste filling, delicately decorated and designed for each season. The host will bow and verbally indicate when the sweets are ready to eat; guests will bow back with both hands, demonstrating their gratitude prior to eating.
There are a number of different utensils used during the tea ceremony. First there is the chawan (茶碗), tea bowl, arguably the most essential element. These are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, depending on the season (shallow vs. deeper to cool the tea quicker or longer), and different styles used for thick and thin tea. Next is the furo (風炉), a portable brazier to heat the kama. The water for the tea is heated up in the kama / chanoyugama (釜), iron pot, or kettle. Kamas can have different shapes and sizes. The one used at our tea ceremony was called a Mt Fuji tea kettle since it is shaped like a mountain. The hishaku (柄杓), long bamboo ladle is used to transfer hot water from the kama (iron pot) to chawan (tea bowl). Next there is the natsume (棗), tea caddy used to house the matcha green tea powder. The chashaku (茶杓), tea scoop is used to scoop the match powder from the natsume to the chawan. Chashaku tea-scoops are carved from a single piece of bamboo or ivory and made new for each tea ceremony. Once the hot water is poured over the matcha powder, the chasen (茶筅), whisk, is used to whisk the water and match until a froth appears on top. The froth helps make a milder flavor for the tea. To help adjust the temperature of the tea, there is also a mizusashi (水指), cold-water container.
Each part of the tea ceremony is meant to be enjoyed. Even pouring the water back into the iron pot and listening to the different sounds the hot water makes vs. the cold water. It stops and makes you appreciate the little things in life.
The host will put the tea in the center mat in front of the the first guest. The guest will place the tea cup to the person on their left and say "osaki ni", which means excuse me, I'm going to drink before you. Then they place the tea back in the center and say to the host "otemae chodai itashimasu" which is thanking the host for making the tea, and "oshoban itashimasu", which means I'll join you.
The proper way to drink the tea is to place the cup in the palm of the left hand, holding it about chest height. The cup is then turned clockwise 2 times so the front of the cup (shomen) is to the left so that everyone gets to enjoy the design on the tea cup. Guests should drink about 3 medium sips and slurp on the last sip to show that they enjoyed the tea (oishi! - it's delicious) While sipping on the tea, guests should remain in the moment and enjoy it. Tea ceremonies were always very special and detailed because back in the day and during war time, samurai and other guests did not know if it would be their last time drinking tea or if they would ever experience it again. #yolo #yodo I think that's a good way to look at most moments and experiences in life. #thanksJapan
It was also common for guests to admire all the different tea cups and designs after the tea ceremony.
Watch a highlight video below put together by Matt Shum (Isabella's husband).
Some other fun facts about kimonos. Apparently you can actually go to a kimono dressing school. It is time consuming and very detailed putting one on. In order to graduate or become certified, you need to be able to dress yourself properly in a kimono in 12 minutes or less and have judges approve of the final product. #nopressure Our tea ceremony sensei, Kaori, has gone to one of these. She also recently competed in an all island kimono dressing competition where you have to finish putting on a kimono in 3 MINUTES! She said she was practicing with a coach and would practice putting on the kimono to the beats of a song that was 3 minutes long #smart She placed 1st in the all island Okinawa competition for casual kimonos! #proudstudent
This also meant that she got to compete in the country wide competition up in Tokyo on April 9th. Unfortunately, Kaori did not also place 1st in the country wide competition, but still pretty legit she got to compete and attend! #iknowher :)
I also did another class with Kaori at her studio - traditional Japanese calligraphy. Kaori taught us some of the basics and how to properly write it. We used a traditional brush, fude 筆. The proper way is to start from the top left and make your way down. Bushu (部首) are the smallest units or parts of kanji (kind of like letters), and kamuri is the crown or top part of the kanji. Kanji (漢字) are single words, made of bushu. There's over 5,000 of them, but most of them are only used in people's names; you only need to know around 2,000 to read a newspaper. It was fun trying to practice writing kanji the traditional way and not pick the brush up when doing the different strokes. But I'll need A LOT more practice to keep writing it the proper way :) #perfectionist
All in all, great experience learning about more traditions in Japan and the meaning behind them. Love learning about and exploring this beautiful, historical country!
Follow in our Footsteps:
Have your very own traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony (and get dressed in a kimono)! Or learn traditional kanji
Japanese Culture Experience 茶・茶・茶 - CHA・CHA・CHA
2 Chome-3-28 Uechi, Okinawa-shi, Okinawa-ken 904-0031
Hours: 10am - 6pm
Fee: Tea Ceremony 3500 yen
Yukatas can be purchased all over Okinawa.
Some specific places are Aeon department store (usually range from 8,000 - 25,000 yen), San-A (range from 5,000 - 15,000 yen), and even cheaper ones at thrift stores.
If you want to find a very reasonably priced (and used) kimono you can go to Kimono Bana
(I found a kimono from the 1930s here - yes the 1930s! #legit)
〒901-2201 Okinawa Prefecture, Ginowan, Aragusuku, 2 Chome−４０−７
Hours: Friday and Saturday 1-5pm
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!