Difference between Kimono and Yukata

If you are a fan of Japanese culture, surely you must have wanted to try on a kimono at least once. And we are sure of this just as we are sure of the fact that seeing how intricate and difficult getting one on is a bit overwhelming. But do not give up on your dream because you also have the choice of a yukata. You don’t know what that is? Then we suggest you continue reading.


Kimono vs Yukata
Japanese women dressed in traditional Kimonos, at a Kimono Show

A kimono is by definition the Japanese traditional garment. Originally, the word kimono was used to define clothing, but since the 8th century it has come to mean the full-length robe. Few Japanese people still wear kimonos on a daily basis because they are very expensive and hard to put on. They are still worn at weddings, tea ceremonies, funerals and festivals. Women are more likely than men to wear kimonos in modern times.

The kimono is a T-shaped robe made out of a single bolt of fabric called tan, which comes in standard dimensions: 36 centimeters wide and 11.5 meters long. The material is hand sewn and it must be taken apart and sewn back together every time it is washed. The vivid colors and the delicate fabrics are the most amazing things about kimonos. They can only be made from silk, satin, brocade or linen. Their patterns dictate the season when to wear them: cherry blossoms in spring, water patterns in summer, red leaves in autumn and plum blossoms in winter, to give only a few examples.

There is a lot of ceremony associated with wearing a kimono. It must always be worn over another piece of underclothing (an inner kimono called nagajuban), or even two (an undershirt that goes under the nagajuban, called hadajuban), each of these being designed to keep the one on top clean. Keep in mind the fact that the kimono must show two collars.

The top panel is placed on top. Men’s kimonos originally were ankle length, whereas women’s kimonos are always fairly long. When putting on a kimono, special care must be paid to keeping the back hem completely centered. Women would usually pull the kimono to the front then lift it up to adjust the length at ankle height. Then, by pulling on the front of the kimono with both hands, they adjust the sides, always crossing the left panel over the right one. The right panel is only worn over the left when attending a funeral.

With the panels crossed, a narrow ribbon called a koshi himo is tied tight around the waist so that it fixes the length of the kimono. Its ends are tucked away and it all goes under all of the excess material. Once the excess material creates a fold, another ribbon is tied higher than the waist, creating the ohashori fold. This one is tied more loosely, in the front and above the material. Men are not required to have the ohashori fold because their kimonos do not have the extra length.

The obi sash is the colorful, wide piece of fabric which completes the look of the kimono. Women’s obis are usually tied in a beautiful bow. To make the bow, the obi is wrapped around the waist while keeping one edge of the sash folded in half and placed around the right shoulder. Once most of the material is wrapped, the other end of the sash is folded and it is tied to the first end, the one we placed on the shoulder at the beginning of the procedure. Once the bow is made, the obi is slid back always toward the right, so as not to risk opening the panels. When dressing for a funeral and the panels are crossed the other way, the obi is slid to the left for the same reason. Special padding is added between the layers of the obi to keep it from wrinkling.

There are many types of kimonos. The komon for example can be worn around the town as it is a more casual style of kimono, with a small, repeated pattern. The furisode is the kimono worn only by unmarried women. Wedding and special ceremonial kimonos have their own styles. All kimono designs are unique and you should not be able to come across two models which are alike. This can also be seen in the cost of a kimono which ranges around $ 10,000 for the kimono and $ 20,000 with all of the accessories.

Japanese women dressed in traditional yukatas, attending a summer festival

A yukata is a more casual type of garment. Originally, the yukata was supposed to be a bathing robe, but it transitioned to a summer garment, now made of cotton or synthetic material. It is wrapped around the body and fastened with an obi. Yukatas are now worn at summer festivals, at ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) and in onsen towns (towns in the vicinity of hot springs); they are light and easy to wear, with darker colors for men and flashy colors for women.

The yukata is worn over whatever undergarment feels more comfortable and can be worn with bare feet in the sandals. Since it is a comfortable garment, designed for moments of relaxation, a common accessory for the yukata is the small foldable fan and the kinchaku (a small carry bag for personal items).

The yukata panels are aligned and the robe is straightened at the back. Then the left panel goes over the right one, with the extra material tucked neatly in the ohashori fold. The obi covers the ohashori fold and is tied in a bow at the back. Special padding is added to keep the obi from wrinkling. The collar must reveal the back of the neck, creating a gap the size of a fist. Men’s yukatas do not have the ohashori fold and their obi is placed below the waist line, intentionally creating the impression of a pot belly.

The cost of a yukata, depending on the material, the accessories and the seller, can be as low as $100 and as high as $1,000.

Kimono vs Yukata

So what is the difference between a kimono and a yukata?

Traditionally, the kimono is the official Japanese garment. There is one type of kimono for every occasion and for specific social statuses (married women or unmarried women). The yukata is the kimono worn in summer, without the second kimono underneath and without socks. Its material is less pretentious and the patterns are flashy for women and dark for men. However, in modern times, the yukata has come to replace the ceremonial kimono and is the preferred traditional garment. The price issue also plays an important part.

The kimono is still worn on very special occasions; it must have at least one undergarment, it must show two collars and it must be made out of finer materials such as silk and brocade. There should not be two identical kimonos, making the price cover the product’s uniqueness.

As far as putting it on goes, both kimonos as well as yukatas are worn the same way. Also, in both cases women must have the ohashori fold, whereas men’s garments are easier to put on. They do not need to make the ohashori fold and in the case of the yukata, the obi is placed below the waist. The price is also a decisive factor in why people do not wear kimonos every day. The most expensive yukata costs a tenth of the cheapest kimono.

Comparison Chart

Kimono Yukata
Traditional Japanese garment; one model for every occasion A summer kimono
Made out of precious textiles such as silk or brocade as well as linen and hemp Made out of cotton or even synthetic materials
Unique patterns which can be worn according to the occasion and the season Dark colors for men and flashy patterns for women
Worn over at least one, maximum two sets of undergarments Can even be worn over modern undergarments
The two panels are stretched out and crossed, the left side over the right one; two ribbons fix the kimono at the waist – this is covered by the excess material, and below the chest; they are both covered by the obi The two panels are stretched out and crossed, the left side over the right one; two ribbons fix the kimono at the waist – this is covered by the excess material, and below the chest; they are both covered by the obi
When attending a funeral, the right panel must cross the left side When attending a funeral, the right panel must cross the left side
Women must make the ohashori fold Women must make the ohashori fold; men can tie their obi below the waist, creating the pot belly effect
Must be worn with socks Can be worn barefoot
Can be worn at ceremonies and very special occasions Can be worn on a regular basis, especially in summer
Costs between $ 10,000 and $ 20,000 Costs between $ 100 and $ 1,000