Yukata season is starting to wind down now, but there are still summer festivals at which to wear them and play games to take home real goldfish (not that I would want to make the poor things suffer in the heat of my apartment while I’m away!). Despite this feeling like the hottest time of the year, we’re technically already in autumn according to the 24 periods of the old lunisolar calendar!

While wearing kimono comes with a certain amount of financial investment and necessary items to achieve the ideal shape on which to base an array of tasteful aesthetics, yukata do not require so much fuss. Unlike kimono, they are usually made of a breathable fabric like cotton and do not require much–if anything?–underneath them, so they are ideal for the hot and humid summers of Japan. Even in my kimono class and other culture classes for which classic dress is standard, they make special allowances for people to wear yukata instead of traditional kimono for practice.

If you have ever stayed at any hotel in Japan, you might have been provided yukata to lounge and sleep in, but there are yukata more proper for wearing in public. They’re cheap enough that most visitors to Japan can afford one, and some fancy hotels in resort areas, like Tamatsukuri Onsen on the south side of Matsue, provide them to the guests to wear around the area anyway. Of course, if you’re just passing through for the day, you can rent them from Himekoromo at the Hakobune Tamatsukuri Art Box. While we’re on that topic, you could always get a brief kimono experience at Karakoro Art Studio closer to Matsue Castle, too.

Just because yukata don’t inheritantly require as much fuss as normal kimono doesn’t mean that you can toss out all the rules of kimono (left side over right!!!), and it doesn’t mean people don’t fuss over them anyway. You see people wearing them all over the place at festivals, and since you can get away with any kind of pattern on a yukata (seeing as the material automatically makes it appropriate for summer, even if its covered in a snowflake pattern), people get very creative with them. It’s gotten very common to see girls with thick make-up, bleach-blonde hair with giant crepe flowers, and sparkly gauze sashes tied over the regular obi (belt). What with the freedom they offer, crafty people are getting craftier and craftier.

For the people just going for a traditional yukata look–the very mental image of which conjures nostalgic memories of summmer, and all the shaved ice, festivals, and refreshing (if infrequent) gusts of wind–there are obi that are tied with strings and have a seperate pre-tied bow that you just stick in the back.

As I call them, “Cheater Obi”–though I’ve happily been cheating for the past six years since attaining my first yukata.

Seeing as I am supposed to be able to wear kimono now, I did take the time to learn how to tie a basic bunko bow. As soon as you master the basics, however, the little creative adjustments you can make–a fold here, a stretch there, flipping inside-out around there–are only limited by your imagination and the length of fabric you have to work with. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of perfectly good, perfectly orthodox ways of arranging it already, though.

I just don’t have enough talent and practice yet to be very orthodox.

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