Kimonos have a very deep history rooted back as early as the late 700s during the Heian Period, and over the years have come to represent traditional Japanese clothing. The traditional, long garments that we recognize today actually stem back to the Edo period in the early 17th century, and have evolved throughout the years, changing in shape and silhouette based on Western influences. It was absolutely fascinating to read about the history of kimonos, and we definitely encourage you to read more in this article if you are interested!
We couldn't have been more excited for our own kimono experience in Kyoto, which is something that we had planned in our Japan itinerary very early on! There are dozens of kimono stores all over the city (not just in Kyoto, but in many cities throughout Japan) that sell and rent full kimonos. We had done some prior research online to get an idea of how much a full-day rental would cost us, which typically ranges anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 yen per day, depending on the type of fabric or package you choose. We spent our morning exploring Kiyomizu-Dera and walking around the different temples before we headed toward Gion to spend the rest of our afternoon and evening. We came across a few different kimono shops about 10 minutes outside of Gion, and decided to shop around to see if there were any prints and fabrics that we liked. Ultimately, we chose Kyokomachi since they had very reasonable prices, and we found a color combination that we both loved!
We were able to try on the kimonos loosely so we could get an idea of how our outfits coordinate, and then headed upstairs to the second floor parlor to get fitted and to get our hair done (additional 10,000 yen). It was such a fun experience since we were the only ones upstairs with two lovely ladies, one who was an expert at kimono wrapping, and the other who worked our hair into beautiful updos embellished with faux flowers. The whole session only took about 30 minutes, which is surprising considering how intricate it looked to wrap up the kimonos to perfection. The traditional drawstring bags were already pre-matched to our kimonos, but we were able to choose the pins for our hair as well as our special plastic flip-flops (that we wore with fun, big-toe socks!). And finally, we were off on our way into the Gion and to visit the famous Hokan-ji Temple.
The store we visited allowed us to keep the kimonos until 6pm, although some allow for later returns. The time constraint was not a problem for us though, since we had plenty of time in these beautiful outfits, and we were so ready to have them off by evening (they are wrapped super tight!). The rest of our day was spent eating and exploring Nishiki Market, which is street food mecca for all you foodies out there.
We had an absolute blast with our kimono experience and definitely recommend it to all the ladies (and gents!) who are interested in experiencing what it's like to wear an article of clothing that is so beautiful and rich in history. We failed to see any real Geisha in Kyoto that night, though we definitely think we could have if we stuck around for a few more hours to explore!