Bargain Kimono Sale: 着物

I wrote about summer yukata in another post, but recently, I went to a used/bargain kimono and yukata sale… which of course led me to pick out some items for very cheap. While there were some beautiful pieces (even pre-picked out sets) for higher prices, my budget for these types of things is not very high. That being said, I am happy with my purchases.

First, I found a pink rabbit hanhaba obi (with a silvery pattern on the opposite side)… super kawaii. So since it is a casual (half) obi, I decided to look for a yukata that would match it; I ended up with a discounted medium blue yukata with pink and purple sakura-looking flowers on it. While normally I would not choose a flower pattern, this one contrasts and complements the obi so well. I am excited for next festival season already! I will need to alternate between my cats yukata and my bunny/flower yukata set.

The second combination I found was an antique komon 小紋 kimono 着物, which is a semi-formal/informal kimono with a repeating pattern (less rules, more free patterns and variety), and an full-width obi that I thought went well with it. The kimono is yellow-gold with a pattern of colorful omamori (charms, amulet)  お守り; it is rather unique, and maybe a little kitschy, and definitely not your typically flowers or elegance. At first I though the design was pots, like for shoyu or sake (which sounds like an awesome design itself!) until I looked closer. The obi is a dark green with wisps of white and black color on it, so it gives a nice contrast to the bright colors on the kimono. It is not proper for full formal events, but rather better as a more casual piece, while still being acceptable for semi-formal events by dressing it up a bit. This is perfect since I cannot imagine any formal kimono events in my future! I have started to assemble the fiddly bits that I need to be able to wear the full kimono ensemble; just learning to tie this type of obi seems daunting in itself. I am even tempted to hire a kimono dresser at some point so I can get it put together properly! Yukata are quite simple, but kimono add layers upon layers of complication.

Some of the fiddly bits necessary for kimono dressing:

Being a bargain shopper meant going through a large number of fabrics and obi to find the right size (I am a medium height Western female, which means rather on the tall side compared to most Japanese females), quality (some had obvious defects hence the discount), price, and designs. After a good hour of perusing, I settled on these 2 sets after contemplating some other designs. Considering new kimono run to the equivalent of hundreds (or even thousands) of US dollars, paying 2000yen (~$20 USD) for an antique kimono in good condition made me happy. The other pieces were all cheaper (900yen each, except the bunny obi costing me 2200yen, the only item over budget).

In Okinawa, there are a few places you can find secondhand yukata and kimono, mainly “recycle” shops (リサイクル), such as Manga Souko and OFF-house (2 of the bigger chain recycle shops and well known to gaijin, though perhaps you could get lucky with a smaller unknown recycle shop). There are also a few secondhand and antique kimono specialty shops (such as Kimonobana, the shop that held the bargain event). Prices at recycle shops can be as low as 500-1000 yen, but often the quality will be very poor in this price range (unless you are very lucky!). Most prices seem to be a bit higher than this, and I have seen some very beautiful 30,000 yen (or more!) kimono in some of the secondhand shops, you can imagine what the orginal price must have been. Of the 2 larger chains, OFF-house seems to be a better value and selection than Manga Souko in my opinion. I have yet to explore all the secondhand kimono shops, but hopefully I can get around to it before the New Year. Overall, these are still a pretty decent deal compared to paying for new kimono, so if you are in Okinawa and interested in kimono and yukata options, definitely check out some of these places. And of course, keep your eyes out for used Kimono sale events that happen throughout the year.

Yukata: 浴衣

Yukata 浴衣 are the light summer robes, and much different than heavy, layered kimono 着物. Many people, men and women, wear yukata or jinbei 甚平 to the summer festivals (matsuri 祭り). You can also wear yukata to beer gardens, parties, or pretty much any casual outdoor “event” during the warmer months. Many people also wear them when staying in onsen towns.

In the Ryukyu kingdom, yukata would actually have much different designs than you see today at the summer matsuri. Today, most yukata in Okinawa are influenced by Japanese designs rather than traditional designs.

I have both a yukata and a jinbei. Jinbei are shorts and a robe top, very comfortable and light. Mine has a design of Hello Kitty x OnePiece. Very adult, indeed. Jinbei are sort of like pajamas and pretty comfortable. Perhaps it is seen as a bit childish or tomboyish for a female to wear jinbei, but it is so easy and comfy. I think they actually look pretty cute.

Yukata are actually fairly easy to put on, with a little practice. My yukata has a green checkered and cat print on it, and the obi 帯 is green on one side and pink on the other. It is very cute. But the obi is not the pre-tied obi like you see in many stores these days– I must tie it myself. I am considered getting one of those fluffy “ribbon” obi that seem to be trendy lately; they look very easy to tie, just a simple bow. Although I must say, I did a pretty good job of tying the bunko-musubi (butterfly knot) for this recent matsuri I attended. I have fan that sort of matches it, that I bought at the 100円 store, and a pair of geta 下駄 (wooden slippers), though many people in Okinawa just wear island slippers. I have a kinchaku (drawstring bag) as well, but it does not match, as it is one that was used as gift-wrapping for a gift I received. I have some flower hair clips from Hawai’i and I bought a set of flower clips at the 100円 store as well. There are all sorts of little bits and bobs you can buy to accessorize a yukata, if you feel so inclined (hair clips, pins, rope ties, handbags, etc). There are special ties and clips and underthings you can get as well to help secure the pieces. These can really add up in price fast though…

The basic pieces you need for a yukata:

  • the yukata itself
  • tanktop or thin shirt, shorts to wear underneath (you can also purchase Japanese-style underclothes called hadajuban 肌襦袢)
  • obi 帯, specifically hanhaba obi 半幅帯 of any style/color
  • 2 pieces of sash to secure yukata before tying obi, called koshi-himo 腰ひも **I actually use a korin-belt コーリンベルト which has clips so it is a bit fancier but more expensive.

The “extras”:

  • fan! Folded is called sensu 扇子, round is called uchiwa 団扇 (うちわ)
  • wooden sandals, called geta 下駄 **in Okinawa is probably more common to see just rubber slippers (you could also pair tabi socks 足袋 with this, but usually yukata is without)
  • handbag, kinchaku (drawstring bag) 巾着 with kago (basket) 籠 (かご)
  • a fancy cord to tie over obi, called obi-jime 帯締め, with an obi-dome 帯留め (ornament threaded over the obi-jime)
  • decorative accessory for obi, called obi-kazari 帯飾り
  • hair ornaments, called kanzashi 簪 (かんざし)
  • a stiff belt to go underneath the obi and keep shape, called datejime 伊達締め

There are many places in Okinawa during summer and pre-summer months to find yukata. You can buy second-hand and save some money, or you can buy new. Second hand stores such as Manga Souko and Off-House (part of the Book-Off group) usually have a decent variety. Buying new, you can go to SanA, Aeon, Honeys, or UNIQLO for cheaper ones, or specialty yukata/kimono stores for more expensive ones. You can also find many on! There are so many patterns and colors, it is so hard to choose. I really enjoy seeing all the colorful and beautiful yukata and jinbei when I go to the summer matsuri.

**Note on sizing: Most women’s yukata are just sold as “free size,” and are usually for women of 153-170 cm in height, depending on the maker. Others may be sold as small, medium, large, extra-large, or tall size (the difference is in the length height-wise of the yukata, and the length of the sleeves covering your arm). I am ~168-169 cm, so on the taller end of this. Free size yukata fit me decently enough, though the tall size is a little nicer looking! Most tall sizes will fit someone up to 175cm tall. Any taller and you may need to make a custom order!