What better ways are there to have an unforgettable cultural experience than exploring the historic Asakusa in kimono? Wearing a kimono has always been on my bucket list for Japan. Although kimono rental is popular in Kyoto or Harajuku or Shibuya in Tokyo, I thought the ancient Edo streets of Asakusa would be the perfect backdrop for my kimono experience.
In the streets of Asakusa, it isn’t difficult to find kimono rental shops. In fact, there are too many that the selection process can be overwhelming. Kimono terminologies also can be confusing. In this article, I will share kimono basics and tips from my Tokyo kimono experience.
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Kimono is a traditional Japanese outfit. It means “clothing” or “thing to wear” in Japanese. This traditional robe is made of silk and designed differently for different occasions.
It goes back to the Heian period (794-1192) when the Japanese started to wear kimono as an everyday outfit. But the Meiji-era (1868-1912) government encouraged people wearing western outfits. Today, people tend to wear a kimono for special occasions such as festivals, weddings and tea ceremonies although you can still see Japanese in kimono on the streets every day.
Types of Kimono
There are various types of kimono in Japan for different social status and occasions. However, since the purpose of this article is to help you rent a kimono in Japan for a cultural experience, I will introduce the most popular few here that you as travelers most likely see at kimono rental shops or ryokan.
Understanding the various types of kimono is helpful because some kimono shops will ask you to book a specific one. When I booked kimono experience online, I had to research kimono just so that I could complete the reservation. I also noticed the rental fees varied by the type of kimono, too.
The most formal kimono, worn by unmarried women. It has longer sleeves than Homongi, and the most extended sleeves can almost reach the ground. On the Japanese Coming of Age Day (成人式, Seijin Shiki), girls wear furisode to attend the ceremony. Japanese parents gift furisode to those girls who turn 20 years old; however, renting the furisode is also an option as it can be expensive to purchase. Thank goodness, it’s not for the only one occasion; women can wear furisode to attend a wedding ceremony or other formal events.
Homongi (訪問着) or Houmongi
Homongi means “visit wear.” Homongi sleeves are shorter than furisode. Both married and unmarried women can wear this formal kimono to attend special events such as concert, tea party, wedding ceremony, etc. Japanese parents often give their daughter homongi as a wedding gift.
Japanese Hakama (袴)
Japanese Hakama is less formal kimono. It consists of the top (nishakusode) and wide-pants-like pleated skirts, which is worn over the top fastened with ribbon. Although traditionally menswear, modern-day Japanese women wear it in some occasions like a college graduation ceremony.
Yukata is a Japanese cotton kimono. It is the lightweight, casual kimono made of cotton, typically worn in summer. Unlike the formal kimono, it doesn’t require any special undergarment. Yukata is often worn during festivals or at onsen and ryokan.
Terminology: Kimono Accessories
Nagajuban is made of cotton or synthetic silk and goes under the kimono. Its collar can be plain, colored or embroidered.
Kimono obi is a sash or belt. There are so many varieties of obi and knot, but essentially it decorates kimono on the waist. Tying the knot with the obi is art, often representing flowers, birds or butterfly.
Obijime is a decorative string on obi belt.
Kinchaku is a traditional Japanese drawstring purse, often paired with kimono.
Zori is Japanese thong sandals and part of kimono ensemble. Although it resembles flip-flops, it is not considered as informal as flip-flops.
Tabi is split-toe socks for kimono. Tabi socks are put on before wearing zori.
Kanzashi is traditional Japanese hair ornaments.
Haori (羽織) is a traditional Japanese jacket for kimono. It is worn open and usually hip or thigh length.
Tokyo Kimono Experience in Asakusa
Do Your Research
It helps to have a general idea of what you’d like to wear. Don’t fret if you don’t, though. That means you probably won’t be picky, which also can make the process simple and easy.
Let me clarify one thing before your imagination leads you into a disappointing experience. The authentic silk kimono is very, very expensive. To give you an idea, my cousin in Japan spent about USD 1,300 to custom-made her Coming of Age Day furisode; it would have cost her USD 1,000 just to rent for one day. Most likely, the ones you get from rental shops for tourists will not be the luxury, high-end kimono. Also, mind you, Japanese don’t always go for the flashy colorful design you find at these shops, either. All that to say, your experience might not be precisely the authentic and traditional Japanese experience although it would still be a memorable one in my opinion.
Some of the questions you might want to ask yourself are:
- Is there a specific style of kimono you would like to wear?
- Do you want to wear a kimono for a full day or just for a quick photo shoot?
- Will you need a plus size kimono? Any other size concerns (tall, petite)?
- Are there any men or children in your group who also want to rent a kimono?
- Do you need help with hair and makeup?
- Will you need any add-on services like professional photo shoots or Rickshaw ride?
- What’s your budget?
- Are you pregnant? (I’ll explain this later.)
Select the Kimono Rental Shop
Types of Kimono
I envisioned myself wearing a bright-colored kimono with elaborate floral patterns. I didn’t necessarily care for a specific style of kimono and what it implies. I was all about the design and color I like.
Duration of the Rental
I planned to wear a kimono for the entire day exploring Sensoji Temple, Nakamise Shopping Street and other streets of Asakusa. I also wanted to get there as early as possible, so I have enough time to walk around the area and take plenty of photos.
The biggest challenge I had was the size. I’m 5’11” (178 cm) tall. I know for a fact that Japanese clothing and shoe sizes don’t work well for me. I learned later that kimono could be somewhat adjustable when tying up around the waist. Generally speaking, kimono can fit girls up to 6 feet (180 cm) tall.
On the other hand, my travel companion wears US women’s size 14. We were not sure if kimono shops would have any plus size available, given how petite Japanese are. I emailed and confirmed with a few shops that they do have a plus size kimono although their measurement was slightly different. (Kimono size goes by the hip measurement.) Be aware that plus size kimono selections can be limited.
Kimono rental shops offer a group discount for 3 or more people. They also have a separate family package with male and children’s kimono. See my comparison chart at the bottom for reference.
Kimono Hair, Makeup & Accessories
Check if there are any additional costs for kimono accessories such as obi belt, obijime, kinchaku purse, tabi socks, and zori sandals. Also, make sure the package includes hair accessories and styling by professionals.
Professional Photo & Rickshaw
Some shops can help arrange professional photography and rickshaw services at additional fees if requested. In my opinion, these add-on services through kimono rental shops are quite expensive. Book a rickshaw guide here or here to save your precious dollars!
Cost of Kimono Rental
Kimono rental cost may vary by the type of kimono, rental duration and shop of your choice. Yukata you can rent in summer can be cheaper than more formal furisode. Some shops allow a couple of hours indoor kimono rental for quick photography at a lower price; others offer “bring your kimono” plan where you will be charged only for a dressing fee.
Most shops do not recommend wearing a kimono during pregnancy. I didn’t quite understand this at first, but once I tried it on, I realized why. Inside the kimono, they wrapped you in multiple layers and tied up pretty tightly in the tummy area. Although I don’t have a big belly, it felt tight to the point I didn’t feel hungry all day long. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would get if you have a pregnancy tummy.
With this in mind, I researched and narrowed down to three rental shops in Asakusa. (I have a comparison chart below for your reference.) I ended up going with Komomo Kimono Rental because 1) it was a recommendation from my volunteer local guide Takako-san (Note: She doesn’t get any commission from the shop) and 2) the cost and duration were the most reasonable.
Book Your Tokyo Kimono Experience
You might be able to take a chance and walk in. However, keep in mind that some shops don’t accept walk-ins. I made a reservation in advance and recommend you do so especially if you have any specific requirements (i.e., style, plus size kimono, etc.). Why would you waste your precious time when you could shop around at home and spend more time enjoying sightseeing?
When you book online, most shops will ask you the time and date you would like to show up and select a plan (i.e., types of kimono). If you are unsure, I think it’s okay to choose a basic kimono plan for booking. Make sure to check cancellation policy and payment options as well.
↡↡Book Your Kimono Experience Here! ↡↡
Visit the Store on Time
Japanese appreciate punctuality. Make sure to show up at the shop on time. If you are late, it will just eat up your time to get dressed and prepared.
Making a reservation with Komomo online didn’t require me to pay in advance. I checked in at the reception and paid the rental fees in cash. (Komomo accepts credit card, but I think they may charge a small transaction fee.) Its website advertises kimono plan at ¥3,240; however, they charged me ¥3,000.
Choose a Kimono (10 min)
Komomo offers more than 200 kimonos with a variety of colors, patterns and sleeves lengths.
I loved many of their kimonos but had to narrow down to two options on my own. With the expert’s help, I was able to select the one that looked better on me, and I was pretty happy about my choice. I paid extra ¥500 as the one I chose was furisode with longer sleeves.
My travel companion also was happy about her kimono although plus size kimono selections were limited. Her nagajuban had an embroidered collar whereas mine was plain.
Komomo allowed us to choose our kimono obi and obijime. There are so many beautiful options available with different shapes, colors and textures. I enjoyed selecting my own, but of course, professionals are there to help you if you are unsure.
Get Dressed (15 min)
Getting dressed in kimono is an act of art. Have you seen how okashi (Japanese snacks) is beautifully wrapped in a gift box? Kimono is just like that.
Putting kimono on is a delicate and complicated process that requires some training. Even the average Japanese don’t know how to wear a kimono properly; therefore, they get professional’s help to get dressed.
With the professional’s help at Komomo, I first wore nagajuban. Then, the helpers started wrapping me around with multiple layers of clothes, plastic belt, towel, etc. To help keep your posture and kimono in place, they tightened things up pretty neatly. I complained that it was too tight, but they cheerfully said, kanbate (“do your best” in Japanese), with a smile and continued. With the final touch of obi and obijime, my kimono dressing process ended. I would say it was quite an experience.
Overall, I appreciated the sanitary standards at Komomo. Kimonos didn’t smell at all. Nagajuban was also clean without any spot or odor. The shop provided a new pair of Tabi socks for everyone so that no one needed to share them with strangers.
Tip: The dressing room was an open area behind the curtain, meant to be shared with other women. I suggest wearing a spaghetti-strap tank top in summer, and thermal shirt and leggings in winter (such as Uniqlo heattech leggings) for courtesy and heat retention. Do not wear a high-neck t-shirt as it may compromise the overall kimono look.
How do you go to the restroom in kimono?
Before start getting dressed, it would be wise to visit ladies’ room. Believe me; it’s much easier to go before fully dressed. Once in kimono, you can unwrap yourself one layer at a time to go, then drop all drapery and jump to let them fall in place.
Get Your Kimono Hair Done by the Professional (10 min)
At Komomo, all packages include hair accessories and styling. I selected hair ornaments in organized drawers and a hairstyle from the three looks provided. The stylists were fast and accommodating although I think more than simple requests would be difficult considering their communication skills in English.
Tip: Makeup service is not available. Do your makeup at your hotel. Also, think about your hairstyle and kimono look to make accessory choices like earrings.
Complete the Look with Kimono Accessories (5-10 min)
Once dressed, it’s time to complete the look with kimono accessories. Komomo has a variety of kinchaku purse from the traditional drawstring to the zippered to the canvas bag. More structured and elaborate handbags can also be rented at an additional fee. My kinchaku was small enough to carry yet big enough to fit in a wallet, cellphone and lip balm.
On the way out, I tried a few zori sandals and grab one that is closest to my size. They are supposed to fit slightly smaller than regular shoes with your heels out. As I planned to walk all day, I was worried if it would be uncomfortable. They were not as comfortable as my Birkenstock sneakers but didn’t give me much trouble, either. If you are tired, hitching a rickshaw ride is always an option in Asakusa.
Store Your Belongings
All my belongings including clothes, shoes and bag were stored in a numbered bin at Komomo. Komomo also holds the luggage free of charge.
If you plan to do a next day return, consider coming with the least amount of belongings possible.
Enjoy Strolling Down the Street
Don’t be shy. Go out and stroll down the Asakusa streets. I assure you that you will look beautiful and get compliments from strangers. My travel companion at first wasn’t convinced about her look, but she turned out gorgeous. And she loved her photos of our adventure in Asakusa!
Return the Kimono & Accessories
Be aware of the return time. If you are late, you will have to pay for the next day return service. Plus, it will be inconvenient as you would have to travel back to the shop the next day.
Kimono Rental Shops in Asakusa
1. Komomo Kimono Rental
Location: Near Asakusa Station, across from Doturi Coffee Shop (Google Map)
- Tokyo Metro Ginza Line Asakusa Station Exit 5
- Tokyo Metro Asakusa Line Asakusa Station Exit A4
- Tobu Skytree Line Asakusa Station Exit South
Hours: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Return by 6:30 p.m.)
2. Asakusa Aiwafuku
Location: Multiple locations near Asakusa station (Google Map for Store #2 )
- Tokyo Metro Ginza Line Asakusa Station Exit 5
- Tobu Skytree Line Asakusa Station North Ticket Gate
- Tsukuba Express Asakusa Station
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Return by 4:30 p.m.)
3. YAE Kimono Rental
Location: Two blocks away from Kaminarimon Gate (Google Map)
- Tokyo Metro Ginza Line Asakusa Station Exit 1
- Metropolitan Asakusa Line Asakusa Station Exit A4
- Tsukuba Express Asakusa station, Kokusai
Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Return by 5:30 p.m.)
Asakusa Kimono Rental Shop Comparison Chart
|Komomo Kimono Rental||Asakusa Aiwafuku||YAE Kimono Rental|
|Location||Near Asakusa Station||Near Asakusa Station||Behind the Nakamise Shopping Street|
|Opening Hours||10 am - 7 pm||9 am - 6 pm||9:30 am - 5:30 pm|
|Kimono Return Time||6:30 pm||4:30 pm||5:30 pm|
|Next Day Return||(+ ¥2,000)||(+ ¥1,000)||(Kimono +¥1,100; Others +¥2,200)|
|Types of Kimono||Kimono, Furisode, Yukata||Kimono, Furisode, Hakama||Kimono (Yukata in summer), Furisode, Homongi|
|Kimono Rental Price||Kimono: ¥3,000 Furisode: ¥3,500~ Yukata: ¥3,000||Kimono: ¥3,800 Furisode: ¥4,800-¥9,800 Hakama: ¥12,800||Kimono: ¥5,400 Furisode: ¥18,900 Homongi: ¥16,000 Hakama: ¥7,600|
|Hair Accessories & Hair Styling|
|Obi & Obijime|
|Kinchaku Purse||(Additional fees for fancy ones.)|
|Tabi Socks||(New pair of tabi socks included.)|
|Shawl or Haori||¥500||¥100-500||not available|
|Plus Size Kimono||Hip Measurement: up to 120 cm||Hip Measurement: up to 115 cm||Hip Measurement: up to 120 cm|
|Family Package||¥9,800 (3 ppl) ¥12,800 (4 ppl)|
|Group Discount (3+)||¥2,777/person||¥2,980-¥3,300/person||¥4,900/person|
|Payment||Cash or Credit Card||Cash only at the shop||Cash or Credit Card|
|Language||English (limited), Japanese||English, Chinese, Japanese||English, Chinese, Japanese|
|Luggage Service||not available|
*All prices in this chart are online specials as of December 2018. Rates are subject to change. Be sure to check when booking.
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