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Onsen Yukata Guide For The Ultimate Hot Spring Retreat! (2024)

Wondering about the culture of onsen yukata in Japan? 

Those who are a little familiar with Japan will know that they are known for their traditional clothing, the kimonos.

But do you know that there is another version of a less formal kimono?

Labeled as the summer kimono or the casual kimono, yukata is more of a relaxed wear and a lighter version of a Japanese kimono. 

It’s lighter, and I love how it feels like a feather on my body. I used to think that both yukata and kimono were the same until I dug a little bit deeper. 

That was when I knew the differences between those two! 

While the kimono is mainly made of silk, the yukata is made of cotton or linen, making it very comfortable to wear on hot days. 

If you are new here, Hi, I am Aisha Preece ! 

I am an avid female traveller and I love helping other females travel safer and better 🙂 I also travel with my partner,Ger, sometimes too, so I like to share tips for solo female travelers and couples .

Onsen yukata

Ger and I are planning a trip to Japan as soon as we’re able, so I’ve been doing plenty of research on onsen and onsen etiquette! 

Let me get you in on all the details right here 🙂

Back in the day, onsen yukata was worn as bathrobes. Fast forward, it has become a trendy, comfortable garment worn during summer days. 

You will usually find these onsen yukatas at the Ryokans during your stay. 

In this article, I will break it down into a few sections to give you more insights about onsen yukata, how to look cute in a yukata, and how to get the most out of this excellent Japanese cultural experience.  

  • What Is Yukata?
  • What’s The Difference Between A Yukata and a Kimono?
  • Where Can I Find A Yukata?
  • When Can I Wear An Onsen Yukata?
  • When Not To Wear Yukata To Onsen?
  • Can I Go Outside In Yukata?
  • How To Wear Yukata?
  • Can I Customize My Own Yukata?

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Onsen yukata

What Is Yukata?

The word Yukata (浴衣) means bathing cloth, usually worn after bathing in communal bathhouses.

It is wrapped around the body and fastened with a sash (obi). 

Used back in the old days as a bathrobe after bathing in a communal bath, Yukata onsen is an effective way to cover the body and absorb remaining moisture.

It is said to have made its first appearance in the 8th century. Back then, it was called Yukatabira.

Made of cotton fabric (with its airtime feature), Yukata is popular in onsen towns, and it is a common sight for people to flaunt their Yukata in the streets with their wooden clogs (geta). 

It is also a typical guest wear at Ryokans. Their modern use is much broader. 

Since Yukata’s material is far lighter and breezier than a kimono, it is a popular choice of attire for special summer events such as firework displays or bon-odori dance festivals.

Nowadays, there are more casual, trendy Yukata designs for you to choose from!

What’s The Difference Between A Yukata and a Kimono?

The main difference between a kimono and a yukata is the material. 

A kimono is worn in formal ceremonial events and is worn with accessories. As the Kimono’s material can be of costly silk or densely decorated, the Kimono is rarely washed. 

So, you will observe that the Kimono has an inner wear called nagajuban, which is washable. This nagajuban keeps the outer layer of the Kimono clean and dry. 

On the other hand, Yukata is based on a breathable fabric material. So, a nagajuban is not necessary. 

Worn in a more casual setting, on warmer days, and during the festive season, it is less formal and easier to clean.

Onsen yukata

Where Can I Find A Yukata?

Most Ryokans provide yukata to their visitors to wear both within the Ryokan and out on the streets, especially within the onsen town like Hakone or Beppu. 

It should be noted that some Western-style hotels supply yukata in their rooms; nonetheless, yukata in hotels are typically intended just for room wear and should not be worn outside the hotel room. 

For those traveling with children, Yukata kids can also be found at certain ryokans. If the sizes for child Yukata are available, the Ryokan will give them to you during your stay. 

Some places in Kyoto offer a day Kimono and Yukata rental for you to immerse in the Japanese attire tradition. 

The rental comes with professional kimono fitting with optional makeup and hair styling! So you don’t have to worry about putting it on as a first-timer. 

If you’d like to purchase one as a souvenir, you can easily find one at local stores or department stores. 

The price can fall somewhere between a thousand yen for a simple one to ten thousand yen for a more elegant and exquisite design. 

Onsen yukata

When Can I Wear An Onsen Yukata?

For the best Yukata experience, I recommend you to stay at Ryokans or onsen towns such as Atami, Kinosaki, and Kusatsu.  

Onsen Yukata are usually provided throughout your whole stay. 

In most Ryokans, guests can wear their Yukata to the natural hot spring and put it back on after their onsen routine. 

In some towns, you can also wear it out for a walk in your wooden clogs. You’ll be setting the panoramic scene transported back into ancient times. 

This simple yet elegant attire is worn during the summer season when the weather can be hot and sweaty. 

Since the cotton of Yukata is breathable, it is a popular choice of attire.

Onsen yukata

When Not To Wear Yukata To Onsen?

When visiting the baths, wearing a yukata is also appropriate. However, please be aware that some hotels and inns request that visitors not wear yukatas in the restaurant, hotel lobby, etc. 

If you are not sure, do check with the reception or any hotel employees. They’ll be happy to help you out and ensure that you have the best Yukata experience during your stay. 

Also, it is traditional to remove sandals or slippers at the bath entry before going into the changing areas.

Onsen yukata

Can I Go Outside In Yukata?

Yes, of course. In some onsen towns, you are allowed to go out and wander in the town in your Yukata. 

How To Wear Yukata?

A Yukata is much simpler to wear than a Kimono. Once you learn and understand the art of putting a Yukata on, you’ll be able to do it on your own after that.

Onsen yukata

Here are some basic steps on how to put on Yukata:

Step 1: Place your Yukata over top of your undergarments. For females, wear your underwear underneath the Yukata and nothing else.

Put your arms into both sleeves of the Yukata, and ensure that your backbone is aligned with the center back seam.

Step 2: Grab the front hem about waist level, one side in each hand. Bring one of the overlaps to the opposite hip bone, starting with the right-hand side. Then, layer the left-hand side over the right-hand side.

Step 3: Hold this stance in place while you take a thinner cord to secure your Yukata. Adjust the Yukata accordingly so that it’s not too tight and is in the correct position. 

Step 4: Now, wrap your sash (Obi) around the waist from the front to the back, cross it, and bring it back to the front to be tied. Adjust the position of the sash according to your waist level. 

The Obi is fastened at the waist for females, and the Obi should sit quite low on the hips for men.

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Step 5: Tie a knot together and make a bow. Once done, twist the bow into the back.

Now, you are ready to go! If it’s a bit cold outside, put on the little overcoats known as Hanten or chabaori, which are available at your ryokan if it’s cold outside.

Some might ask how to wear Yukata male onsen. It’s similar, with a slight difference in the length of the sleeves. 

Men’s Yukata has a shorter sleeve compared to women’s Yukata.

Of course, with traditional attire comes particular manners and rules. Here are some Ryokan etiquette Yukata that you’ll need to respect during your stay:

– Change your clothes to Yukata during your stay.

– When putting on your Yukata, always fold the left side over the right side; otherwise, if you arrange the right side over the left, it’s for the funeral! So be careful.

Onsen yukata

Photo by James Pere on Unsplash

Can I Customize My Own Yukata?

Yes, you can find some shops or tailors around Tokyo and Kyoto that can do a customized Yukata.

Here are some shops that you could stop by while in Tokyo/Kyoto:

1. The Yard | View on Google Maps (Men & Women)

2. KIMONO by NADESHIKO Harajukuten | View on Google Maps (Women)

3. Y. & SONS Kyoto | View on Google Maps (Men Only)

FAQs on Onsen Yukata

Do You Wear A Yukata To The Onsen?

Yes, you wear a Yukata to the onsen. The majority of people are dressed in yukata  (men, women, and children alike) when visiting most onsen. 

Some ryokans do provide a Yukata during your stay. You can wear your Yukata outside of the baths, and your ryokan is comfortable and with ease.

Do You Wear Yukata Before Or After Onsen?

Commonly, Yukata are worn when going from your guestroom to the baths. This depends on the hot spring or the hotel that you will be at.

Please note that some ryokans/ hotels refrain from wearing a Yukata in public areas such as hotel lobbies or restaurants, etc. 

So, if you’d like to be sure of the rules of the ryokans/hotels, drop the question at the entrance when checking in.

Do You Wear Anything Under A Yukata At An Onsen?

It’s actually not obligatory. You have the option to wear something thin underneath to avoid staining the Yukata with your sweat. 

But since Yukata’s material is lighter and made out of breathable cotton, it is pretty comfortable to wear it on as is.

A lot of people wonder what to wear under Yukata. Generally, ladies typically have just Yukata onsen underwear beneath and nothing more, not even a bra.

Do Girls Wear Bra Under Yukata?

No, girls do not wear bras under Yukata. It’s simply because it will damage the shape of the Yukata.

Bras can be a great support and keep your bust in position. However, over time, the bra can even open the collar of a Yukata more than it should, so it is highly advised to avoid wearing a bra when wearing a Yukata.

Just a Yukata underwear is sufficient as an undergarment.

Ready to Flaunt Your Onsen Yukata?

Although wearing it in bigger cities is rare, locals take the occasion to wear yukata for summer festivals like bon-odori festivals or firework displays. 

When visiting onsen towns like Kinosaki Onsen or Kurokawa Onsen, it is one of the must-do things to stroll around in a yukata and wooden clogs (known as geta) to explore the town and do onsen hopping. 

This is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the onsen yukata culture fully.

I hope this article has inspired you to wear an onsen yukata during your trip to Japan. While it can be something new to try out during your stay, I am sure it will be one of your best experiences and memories of Japan.

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