What is a Yukata?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A yukata is an unlined cotton garment sometimes referred to as a casual or summer kimono. Yukata are worn in Japan during the summer in casual settings. Traditional Japanese garments are worn less frequently today than they were historically, and depending on where in Japan one is, there may not be very many people in yukata out in public. Like the formal kimono, this garment is simply cut, with straight seams and roomy sleeves.

The traditional Japanese kimono is silk and today is mostly saved for special occasions.
The traditional Japanese kimono is silk and today is mostly saved for special occasions.

The word “yukata” literally means “bathing clothes.” These garments were originally worn after bathing, and were eventually adopted for casual wear in other settings. Today, many traditional Japanese inns, known as ryokan, provide these traditional garments and appropriate accessories for their guests along with other traditional touches which are meant to remind guests of Japan's rich cultural history.

For wear at home and in casual settings like an inn room, people usually secure the yukata with a simple cotton sash. For going out, a yukata belt is used to keep the garment closed, with both men and women folding the left side over the right. People can also add an obi for more formal summer settings, in which case accessories such as a fan and purse may be carried as well. Traditional Japanese sandals may be worn under the garment, but usually tabi socks are not worn.

The cotton used for making yukata can vary in thickness. In cooler areas of Japan, robes may be provided to wear over the garment to stay warm, and short jackets are also available to wear over the robe. In warmer areas, the light weight of the unlined garment can be pleasant during the summer months when the weather can get very hot. some people also wear garments made from synthetic fibers, although these are less traditional than cotton.

These garments are often brightly colored and richly patterned. As a general rule, women are allowed to wear bright colors and bold patterns, but as they grow older, they are expected to wear more conservative garments. Young children can wear the brightest colors, while matrons may stick to simple dark blue yukata with geometric designs.

In Japan, yukata and accessories are available from many stores which sell clothing, especially during the summer months when these garments are more likely to be worn. Outside of Japan, import stores sometimes carry yukata, and people can also order them directly from companies which carry Japanese clothing and accessories.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


We had a foreign exchange student from Japan stay with us for a summer and she brought us a yukata kimono as a gift.

It felt so soft and luxurious to the touch. I have worn it around the house a few times and understand why they are worn so often. They are very comfortable and easy to wear.

I thought this was a really nice gift that symbolized a way of life in her country. It is also a nice reminder of the time she spent in our home.


If you are looking for something unique for Halloween you can get a yukata costume online for a lot cheaper than you would buy a real yukata. The quality isn't as good of course, but if you are just carrying around a fake samurai sword anyway you don't really need a lot.

For myself I actually bought my yukata from a cosplaying site online. They offer really high quality costumes and can even custom make something if you find a photo you like. Of course this is much more expensive then packaged costumes, but if you have the funds why not have fun?


A Japanese yukata makes a great souvenir if you have a chance to travel to Toyko, or one of the other great locations in Japan. Yukatas are actually quite a bit cheaper than kimonos but still have a very traditional feel to them.

Like with anything, you can get something like a silk yukata which will be much more expensive than a simple cotton one.

Also, if you stay at a ryokan you may be able to keep the yukata they provide you for a small additional fee. Much like if you want to keep a towel or something in the West.

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