Participants in the yukata experience workshop pose for a photo in the grounds of Taiko-en in Osaka.
lifestyle

Yukata workshop teaches women how to dress, move and eat in summer kimono

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By Kirsty Kawano

The Sankei Living Shimbun Inc held a special yukata experience workshop on May 23 at the historic Taiko-en estate in Osaka. During the full-day event, 10 Japanese women and five foreign women were taught how to dress themselves in a yukata – the summer kimono. They were coached in creating hairstyles to match and also in Japanese table manners as they enjoyed a high-cuisine kaiseki lunch at the estate’s Yodogawa-tei restaurant.

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“The aim of the event is to enjoy Japanese culture and spread it throughout Japan and the world,” said Noriaki Tanaka, a managing director at Sankei Living Shimbun.

The participants started on that goal by sharing their experience via a photo session in the impressive grounds of Taiko-en, which was built around 1910 by Baron Denzaburo Fujita.

Co-organizers of the event included the Cultural Foundation for Promoting the National Costume of Japan, whose member instructors taught participants the fine details of yukata dressing.

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Many of the participants had some previous experience of wearing yukata and kimono and consequently understood the difference between wearing one — and wearing one well.

Charlotte Fitt, a Brit living in Hyogo Prefecture, said she sometimes uses information from the web to help her put a yukata on, but participated in the event to learn how to do it “nicely.”

“It’s co-hosted by the Cultural Foundation for Promotion of the National Costume, so it’s great to be able to hear from people who really know about it,” she said. “Being able to take home the yukata and obi was also really appealing,” she added.

Canadian teacher Irene Sproull, who doesn’t speak Japanese, praised the yukata instructor’s teaching method. “I found it very progressive. It was easy to understand, even without any Japanese.”

Miriam Stollar, an American from Kyoto, described the whole day as “a great experience.” Compared to a regular yukata lesson, having various activities incorporated into the full-day event made it a more authentic experience, she said.

“It was much more complete to have the meal and the yukata because we also learnt how to move in the yukata – like when we reached for something on the table.”

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A camaraderie developed among the participants as they spent the day together muddling over challenging complexities of Japanese culture, such as yukata ties and eating etiquette. Both Japanese and foreign participants were surprised to learn that in fine Japanese dining, in order to have your bowl of rice refilled, you should leave just one mouthful of rice in the bowl as a sign to the server.

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As well as giving the etiquette instruction, Yodogawa-tei’s proprietress, Maki Morishita, also pointed out the highlights of the always-seasonal kaiseki cuisine. The lunch included a refreshing tofu infused with new ginger and a suimono soup garnished with a small, aromatic, edible flower of the yuzu citrus.

The finer points of yukata dressing highlighted some of the particularly Japanese aspects of the culture, such as tying a folded towel to the lower back in order to help hide the curves of a woman’s body when covered by the yukata.

Co-organizer Osaka Yakatabune has arranged a follow-up event for the participants to put into practice what they have learned with a river cruise on a yakatabune traditional barge in June. Dress code: yukata!

For previous information about the event: https://blog.gaijinpot.com/foreign-females-yukata-workshop/

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