One of the must-do in Kyoto during summer, if my recommendations matter, it would be wearing a Yukata. Yukata is a casual summer kimono, which is usually cheaper in price. The traditional Japanese garment is meant to be worn in summer. The materials used for a yukata are usually cotton or thin synthetic fabric, so it is not stuffy as it seems to be. There are various Yukata rental shops in Kyoto providing similar service. All you need is to research online, choose a company that provides the service you like and make reservations.
My love for traditional clothing continues at Kyoto. I decided to purchase a set of yukata when I was planning my trip. For two simple reasons, I lock on my target at the Yukata rental shops that sell brand new yukata: First, it was a short trip, and we didn’t have the luxury of time to check out the department stores and Kimono making companies; Second, rental shops provide free wearing service if I purchase a Yukata.
I booked a Fukubukuro (Lucky Bag) package with Yumeyakata (夢館), a company that specializes in Japanese traditional clothing rental service in Kyoto. It is also the cheapest service amongst all companies that has an official website.
Wide variety of colours and designs are available in the shop. We spent about 40 minutes and finally decided on a yukata with peony prints. It is a white based yukata contrasted against abstract peony pattern in orange and green.
The flowers and prints on a yukata bear different intriguing meanings. To the best of my understanding, the flower prints on Yukata are simile of women’s beauty. To translate directly of a Japanese saying, 立てば芍薬, 座れば牡丹, 歩く姿は百合の花, it means “As gorgeous as tree peony when she stands, as beautiful as Herbaceous peony when she sits, as elegant as lily when she walks. ” Well, I am not too sure if I possess any of the characteristics above but now as I am wearing a peony pattern yukata I will try my best to maintain its image? xD
The lucky bag package comes with a yukata robe, an obi belt, a pair of geta sandals, a handbag, two waist sash, and an obi-ita shape board. After getting dressed in your yukata, you may choose to pay another 1,500 yen for a hair updo. Additional hair accessories are available at your expense. I will explain more about the service at the last section. For this blog entry, I am going to briefly show you the walking tour plan I took when I dressed in a yukata.
Get dressed in Yukata → Kiyomizudera 清水寺 →Sannen-zaka 産寧坂 → Seiryu-en 青龍苑 → Ninen-zaka 二寧坂 → Preserved Historical Streets → Yasaka Shrine 八阪神社 → Gion 祇園 & Dinner at 美々卯→ Pontocho 先斗町 → Accommodation: Oki’s Inn
To see: Kiyomizudera 清水寺
As one of the most celebrated temples of Japan and a UNESCO world heritage site, Kiyomizudera is one of the popular sites selected by tourists. Part of the temple is currently under constructions (as of summer 2015), but the visitors can still visit the popular attractions in the temple, including the Jishu Shrine and Otowa Waterfall. Do make a sincere prayer at the Jishu Shrine if you are waiting for “the one” because it is a shrine dedicated to the deity of love!
Like most of the Buddhist temple in Japan, Kiyomizudera also has a tea house for you to take a rest and savor a cup of iced matcha before continuing your journey.
To Shop: Malebranche
Malebranche, one of the most distinguished confectioneries in Kyoto. On your way out from the Kiyomizudera temple, drop by at Malebranche and sample a few of their famous Matcha confections. Their highly celebrated matcha confections are only available in Kyoto. I don’t see their shop everywhere, nor at Kansai Airport so my advice is to get it when you see it, especially at Higashiyama area.
“Cha No Ka” Okoicha Langue De Chat from Malebranche.
One of the Malebranche’s best sellers is Cha No Ka, a matcha and white chocolate sandwich biscuit. I am not a fan of white chocolate, but I am madly in love with matcha. The bitterness of the matcha and the sweetness of the white chocolate was a well-balanced, perfect match. Worth every 127 yen for each piece!
“NAMA CHA no KA” Okoicha fondant Au Chocolat from Malebranche.
This little matcha snack remained my favourite out of all Malebranche products. It is a mini moist matcha chocolate mousse cake that comes in beautiful independent packages. The matcha flavour was so divine. It is dense. It is moist. It is damn good. The delicate mousse is in a creamy but firm consistency. So good, so… glamorous. Pardon me for the usage of my vocabulary, but I find anything matcha in such texture so seductively dangerous. I can finish half a box all by myself in a day.
Horohoro Chocolate from Malebrancheほろほろ佇古礼糖
This Horohoro chocolate bar is another interesting find from Malebranche. Sandwiched in between two thin slices of PVC wood, the package is already a head turner. These chocolate bars comes with five fine flavours: Brown sugar Shichimi; Black Beans; Uji Matcha; Yuzu and White Sesame. I got the Yuzu and Matcha flavours home. I have yet to try out the Yuzu bar, but the Matcha one was a true divine. It melts in your mouth, slowly emitting the fragrance of the tea and discreet sweetness. A beautiful, refine chocolate bars for adults!
To see: Sannen-zaka Street 産寧坂
A historical and atmospheric street in the city. The Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka are two restored neighborhood, lined with beautiful wooden houses, traditional shophouses and cafes. These two streets are one of the main attractions for walking tours in the city. Taking a stroll here in the late evenings is recommended.
To see: Seiryu-En 青龍苑
One hidden gem of Higashiyama is Seiryu-En facing the Sannenzaka street. Its beautiful architecture resembles Kyoto Machiya and Gassho style. The house is a composite for gift shoppings and leisure, consisting seven famous Kyoto brands, including Inoda Coffee, Beauty Brand Yojiya, Traditional pickles house Kyo Tsukemono Nishiri, Traditional tidbits house Izutsu Yatsuhashi Honpo, Scented Incense Shoyeido, high-end restaurants and tea houses. Visitors can enjoy their meals and drinks, with the beautifully manicured garden just before their eyes. The best thing — you can enjoy shopping and resting at this hidden space away from the crowd!
Address: 〒605-0862 京都市東山区清水三丁目334 | English: 343 Kiyomizu 3-chome, Kiyomizu Sannen-zaka.
Here are some of the pictures of Seiryu-En I got from a Taiwanese blogger’s page. The place look extremely pretty in summer isn’t it. My friend Keunyoung took a few pictures of me at this beautiful private Japanese garden. I love the contrasting effect of my Yukata and the greeneries at the background.
To Shop: Yojiya
A hometown for the ancient entertainment industry, Kyoto has nurtured many cosmetic brands that represent its pride. These Kyo-cosmetics made of natural ingredients are widely loved by Maiko and Geikos at Gion Hanamachi. One of the best known Kyo-cosmetics brands, would be Yojiya. Many who have been to Kyoto would be familiar with its logo of a Geisha’s face reflecting on a mirror. The size of the store at Seiryu-en is nothing compared to its main store at Gion. However, I believe it is one of the prettiest Yojiya stores in Kyoto.
The oil blotter paper (Aburatorigami) born some 100 years ago is the most popular product from Yojiya. I got myself one, of course. But I haven’t started using it so I can’t tell you if it is worth buying. The paper looks good, I think it makes an excellent souvenir for your girlfriends. I do however regret not getting their Oshiroigami, the face powder paper after all the raves about it.
To see & shop: Ninen-zaka 二寧坂 & Preserved Historical Streets
More preserved historical streets down Ninenzaka.
To see: Yasaka Shrine八阪神社
Known as the Gion Shrine, the history of Yasaka Shrine’s back dates to 1350 years ago. If you are here in Kyoto during summer, this is one of the most important location for the Gion Matsuri Festival. If you’re there in spring, especially during the time during the peak bloom of cherry blossom, remember to check this shrine out since it is rated as the most popular cherry blossom viewing spot in Kyoto!
To see: Gion & Dinner
Night at Gion Shijo area was ideal for a stroll if you like people watching and window shopping. Endless selection of restaurants is available around this area. We saw Mimiu (美々卯)’s menu and decided to give it a try. The interior of the restaurant at the Shijo (Gion) outlet giving off a calm and elegant touch, with small tatami rooms for private gathering. We love the quiet environment. The meal was great too! We ordered a set dinner that comes with noodle (udon or buckwheat noodle), tempura, rice, sashimi and some side dishes. A perfect place to eat slowly and enjoy the meal and accompaniment from the people you love!
Mimiu 美々卯 Address: 〒605-0075 京都府京都市東山区四条通大和大路西入中之町216
A few pictures of me and one of my travel mate and photographer of this trip — Keunyoung.
To see/ dine: Pontocho 先斗町
One of the Kyoto’s most atmospheric dining area beside the river. If your budget allows, splurge on one of your summer dinner here at Pontocho, especially at one of the restaurants with the special Kawayuka, a temporary outdoor platform built over the river where visitors can eat on it. The cooling air on the river creates air cond cooling effect, which is pretty interesting. There are many fancy rooftop beer house around the area too! Be sure to check out this area in summer, it is a perfect place to feel the summer vibe here in Kyoto!
Yukata Rental Kyoto: Yumeyakata 夢館
I got my yukata from the Yukata rental shop Yumeyakata. It is a Fukubukuro package (lucky bag) which I get to bring the whole Yukata set back as a souvenir. Since I wanted to expand my collection of traditional clothing, I figured this plan suits me best. The email exchange in English was smooth. However, many of their staffs are native speaker of Chinese so if you speak Mandarin Chinese, I would recommend you to speak Chinese for better communication. The staffs at the Yukata selecting department are bubbly and friendly. One drawback is that I didn’t really like the outcome of my hairdo. Somehow the hairstyle looks like a updo back in 1999. This slightly off-the-trend hair style looks a little awkward on me. But well, I am the one to blame since I was the one that choose the hairstyle. It would have been better if they had shown me more pictures of each hairstyle, including the back and the side view.
Overall I am satisfied with their service. Judging from the amount I paid for everything (including the robe, obi, geta slippers and a bag), the quality of the Yukata was decent. It is the retro style Yukata that I wanted to get in the first place. By the way, if you decided to visit Kyoto during the Gion Matsuri Festival and Gozan No Okuribi Festival, you’ll be able to bring back the Yukata robe (only the robe) as souvenir, at 3,500 yen! Also, do note that Yukata rental is ONLY available during summer (June 6th-September 6th). In other seasons, I am afraid you’ll have to rent a Kimono.
Yumeyakata うめとビル (Umeto building)
128, Manjuji-cho, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 600-8104.
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