If you are like me then you have probably watched Memoirs of Geisha one too many times and have imagined yourself dressed in beautiful silk and entertaining a large group of Japanese business man (Ok – maybe not the last bit). To me wearing a kimono or seeing a geisha in person is the closest thing to experiencing true beauty. In my everyday life I rarely get an opportunity to dress up to the nines and enjoy feeling pretty, so for me renting kimono wasn’t just a cultural experience but a personal experience.
When I was doing my Japan Bucket List I knew that without a doubt I wanted to rent a kimono and take photos at Fushimi Inari Taisha. I wanted to recreate the scene where Sayuri runs through the Tori Gates, and I knew I would end up taking the best pictures of my trip. I also wanted my boyfriend to have a cultural experience and I couldn’t resist the idea of him in kimono!
Read on to learn How to Rent A Kimono and Take the Best Photos at Fushimi Inari Taisha.
Where to Rent a Kimono and How Much Does it Cost?
- I already knew without a doubt that I wanted to rent a kimono when I planned my priorities for the trip
- When doing my research online I had consistently read that dressing times would get booked out quickly. We were travelling in peak cherry blossom season, so there was no point risking it when I knew I wanted to do it.
- If I booked in advance online I would get a discount – saved myself around 1000 yen!
It’s ok to be proactive and book activities in advance especially when travelling in peak season. I chose Wargo Kimono Rental because:
- They had many rental options and prices for different budgets, such as Standard, Premium and High End packages. The package I was most interested in was the Couples Package
- The Couples Kimono package cost us 6,600 yen ($75 Australian dollars, which worked out to be $30ish dollars each). Only $30 for a traditional, cultural experience? Yes please!
- I was able to make a reservation in English online and received a discount of 1000 yen. I was able to pick out my kimono from their online gallery and they set my kimono aside for the day guaranteeing I can wear it.
- They had multiple store locations, the most convenient for us was the Kyoto Station store. We planned to rent kimono on our last day in Kyoto, as we were able to leave our luggage at the store (a small fee), go out and explore then come back grab our luggage and head on a train to Tokyo.
PICKING UP YOUR KIMONO RENTAL
Like many stores in Japan sometimes they are difficult to find on Google Maps. We took the wrong elevator in the building to a level that clearly wasn’t Wargo. We ended up running 15 minutes late to our reservation because we walked around the building for so long. For those of you who are planning on renting a kimono through Wargo Kyoto Station store this is the entrance you need to go in:
Inside is like a fancy department store but take the escalators up to level 3 and walk around to your left and you will see the store!
Make sure you have your printed reservation on hand, and clothes that are easy to take off. I wore bike shorts and a white singlet under my clothes to wear under my kimono. I didn’t want my thighs rubbing in the tight kimono!
The stylists at Wargo were so quick and efficient with the whole process, I called them the Ninjas of Kyoto! They had set my kimono aside as booked but my boyfriend had to go with the stylist and pick his own. In the meantime I was led to the dressing room where two stylists dressed me in the kimono. I felt a little awkward standing there in bike shorts and a singlet (not the most flattering under garments) but these little ninjas had me styled up in about 10 minutes! The kimono is a bit heavy and tight but nothing uncomfortable. I think it was more uncomfortable wearing those toe socks!
I was ushered into the next room where I could choose my hairstyle and accessory. I paid extra for this (900 yen/$10 AUD) but I needed it to complete my outfit. Hairstyle Ninja braided my entire hair in 2 minutes. I’m not even joking! I wish I could have Hairstyle Ninja do my hair everyday.
My boyfriend and I met up in the main accessory room where we picked our shoes and a little bag to put our phone and money in. You can go crazy with accessories if you want, from umbrellas, swords and decorative collars. I didn’t get any of these because I didn’t want more things to carry.
Tip: Please remember to be careful when eating and drinking in your kimono, you will be charged a cleaning fee if there are any stains!
gETTING TO FUSHIMI INARI FROM THE WARGO STORE
This was way easier then expected. After we got dressed, we crossed the street and entered the Kyoto Station. We used our JR Passes from the Kyoto Station and took the JR Nara line to Inari Station. It only took 9 minutes! If you are wanting to visit Nara on your trip, you can always hop back on the line after visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha.
Once you get off at the Inari station just follow the crowd. Yes there will be a crowd but have no fear, no one has the power and motivation like you to take good photos! Keep climbing through the Tori gates for around 30 minutes to an hour and you will find the crowd disappears. Remember we travelled in peak spring time and still managed to find quiet areas at Fushimi Inari.
hOW TO TAKE THE BEST Photos AT fUSHIMI iNARI TAISHA
The key to taking the best photos at Fushimi Inari Taisha is patience! Here are my top tips for taking photos and how I took the best photos of my trip:
- Don’t bother taking photos at the beginning of the Tori gates. Take this time to admire and giggle at everyone taking photos of strangers heads.
- Once you are higher up find a section where the path slightly curves. The curve helps to cut out any people coming down the path and you will only have Tori gates in your photos.
- I found that taking photos from a lower angle, and positioning yourself higher up made for some picturesque and grand photos.
- Try to stand side on with your head turned to the camera, that way you can get photos with your obi and hair in the shots.
- Take some photos from behind of your beautiful hair and obi. These shots are so cute!
- My boyfriend and I took many selfies but our best shots were when we asked people to take a photo of us. Don’t be shy! Usually we would have our photo taken and then returned the favour by taking photos of the other people 🙂
- When all is said and done don’t forget to take some time and appreciate walking through Fushimi Inari. My boyfriend and I played a game where we tried to count all 10,000 gates (we ended up losing count!).
My highlight of the whole experience was being called kawaii by a group of older Japanese woman. Japanese validation achieved!
what did my boyfriend think of renting a kimono?
“The experience renting the kimono was a little bit overwhelming because it was busy in the store. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing when I was picking one, but I wish there had been more of selection in the men’s range. Once it came to getting fitted it definitely went smoothly, they know how to put a kimono on that’s for sure. Actually wearing it it was comfortable and wasn’t too hot. I enjoyed the kimono and taking the photos, it was fun trying to take good shots amongst the shrine. I would do it again, if it was for a special occasion and in a traditional place.”
returning your kimono
Once you’ve had your fun and you’re probably busting for a wee, time to return your kimono. As we only had a half day left in Kyoto we returned our kimonos at around 3pm. There wasn’t any line and it took around 10 minutes to get disrobed and dressed back into regular clothes. We picked up our luggage and headed to the station to catch our bullet train to Tokyo. It was a great way to spend our final day in Kyoto and I went away with beautiful and fun memories.
Did you find my tips helpful? DO YOU WANT TO RENT A KIMONO WHEN YOU VISIT JAPAN?