Konnichiwa! The Travelling Bunchies just came from a week-long trip in Japan to celebrate Yui’s 9th birthday. The highlight of the trip was celebrating her actual birthday exploring Kyoto in kimonos. I’ve always imagined how it might feel to wear a kimono and since we wanted to try something special for her birthday, I thought it would be the best time to try this experience. And boy, I’m glad that we did! It was such a surreal experience and one thing that will definitely be carved in our family memory bank.
Since we’re just doing Osaka and Kyoto in this trip, I searched for rental shops in both cities but decided to do the kimono experience in Kyoto since there are more temples and shrines we can explore while wearing the kimono. I’ve started researching for kimono rental shops months before our trip and saw several options online. The one that I finally chose was the Yumeyakata Kimono Rental, for these reasons:
- They have a foreigner-friendly website. Their English website is both informative and intuitive.
- Their main shop is very near the train station and our airbnb apartment so an early morning appointment is possible.
- They have good reviews online.
- They have a good selection of women, men and children’s kimono. Some of the shops I saw online doesn’t offer children’s kimono while others have limited selection. The photos of Yumeyakata’s kimonos both from their official social media accounts and clients are pretty good.
- They offer location shoot package.
The location shoot was actually not initially included in our plans but since I’ve seen it in Yumeyakata’s website, I contemplated a lot if we would be availing this too. They offer good packages (starts at JP¥26,000) and have English-speaking photographers with great portfolio which are available in their site. After much deliberation and a long approval process, I got the go signal from Daddy Bunny to book a location shoot. Yatta! It was pricier than just getting a kimono rental package but it was definitely worth it!
There are two options in booking the kimono rental, one is through Klook and the other is directly via their website. Klook also offers their location shoot plan but I decided to book via their site’s Standard Location Plan reservation form mainly because you get to request for a designated photographer during the session. There was about Php 1,000 difference between Klook and their website but I thought it would be better not to leave the photographer to chance. I requested for one of the english-speaking photographers and I think it was a good choice because we were able to converse with him especially for special requests like the mini-celebration for Yui. The reservation process with Yumeyakata was very smooth. Their staff even sent reminders a few days before our session.
Our reservation is at 9AM and when we got there around 8:45AM, the staff ushered us in a waiting area beside the entrance. While waiting in this area, we didn’t notice that there was quite a queue outside the building already. When 9AM came, the lady fetched us from the waiting area and let us enter first.
Yumeyakata is a multi-story shop and although there are a lot of people even early in the morning, their process is well-organized. The reception is at the 2nd floor where we had to show them our confirmation e-mail (I didn’t print this anymore, you can just show your e-mail from your phone). Once confirmed, they guided us to a waiting staff who has our details already (each of us has a printed form in a clear folder where additional services will be noted) and who handed each of us a big eco bag where we would put all our stuff including our clothes. Amy, the staff who assisted us all throughout the process, is english-speaking and helped us patiently. She then brought us to pick our kimonos which are also in the 2nd floor. At this point, everyone who were in the queue downstairs are all busy picking their kimonos. The men’s and children’s area are not that busy but the women’s area was B-U-S-Y. Good thing that I already have a color in mind and only spent about 5 minutes picking my kimono since I shortlisted them pretty quickly. That’s one tip that I got from reading online reviews and blogs prior to the visit and one important thing I would also encourage you to do in case you are going there. It will keep you sane and finish the dressing up process faster. For reference, they have photos in their site and in their facebook and Instagram pages.
After picking our kimonos, Daddy Bunny went down to B1 to dress up then Yui and I went up to the 3rd floor to get dressed. This is an open layout floor so it’s prohibited to take photos as you get to dress up with everyone. Amy dressed the both of us so it took some time to finish. Amy was careful in dressing Yui up and made sure that she’s comfortable with the kimono and the belt is not too tight. After dressing up, we went to the 4th floor to pick my hand bag and transfer our valuables in the hand bag before depositing our things (placed and labeled in the eco bag) in the luggage room also in the 4th floor.
The hairstyling was at the 5th floor and good thing that Yui and I were one of the first ones there so we were assisted immediately. Hair styling is optional and you need a reservation prior to your visit. We picked from one of the 8 hair styles that they have. I initially planned on purchasing some hair accessories but it were too pricey for me and I thought that their hair styling is kawaii enough so we didn’t purchase additional accessories anymore.
We met Daddy Bunny at the 1st floor after about an hour, paid our balance, met our photographer, Makimura Taro-san, then went out to Gion for the shoot. We rode the taxi from Yumeyakata to Gion with Makimura Taro-san. The 10-minute ride costs JP¥1,010.
We spent about 2 hours in Gion area with Makimura Taro-san. At first Yui was quite shy around him but he was very patient and kept talking to her so eventually Yui got more comfortable. We started the shoot at Gion Tatsumibashi Bridge, considered as one of Gion’s famous icon. We took some photos around the area and in side streets near the bridge. The atmosphere around this area is really peaceful and it was pretty much quiet despite other tourists in kimono shooting there. Looks like this is really a famous location especially for kimono-clad tourists.
In the middle of the shoot, Makimura Taro-san brought us to a combini and treated us for some drinks. It was an extra service that we appreciated. He even got some good candid photos of us just chilling and chatting while finishing our drinks.
From here, we walked a few blocks to Hanamikoji Dori, Gion’s most famous street, where the entire street and its side alleys are lined with preserved machiya (traditional wooden) houses which now serve as restaurants. The street was bustling with locals and tourists even at noon despite most of the restaurants still closed (they open at night only) We asked Makimura Taro-san if he knows of any pastry shop where we can have Yui blow a candle and he bought us to Gion Sakai, a patisserie shop that specializes in Japanese sweets with European influence. We got a slice of Strawberry Shortcake and because Makimura Taro-san told the staff that it’s Yui’s birthday, they included a “Happy Birthday” milk chocolate in her cake as well. We had a mini-celebration where she blew her birthday candle which we bought the day before at Daiso.
We then finished off the shoot in the side alleys of Hanamikoji. Because of the sugar rush, Yui was full of energy after eating that she even danced some of her favorite K-pop songs while Makimura Taro-san took more photos.
We parted ways with Makimura Taro-san after the 2-hour shoot and he gave us instructions on how we can download the photos after.
All in all, it was a great experience for us and a very special and unique way for us to spend Yui’s birthday. I would definitely recommend Yumeyakata’s service to my family, friends and anyone who wants to try the kimono experience in Kyoto. 🙂
Yumeyakata – Kyoto Kimono Rental Shop
〒600-8104 128, Manjujicho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Japan
10:00 ～ 19:30 (early sessions available at 9AM; last entry by 6 pm)