Yukatas are worn by men and women of all ages. Like other traditional Japanese clothing, the yukata is made with straight seams and wide sleeves. Men's yukata are distinguished by having much shorter sleeves and are generally more muted and not as brightly colored as women's yukata.
The yukata consists of a juban, obi, sandals (geta), a fan and a kinchaku. The kinchakus are used to carry cell phones and other small personal items. Yukata literally means "bathing clothes," although their use is not limited to after bathing. Yukatas are often seen in Japan during the warmer months.
Traditionally, yukatas were made from indigo-dyed cotton, but today there is a wide variety of colors and designs.
As with the kimono, the general rule of yukata is for young people to wear bright, vivid colors with bold patterns, while older people wear dark, mature colors with muted patterns. F
or example, a child may wear a multicolored yukata, a young woman may wear a floral print, while an older woman would stick to a traditional dark blue one with geometric patterns. Older men may also wear dark colors. Since the late 1990s, yukata have experienced increasing popularity.
The yukata is worn at outdoor summer events, such as hanabi (fireworks) displays and Bon Odori festivals. They are also worn at traditional Japanese inns (ryokan), especially after bathing in hot springs (onsen).
Participants in uchimizu, a Japanese practice of sprinkling water in dry gardens and streets, are dressed in yukata.
In some hot spring areas, such as Kusatsu Onsen, it is possible to experience a year-round Japanese bathing tradition. This is to walk around the baths of the town wearing yukata, like a bathrobe.
There are many yukata festivals in Japan, one of the most important is the Himeji yukata matsuri, in the city of Himeji near Kobe. This two hundred and sixty year old tradition started in 1742 when Masamine Sakaibara, the lord of Himeji castle, allowed the residents to wear yukata instead of kimono when Osakabe temple was rushed open to the public.