Japanese Traditional Clothes Guide

During centuries, Japanese traditional clothes (和服/wafuku) were sources of curiosity for foreigners and it is still the case today. We all know what is a Kimono, but do you know that they are dozens of traditional clothes other than Kimono ?

Let’s discover the main important Japanese traditional clothes with this guide.


The kimono is one of the most recognizable symbols of traditional Japanese culture. Kimono is a classic garment from ancient times, and is now worn to bring formality and elegance to special occasions. While on a daily basis the Japanese dress with western-style clothing, the custom is to opt for a kimono for big occasions such as weddings and graduation ceremonies, or to take part in traditional artistic performances Such as the tea ceremony, the traditional dance buyô, the kabuki show and the no theater. The kimono also serves as a working garment for many professions: shinto and buddhist priests, geisha and traditional artists. Kimono still retains an important place in Japanese society.


A Yukata is a casual summer time Kimono wear by both men and woman. Literally it means « bathing clothes » and people wear them during summer time. People like to wear it not only for specific events but also during summer festivals or even to go out with friends in the week end. The range of prices is from 2,000 yens to 30,000 yens for the most expensive ones. Generally Yukata for men have darker colors while that for women are bright and colorful. You can find more informations about Yukata on this article.


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Japanese Haori are long jackets, with deep, kimono style sleeves, designed to be worn on top of a kimono. Haori resemble the upper portion of a Kimono, but the collar is worn folded at the back, and the front portions do not cross but are held together with a Haori-himo. Women’s haori are generally longer than Men’s haori and also less frequent.

Jinbei (甚平)

Jinbei is a kind of traditional Japanese clothing worn by men, women, boys, girls, and even babies during the summer. Jinbei are usually worn as a form of nightwear or house wear. Sometimes Jinbei are used as substitute for Yukata during a summer festival, typically by men and boys but also frequently by young women. Ladies' Jinbei tend to be more brightly colored and often feature prints of popular culture characters.


Happi is the most cloth wore by Japanese during summer festivals. Used mainly for Japanese festivals, Happi are called a Matsuri Happi coats meaning "festival" coat. The Happi coats come in a variety of styles and colors both imprinted or plain. Some have a kanji symbol on the back, others have an imprinted scenery or they are a solid print of one or two colors. Matsuri Happi coats are traditionally worn over a t-shirt with shorts or pants. 


"Samu" of Samue means daily works of Zen monks such as cleaning and wood chopping. The Samue is a garment which has many uses. Traditionally worn by monks in Zen Buddhist temples, artists, or doctors, it is also widely worn as home-wear, both at home and inside Ryokan (traditional hotel), or at Onsen (hot springs). In recent years, the wearing of Samue extended outside the home as a particularly comfortable informal clothing.

Junihitoe (十二単)

The Jūnihitoe is an extremely elegant and highly complex Kimono that was only worn by court-ladies in Japan. Today, the Jūnihitoe can only be seen in museums, movies, costume demonstrations, tourist attractions or at certain festivals. These robes are one of the most expensive items of Japanese clothing. Only the Imperial Household still officially uses them at some important functions. Women such as an empress or princess wear a Jūnihitoe.

You can find those items in traditional clothing shops and even in places like H&M or Uniqlo. For the one who would want to buy a very high quality Japanese cloth you can go to department stores like Daimaru or Takashiyama.

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Fabien Mizart

Author & Translator

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