With its awesome castle, streets lined with old-style warehouses and buildings, and beautiful shrines and temples, Matsumoto already has the appeal of traditional Japan. However, if you want to go beyond just «seeing» Japan and instead «feel» Japan, what better way to do so than to get into the part by donning a kimono?
Matsumoto has a couple of places where you can do just that—Rent a kimono or yukata (or even a ninja outfit!) for a few hours or whole day and then go out and explore the city. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and the other day I finally got the chance to go to one of the kimono shops, Hanakomichi, and go out on the town dressed in a yukata! (Yukata are worn in summer as opposed to kimono because they are lighter).
The whole kimono experience started out by, well, getting dressed. That part might not sound too exciting, but I actually found it super fun. First, you get to pick out a kimono or yukata that you like from a whole bunch of patterns and colors (for men, the colors are much more limited, but still nice). You’ll also get to choose a belt, called an «obi,» to accents the colors of your kimono pattern.
The staff, who are extremely friendly, then help you get dressed and in just a few minutes you (and your friends and family) will be transformed into a beautiful kimono-ed princess or handsome kimono-ed prince (okay, I might be exaggerating a little, but, trust me, it’s fun!). The staff will also fix your hair if you like.
To top it off, you can bring one of those cute, Japanese umbrellas and/or a Japanese-style bag with you. Of course, there is also appropriate footwear available that will go with your outfit. One tip: If you plan on walking around for several hours, the wide sandals will be much more comfy than the narrower wooden ones. In summer, especially if it’s sunny, I would recommend bringing one of the umbrellas with you because it’s going to save you from roasting in the Matsumoto sun.
Once you have your outfit perfected, it’s time to go walk around the castle town! Being dressed in a spiffy kimono is going to get you a good amount of admiring looks and comments from older Japanese ladies, so be prepared. It’s all fun though.
Since your dress is traditional Japanese, I recommend walking around the parts of town that still have some historic Japanese atmosphere, in particular, Matsumoto Castle (perhaps the best place to go take your picture!), Nawate Street, Nakamachi Street, and some of the shrines and temples. According to the Hanakomichi staff, it is apparently a great experience to go out and eat dressed in kimono as well!
After you’re done bumbling about, simply go back to Hanakomichi (or other kimono shop) to get changed back into your regular clothes (they’ll keep your things for you so you don’t have to carry them around). Hanakomichi also has an option to rent the kimono overnight (special date anyone?).