It’s the end of March, and it’s graduation season in Japan! That means you will see young women walking down the streets wearing in beautiful Japanese dress, a hakama.
In March and even February, it is common to see people graduating form university. It is easy to tell who they are, especially the women because they are wearing the traditional Japanese graduation kimono, called a hakama. Some women choose to wear a regular kimono instead. Men often seem to wear a black suit.
Since I graduated this year with a Master’s Degree (congratulations, me!), I wanted to do it the Japanese way. Actually, I didn’t think about it at all until about February when a few of my friends tole me they had rented a rent a hakama.
At first I was reluctant, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to wear one. It seemed like a good opportunity to do it, since I probably won’t have another opportunity to wear a hakama.
Introduction to the hakama
A Japanese graduation outfit consists of a kimono, obi, and a hakama, which is like a skirt that goes over the obi and kimono. You can wear it with geta sandals or black boots. I already had black boots, and the geta are too small for me, so boots it was.
The kimono comes in many colours and patterns, though my husband tells me that the flowers are not the traditional graduation pattern – it should be more of geometric pattern. But now, many people wear more colourful kimonos.
The hakama is usually a single colour or a two colour gradient with a small design on it somewhere.
A hakama is also part of the uniform for some sports and martial arts, such as Japanese archery or kendo.
My search for a hakama
After my friends convinced me that I should wear a hakama, I went with my husband to a kimono rental shop in the mall to try some on.
When I got there, I found that there was a very small selection – only about 20 kimonos and five colours of hakama.
I’m also quite tall compared with Japanese women, so my choices are often quite limited. The sleeves of the kimono were too short for me, and the bottom of it came above my knees. Luckily, it didn’t matter, since there would be the hakama over it. The hakama itself probably could have been a bit longer, but it was fine.
From the choices that I had, I decided I wanted a dark purple hakama, something yellow, and whatever else matched that. I tried on a couple different combinations, but finally decided on a green and white kimono, a yellow obi, and a purple hakama.
The proper way to get your hands on a hakama
Apparently, this is not the way to rent a hakama. The usual way people do it is by ordering the one they like in a catalogue. They usually order it months earlier than I did, like nine months earlier. Then a few days before their graduation, they come pick it up.
I think it is even possible to order them through your university in Japan. Though of course I miss a lot of things that are announced/posted in only Japanese.
I guess that would explain why I had such a limited selection. I took it home with me and kept it in a bag for a month until I needed it.
It cost ¥30,000 (roughly $350 CAD) to rent everything. Ironically, this is the same it would have cost me to rent a gown from my university and was the main reason why I didn’t go that route. Oh well.
Like a regular kimono, it is not easy to wear a hakama. I don’t know if anyone can put it on themselves. So, I booked an appointment at a hair/makeup place in the morning before my graduation.
There is no mercy when someone puts a kimono on you.
The woman was pulling the cords and obis and belts so tight, it was difficult to breath. She asked me if I was okay, I said it was tight, and she said, “ganbatte ne.” In this case, I would translate that as “suck it up.”
It cost ¥7,000 to have someone dress me that day.
I didn’t book hair and makeup because I don’t really care that much about those things to justify the cost. I just did it myself.
The final look
This is the final look of my hakama on graduation. I quite like it. I think the colours are nice, and I think it suits me because it is not over-the-top.
I’m glad I wore the traditional Japanese graduation clothes. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I didn’t want to regret not taking it.
My graduation was also fun, and everyone was happy to be receiving their Master’s Degrees. However, I am sad that these two years are ending, and the many wonderful people I have met are returning to their countries. I wish them all the best. I will remain in Japan and begin a PhD…
What do you think of my graduation hakama? Have you had a chance to wear a hakama, kimono, or yukata? Let me know your experiences and opinions in the comment section below!
REMINDER: please vote on my photo that I took in Mongolia. I entered it in a photo contest over at Indy Guide. If you voted in March, please vote for it again this month – the contest started over at the beginning of the month. It’s currently about 40-ish votes behind first place. First prize is GoPro Hero5!
This is the photo: