A yukata is a summer kimono which requires little pomp and circumstance to wear. Whereas putting on a formal kimono can sometimes require assistance (particularly to tie the obi), a yukata is easy and light. One kind of yukata is worn only at onsen (hotspring baths) in the bathhouse itself (and around the town as one hops from hotspring to hotspring). A slightly more dressy yukata is worn to the innumerable summer matsuri and fireworks displays. This tradition has become hip among young Japanese. In August (high festival season), it is common to see groups of young women in yukata on the trains. Seeing a person wearing a yukata is a whimsical and wistful announcement of an on-going party.

I was heading home on the train and I noticed a young man standing on the train platform in a light gray, subtly-patterned yukata with geta (sandals) and a small matching drawstring bag to carry his wallet and such. He had a cell phone in his hand. I have seen far fewer men than women in yukata, so I sidled up to him to get a good look.

It struck me that all the other visibly perspiring men in slacks and shirts and socks and shoes were wearing the wrong clothes. Mr. Yukata, on the other hand, looked fresh and tidy, delightfully anachronistic…and ready to have a good time.