Before bathing? After bathing? As soon as you arrive? Or not at all? Find out when most people usually change into yukata when staying at a ryokan.

Staying at a traditional inn is one of the highlights for many visitors to Japan, but with so many unique customs to adhere to upon arrival, it can be difficult to know if you’re doing things correctly or committing some mortal taboo.

One of the most common points of confusion is when to wear the kimono-style “yukata” robe given to all guests. While there’s a certain way the yukata should be worn (left side over right) the time to wear it remains a grey area, with some guests preferring to wear the cotton robe while eating meals and strolling around common areas and others choosing to get about in their regular everyday clothes instead.

So when do most people opt to slip into a yukata at an inn in Japan? Survey site Minna no Koe (“Everyone’s Voice”) asked 16,000 Japanese people that question and these were the top five responses:

5. Before bed (622 votes)

Japanese people usually bathe before bedtime, so it’s nice to have a fresh piece of clothing to wear while tucked up inside a warm and cosy futon. The breathable material is soft and comfortable on the skin, making the yukata ideal for use as a set of pyjamas.

4. Upon arrival (998 votes) 

Staying at a traditional inn isn’t cheap, so some guests like to make sure they get all their money’s worth by arriving at check-in time and getting into the spirit of the stay immediately by ripping off their streetwear and slipping into a robe. For these people, sashaying around in a yukata is the only true way to relax and while enjoying the traditional surroundings.

3. Never (2,473 votes) 

On the other end of the spectrum are guests who prefer to leave the robe in the cupboard and pay no attention to it at all. While this may be unthinkable to some, one of our Japanese-language reporters mentioned that her mother hated the thought of wearing a robe that others had worn, even if it had been freshly washed, so she always chose to bring her own robe with her instead. Seeing as her personal robe would have a different pattern to the one provided by the inn, though, she’d only wear it while in the privacy of their room.

2. Before bathing (3,269 votes) 

A large number of people swear by the yukata-before-bathing technique, which makes sense, seeing as you get to walk to and from the public bath unencumbered by the burden of lugging around an extra set of clothes. But this means that after the bath, you end up wearing the same robe that had previously touched your unwashed body. Which means the most popular time to wear a yukata is…

1. After Bathing (8,812 votes)

Winning by a landslide, with more than half the votes, the respondents of this survey indicated the most popular time to wear a yukata was after bathing. This way, your body feels clean and refreshed for longer, and it’s nice to relax in your room for a little while before jumping in the bath, which is said to stimulate the appetite, and then wear the yukata to dinner.

So there you have it! Next time you find yourself wondering what to do with the cotton robe given to you by the kimono-clad staff of a Japanese inn, you can slip it on immediately, use it as a set of pyjamas or leave it folded up neatly in the cupboard of your room. If you want to walk the path that most Japanese would, you can wear it before or after bathing. The choice is entirely up to you!

Source: Minna no Koe
Featured image: Pakutaso