In Singapore and most countries, the default graduation outfit is the gown and mortar board. However, in Japan, students more commonly wear hakama for university graduation. Hakama are widely used in a variety of situations, not just for graduation but also for sports such as Kyudo and Kendo as well as for tea ceremonies as well as other occasions.
The hakama students don for university is worn over a kimono and come in a large variety of colours in order to perfectly match the kimono. It is more common for female students to dress up in hakama, while male students prefer a suit.
For my graduation ceremony, I decided I was going to rent a hakama, mainly for the experience. There are a few ways to find where to rent from, and while I first went to the store my school recommended, the total bill came up to over 60,000yen (SGD$750*) which was way over budget. So after cancelling my reservation, I had to find myself a different rental service that fit all my requirements and limitations.
The search for a hakama rental service
A quick google search of 袴レンタル brought up a variety of stores offering their services. I narrowed things down by finding the stores in my area and then checking out their packages.
The most common type of rental service is done entirely through mail. You’d choose your hakama set from their online catalogue and have it delivered to your address 2 days before your graduation ceremony. Included in the set would be instructions and the packaging to mail it back to the store the day after your ceremony.
Unfortunately, this did not work for me as I would not be in Japan till a day before the ceremony and none of my family members knew how to help me put on the outfit. I did not trust trying to figure it out on my own so that was a bust.
Stores that did provide the full service with hair, makeup and help getting dressed were either in the same $700 price range, or only had offices in an inconvenient location. I kept searching, and finally, found KIMONO-PRO.
They have a large variety of sets available for rental, averaging at 30,000yen. The only problem was that you needed to head down to their main Kyoto office if you wanted to try it on before renting. I called to make a reservation and headed over. After scrolling through pictures and choosing the set I wanted, I was allowed to choose from their available hakama and they let me try the full set on.
Satisfied with my choice, I reserved the set, which included zori, a bag and all the essentials that you needed to wear inside. It also included hair and the dressing service at Nishinomiya Kitaguchi station, which was very conveniently located on the way to my university (they also have the option to get dressed in Umeda and their Kyoto main office). After filling in my details and signing up for the ‘Anshin Plan’ (in case of any stains there would be no extra charges), I paid.
The entire process was done in Japanese, and unfortunately, their website does not have an English version.
It cost 30,800yen total (SGD$380*) in total, and they accept credit card, cash and bank transfer.
Returning the hakama is also really simple. Pack all the items up in the bag provided, bring it to the nearest mail service counter (mine was at Osaka station) and pass the provided mail slip to the counter and you’re done!
The actual day’s look
I received lots of compliments both on the day itself and after I uploaded the photos onto my social media accounts. I loved it and felt really beautiful wearing it. The colours and prints were perfect, and that ombre hakama was to die for. It felt like the perfect outfit just for me.
The graduation ceremony itself flew by so fast and one moment I was surrounded by friends and by the next we had all said our goodbyes. I wish I could have better preserved those memories, and I will, in a future post, but wow. Four years flew by in the blink of an eye. I’m glad I decided to go for the full experience and wear a hakama to the ceremony.
I’m even more glad I cancelled my first reservation and found this one – sometimes you just don’t settle for second best.
Don’t live life with regrets and ‘what if’s.
Till the next post,
*exchange rates are accurate as of time of writing
Photos in this post taken by YS Photography