October in Hagi City

October in Hagi City


October is one of the most active months in the Hagi calendar. Traditional culture is the main theme, with events which highlight the beauty of Hagi city and its history as an Edo period castle town.

Bamboo Lantern Road in Hagi
竹灯路 – October 7th – 9th, 15th – 16th, 22nd – 23rd 2016

An absolutely magical and criminally under-visited lantern event in Hagi. More than 4,000 individual bamboo lanterns are lit with real candles, lining the streets of the castle town area. The first time I saw this, I was struck by the beauty of the glowing lanterns stretching down the narrow streets into the night, and also by how few people were there to see it.

The lanterns are lit to coincide with Kimono Week in Hagi. As such, many people come to see the lights wearing kimono, which adds another dimension to the enchanting, historic atmosphere of the castle town at night. Most of the candles are real, although some of the less noticeable areas also have surreptitious electronic candles. The whole atmosphere is somehow ghostly, with the lights stretching out into the darkness. The lack of people also makes for a somewhat lonely feeling, but I think this adds to the charm and fits the melancholic time of year which is autumn. A must-see, if you find yourself in Hagi during October.

Kimono Week in Hagi
着物ウイーク- October 1st – 23rd 2016

Hagi City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, is an historical city situated on a delta facing the Sea of Japan. It is remarkable for having a well preserved Edo period castle town at its heart. Every year in October, Kimono Week is held in Hagi. This is one of the loveliest festivals that I have had the good fortune to enjoy here. It is possible to rent a kimono and walk the Edo period market town dressed in period costume.

A Kimono Week Passport can be picked up from Hagi City Hall Tourism Department. With this, you can enjoy many reductions if you enter the establishments wearing a kimono. There are also details of Japanese cultural classes where you can try your hand at making hair pieces or perfume. Maps and cafes offering kimono discounts are also listed.

A Note about Wearing Kimono

Wearing kimono in the Hagi Castle Town Area

Wearing kimono is complicated. Although the staff can guide you through everything with gestures, it would be best to go with a friend who is confident in their Japanese.

Wearing kimono obviously involves taking off your clothes (preferably wear a light vest over your underwear). Every time I have worn kimono, the ladies who dressed me have invariably made comments about my body or the bodies of my friends. These comments are not meant to offensive, but can be hurtful. Having aspects of yourself noticed and commented upon by another person can be upsetting, but that is not the intention. The kimono fitters see a lot of naked bodies and are accustomed to casual chit-chat. Talking about physical characteristics, age, weight and so on is not unusual in Japan. If this happens, just look upon it as a cultural difference and brush it off. If the staff make you uncomfortable, say so, or politely decline to answer. Remember that Kimono Week is supposed to be fun, interesting and a chance to try something out of the ordinary.

Kimono Rental

Kimono in the Former Kubota Residence

Kimono can be rented from various places around Hagi, but two places within the castle town are:

Kimono Style Café Situated centrally in the castle town area, Kimono Style Café includes a Japanese-style café and a small gift shop.
Hagi City, Gofuku-machi 2-39 (着物スタイルカフェ・萩市呉服町2-39)
Former Kubota Residence A traditional town house normally open to the public, this wooden residence has one of the best examples of an Edo period kitchen in Hagi. Volunteers run kimono fitting there during October only.
Hagi City, Gofuku-machi 1 Cho-me 31-5 (旧久保田家住宅萩市呉服町1丁目31-5)