In a country where etiquette is of primary importance, I was perturbed to find myself standing in my underwear in front of people I'd only recently met. No wait, the etiquette part is not relevant. This would have been equally disturbing back in Florida.
I should probably add that the individuals in question were female and that we were dressing in Japanese yukata before going to one of Tokyo's many summer firework displays. These casual kimonos are made of cotton (rather than multiple layers of silk) but despite the promise of less formal clothing, only the most experienced wearer could tie the obi (sash) without assistance.
Since it is common to wear a v-necked top under the yukata, I wasn't completely down to my underwear. That said, I was hoping for something rather more substantial than the hand towel that was passed to me. Said towel wrapped around my middle and a face cloth pushed in the small of my back for good measure. This turned out to be padding for the obi and sat underneath the main cotton garment. The yukata itself came next. Draped over my shoulders, it is a long bathrobe-type garment but its length is gathered up and secured by a thin cotton belt before being pulled and tweaked to hang correctly. The wide obi is then wound over the gatherings of the yukata and tied off at the back with an intricate bow. Add one pair of wooden shoes and tada! I would so make a Geisha.
Firework displays are a common place for both men and women to wear yukatas. Men's yukatas have darker, simpler designs and the obi is thinner. To my unashamed delight, they also do not wear a shirt and frequently leave the top half open. There was a vast number of people at the display, lining either side of the riverbank. I would estimate roughly a third were in Japanese dress. Food stalls selling toffee apples to Dominos pizzas lined the thoroughfare and the fireworks themselves went on for well over an hour.
On the walk back home, I acquired a fan stuffed into the back of my obi; a traditional place to carry one. My only current problem is that I've been tied so tightly into my yukata that I've no idea how to escape.