Colorful kimono are synonymous with Tokyo summer celebrations but anti-coronavirus measures have put social gatherings off-limits and led struggling department stores to push the traditional Japanese outfits as a way to make a virtual fashion statement.
The Matsuya department store in the upscale Ginza shopping district is now selling yukata with colorful floral collars to make them more eye-catching when worn during online video chats.
Online drinking sessions and other virtual parties are increasingly replacing in-person socializing as pandemic-isolated people try to stay in touch with friends and family.
"We want our customers to enjoy drinking at home without losing touch with Japan's yukata culture," said a yukata salesperson who works at Matsuya Ginza.
The pandemic has caused many summer festivals and fireworks shows in Japan to be canceled. At these events, men and women often wear yukata made of cotton, a traditional Japanese garment for the season.
With sales of yukata dropping by half compared with last year due to the coronavirus, the department store run by Matsuya Co. is looking for ways to spark demand.
The store has also enhanced its lineup of "heko obi" sashes, which are made of soft fabric and can be easily tied.
The Seibu department store in Tokyo's Shibuya district, a mecca for youth fashion and trends, has taken a different approach by proposing yukata as everyday wear, not just for summer events.
The department store run by Sogo & Seibu Co. has opened a special sales section for yukata made from denim.
For its part, the Isetan department store flagship outlet in Shinjuku has created an opportunity for people to wear the yukata. Using Zoom Video Communications Inc.'s videoconferencing platform, it held an online "Bon Odori" dance event in July.
More than 60 people participated in the traditional dance gathering from their homes and elsewhere, according to the department store run by Isetan Mitsukoshi Ltd.
"It was my first time to wear yukata this year," said a man in his 40s from Hokkaido, northern Japan. "It was just fun to put the garment on," he added.