Sunday, June 3, 2012

Guide to Dressing rooms in Japan

Ben and I had to go shopping yesterday because he does not own enough professional work pants, and now, due to my amazing shrinking waist line, neither do I.

There is an entirely different culture to dressing rooms in Japan.

They have created a system where if you follow the rules there is no possibility of being caught mid-change, and no clothes will be damaged in the changing room process.

I will break it down for all the future shoppers in Japan.

Level 1
Places like Forever 21, and H&M have a very loose policy for changing
rooms. They are basically the same as changing rooms at home, but you
are generally given a face protection cloth so that you wont get
makeup on the clothes. You will be given a number to put on your door.
Unlike in America where these are barely used and mostly just a
nuisance, this number is to be placed on the outside of the door. If
you do not place the number on the door, someone will try to come in,
people don’t knock first because they assume people know the rules. I
have seen quite a few foreigners awkwardly standing with their pants
off because they did not follow this rule.

Level 2
Other large clothing stores like Top Shop and Momoko will follow more
of the Japanese rules for changing rooms. The changing room attendant
will take your clothes and escort you to your changing room. You are
required to remove your shoes and place them outside of the door. You
will then step into the changing room and the attendant will hang the
clothes on the wall for you. They will give you the face cloth. You
should clothes the door (or curtain) and the attendant will place the
number on the wall for you. When you exit the changing room you will
put on your shoes, take your clothes, and take the number. Give the
number to the attendant, and depending on the situation you will
either hang the clothes you don’t want on the rack, or you will hand
the clothes and number to the attendant.

Level 3
Boutiques and other small stores, especially those found in Harijuku
follow the most complex rules for changing rooms. Often at these there
will not be an attendant, it’s just a free for all for the changing
rooms. You should always take your shoes off and place them outside of
the room, this will let other people know that you are in there, and
it keeps the floors clean (especially on rainy days). Usually there
will be a large tissue box with face clothes in it, you should use
one. I have found that they keep my hair from looking like I stuck my
finger in and electrical socket after shopping. Close the curtains all
the way. Many people will get very upset, and you may be called a
pervert if the curtains are at all open. Curtains in Japan usually go
all the way to the floor, and there is always enough cloth to fully
cover the doors.

Shopping can be really fun in Japan.
Here are my tips for having a great day.
1. Doll up!
Especially in places like Shinjuku and Harajuku, people really show
off. I think it is more fun to participate. In Harajuku there are no
restrictions to what you can wear. Japanese are usually fairly
conservative, but in Harajuku you’ll see anything.
2. Don’t wear a lot of jewelry.
You might get some glares if you wear earrings in the changing rooms,
I have even seen girls take them off as they enter the room. Jewelry
is not as popular in Japan. I really recommend not wearing any big
jewelry, and nothing that could snag any clothes.
3. Wear shoes that are easy to take on and off!
This is probably my most important tip, and the one that is easiest to forget.
I have started the day in lace-up shoes, and by the end of it I ended
up buying myself some \100 flats because it was difficult to manage
the tie up shoes. My shopping shoes now are a pair of zip up high
heals that take no time to get on and off.

Have fun!


  1. Thanks for the guide! I'm planning a trip to Japan later this year and I want to do a lot of clothes shopping. (I'm really short, and my short friend went there and actually found some maxi dresses that fit! That would be a first!) I was a little bit worried about doing something rude in a shop, but I feel more confident now. I guess if I stick to this, anything I do that's a little weird they'll just think I'm a goofy gaijin :)

    1. Ooh I'm glad this was helpful.
      Have a great time in Japan and let me know if there are any other tips or tricks you'd like before your arrival.