Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tourists in Japan: What to Wear

Pack the Right Clothes
Horrible Tourists!
Westerners are very casual, in mannerisms, and dress. It is the tendency for most Americans to wear tennis shoes, jeans, and t-shirts. Please do not wear this outfit in Japan unless you are climbing a mountain. American tourists are easily spotted in any country, and while Americans view themselves as dressing for comfort and practicality, they are doing this at the cost of disrespecting the culture they are visiting.  I would equate this to going to someone’s house and unbuttoning your pants for comfort, it’s awkward, rude, and way too casual. Do bring your tennis shoes, but know that they will only be used for hiking, garden viewing, or other outdoors activities.

Here are my good and bad choices for clothes in Japan


Jeans, Cargo Pants, Anything with holes, or anything “distressed”
Dress shoes
Fashion shoes (if you like to make a statement with your shoes, you’ll be right at home in Japan, this can include bold stylized tennis shoes)
Anything with holes
Anything you shouldn’t wear socks with (it is rude not to wear socks  if you are entering someone’s home, or place of business where they request you remove your shoes)
Colorful shirts with a black or grey pair of pants are best, plaids, stripes, and solid colors are all great
Don’t wear all black, or  all white. This is surprisingly  important.
Button up is best
They do not need to have long sleeves.
You do not need to look professional (that would also be weird) you just need to look like you care
Sweaters, and sweater vests are pretty popular
Band shirts, t-shirts, Anything too big
Watches (anything goes as long as there is no Velcro)
Rings (as long as they are not huge)
Buddhist beads
Be really, really careful if you want to wear jewelry my sweeping recommendation is don’t.   People here, men and women, don’t really wear Jewelry.
Carrying your stuff
A murse, or satchel of almost any type is fine
Don’t stuff your pockets-find any other way to carry your stuff,

That being said, if you are fashionable, then keep doing what you are doing, Japan will love you. Japanese men look very fashionable and will groomed (and often somewhat flamboyant). The most important things are, no holes in anything, Wear something colored (ie something other then just black and white), everything should look like it fits, and look like you care.


Almost anything goes
Flats are probably your best choice, because you can wear socks with them.
Wear socks whenever possible (nylons sometimes count) You’ll end up taking off your shoes a lot in Japan, and it’s really rude to go barefoot, in fact if you are wearing shoes that you can’t wear socks with, I would recommend packing a pair in your purse for the day.
Tennis shoes, flip flops, crocs, masculine sandals
Slacks or anything really fashionable that is not on the bad list
You can wear jeans that are not blue or black (ie very bold colors)
Jeans, Jeggings, Cargo Pants, anything that you could work out in (ie Sweat Pants)
Cotton leggings
Go as short as you want

Jean Skirts
Never wear pants of any sort under a skirt, (ie non sheer tights)
Something colorful
Spagetti Straps! (This is probably the most important tip, Spagetti Straps are considered underwear here)
Don’t wear a t-shirt with just pants, 
The most popular is pastels, but almost anything goes
All black, and all white.
Be careful if you are wearing a lot of really bright colors, don’t make an outfit too loud
Purses, hats, delicate jewelry
Big statement piece jewelry is not a good idea in Japan. I would highly recommend leaving your big Jewelry at home
Have fun! Highly patterned tights are really popular in Japan
Don’t wear anything that looks like pants, cotton leggings are usually a bad idea.
Make up
A very natural look is most popular, If you are going to wear something that is very bold make sure that it stays extremely tidy
It is fine to not wear makeup just make sure you don’t look like it was because you just rolled out of bed

A comfy and practical tourism outfit!
Doll up a little more then you are use to, especially if you are in a big city. Japanese do not dress nearly as casual, and an overly casual look will look like you don’t care. The most important things are nothing with holes, no tennis shoes, no cotton leggings, and make sure not to wear all black/all white/all black and white.

A shot in a train station.

Again, you may not care how you look, but that is not acceptable in Japan. You will be treated much more kindly, and be invited to experience so much more if you look like you care. Japanese do not yet have enough experience with foreigners to differentiate their experiences with a particular person from how an entire culture acts. Your kindness/rudeness/apathy will make much more of an impression then you will ever realize. 


  1. Oh my, I'm going to have to buy some new clothes before I come visit. Fun! See you soon.
    Love, Mom.

  2. Very good information. Thank you. Can I ask why it is you should not wear all white/all black? These are two of my favorite looks. I'm guessing the all black has to do with mourning. Also why is statement jewelry not advised?

    1. I have been told All black and All white are associated with death. All black is traditional at funerals. All white seems to be a carry over from the chinese custom of wearing all white during mourning periods (sorry I am veering into the land of hearsay). People also have told me that if they see someone wearing all of one color (even if it is an all white pants suit), it makes them seem sketchy, that might be the reason for the all white.
      Japanese women wear very delicate jewelry, or none at all. If you wear statement jewelry, people might think you are cocky, or obnoxious.
      I hope that cleared some stuff up for you.
      If you enjoy putting effort into your looks, you'll do fine here! Don't worry too much :)