After we booked our tickets to Japan, one of the first things I researched was what I should wear. You may be thinking “why didn’t you research things to do, or places to visit instead?” and the answer is because I already knew where I wanted to go! I’ve dreamed of visiting so many places in Japan since I was child, that once the time finally came to go, the hardest part wasn’t figuring out what to do or where to go, it was how to blend in in a nation where everyone else is homogenous, and I am an outsider, a foreigner, or “Gaijin“.
Here are things I wore on repeat in Japan that helped me blend in during my visit to a country with an unofficial motto of “the nail that sticks up is the one that gets hammered down”.
Oftentimes the way we dress is what people base their first impressions on, and these first impressions can be impossible to change, so if you mess up or make a bad impression, you may not be treated well or taken seriously. As a guest of another country, I always do my best to be respectful of cultures and customs that are different than my own. Of course, Japan is home to some of the most fashionable and trendiest people in the world, so in places like Tokyo, just about anything goes. However, since we ventured up into secluded mountain villages where no one spoke English (although they did try), and visited temples and shrines multiple times each week, I erred on the side of caution and researched respectful things to wear in these places that wouldn’t drawn anyone’s attention or scorn, just as I did when visiting the Vatican and churches throughout Europe.
What I found during my research and my six weeks in Japan, is that a vast majority of Japanese women dress much more modestly than we do here in the United States. Of course, everyone is different, and different cities, villages, times of year, and occasions call for different dress, so keep in mind that this is a general rule guide and not representative of all Japanese people. That being said, I noticed that most women wore skirts that were knee length or longer (usually midi or maxi skirts), and pleated mid-calf skirts like the one I bought in Japan, shown above, were what most business women and women I saw out shopping wore. I rarely saw anyone wearing jeans or shorts, even though it was warm.
These long skirts, that were available in rainbows of colors, fabrics, textures, and levels of formality were usually paired with a loose fitting blouse or button up shirt that was button most if not all of the way up. I never saw anyone showing much if any cleavage, even in the trendier neighborhoods of Tokyo where people dressed much differently than other parts of Japan and leaned towards edgier street styles. It just didn’t seem to be a thing that people did, especially outside of big cities. Long trench coats, duster jackets, and long cardigan sweaters paired with blouses, long skirts, and ballet flats or heels was what roughly 85% of the women I saw in Japan wore.
I was so surprised that there was such a big commonality in the style of dress people wore, but I have to say conforming to what everyone else was wearing helped me feel like I stood out a bit less. All in all, when visiting Japan, wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident, don’t be afraid to dress a bit nicer than you might normally (if you wear jeans or yoga pants daily, try wearing a dress shirt and skirt or a dress if the weather allows for it), and when in doubt, just wear what the locals are wearing.
If you’ve visited Japan, what did you wear most of the time you were there?
Until next time!
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Suzanne Sears says
Going to Japan in October and definitely trying to read up on what to wear. Will my Lilly Pulitzer be over the top?