Q&A: What to Wear in Japan

March 5th, 2009

Q: I am traveling around Japan for 3 weeks beginning in late March. What do you suggest packing? I plan on dressing casually and packing as lightly as possible. We will be doing a lot of sightseeing and walking around. What shoes would be comfortable and would go with everything (I only want to pack one pair)?

What to Wear in Japan
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by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: How lovely—March is the most popular time of year to travel to Japan.  It’s the beginning of their Spring season, which means that their famous cherry blossoms will begin to bloom.

Fashion wise, Japan is a fascinating country.  Fashion forward young people are so creative in dress—influences range from Harajuku (which encompasses a variety of styles, from gothic Lolita to cosplay) to Hime (a new princess craze).  But these edgy styles aside, Japan is a very conservative country when it comes to fashion.  You can get away with casual dress when you’re out seeing the sights, but remember that Japan is a place where attention to appearance is paramount (especially in business situations).  Japanese women have a penchant for meticulously tailored garments—and often wear heels even with casualwear.

For sightseeing in Japan in late March, here’s what you need to bring:

Tops: Bring an assortment of nice, relatively conservative shirts and blouses, both knits and wovens.  Sleeveless styles are OK, but nothing that shows cleavage, nothing tight or clingy.  For late March, long sleeved blouses and knits are going to be your best bet; it may be Spring, but the weather is still going to be a bit chilly. 

Sweaters: Pack a couple of versatile sweaters to layer over your tops; this will allow you to dress in layers to adjust to the heat and cold. 

Bottoms: Your bottoms wardrobe is going to center around long pants.  Pack a couple of pairs of casual pants, and one pair of dressier pants.  You can also bring jeans—tourists do wear jeans; however, they’re somewhat less common amongst the more formal Japanese women.  Skip the shorts, but cropped pants are do-able if they work with your figure. 

Dresses:  If you’re going to be attending any more formal events, you can also pack a dress (knee-length or longer) for the occasion.

Outerwear: For late March, a light jacket should suffice to keep you warm (especially if you’re layering with sweaters).

Shoes:  If you’re planning on bringing only one pair of shoes, you will want a comfortable yet stylish flat that will work for sightseeing and dressier occasions.  I recommend a pair of Cole Haan flats with Nike Air technology or a pair of Softspots with a tempurpedic footbed. 

Last thoughts?  Get a pedicure before your trip, and make sure to bring lots of pairs of socks.  As you sightsee, you’ll often be asked to remove your shoes when you visit temples and other buildings.

Have a great tip about what to wear in Japan? Share it with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: Q&A,Women,Women's

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mi  |  March 5th, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Great tips! The one about the socks is genius :-) I’d like to add that I think it is a terrible idea to bring only one pair of shoes, no matter how comfortable. It is always good to have at least another one to fall back on, if the one pair starts hurting your feet, or you just grow tired of it…. C’mon, it is 3 weeks! P.S. I’ve been to Japan and totally loved it! Enjoy your trip!

  • 2. Sarah  |  March 5th, 2009 at 7:51 am

    The thing about Japan is . . . that no one leaves the house looking like a slob unless you’re under the age of 45. So looking your best is pretty big.

    I’d say jeans are more common these days. But skinny or straight legged jeans are big. And so are shorts with tights if you like that idea. So are skirts . . . Hope this helps. :)

  • 3. Tara  |  March 5th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    It has been a few years since I lived there. But I agree with everything. Though, you will need more then one pair of shoes.

    Two reasons. One the ground is made of volcano ash and is like walking on granite all the time. I picked up a pair of cheap getas (sandals) with an inch thick foam bottom. I ended up waring them all the time.

    And when it rains the water is all over the roads and there are not always sidewalks. You will get your feet wet. The getas worked well here. Or just bring something else while your other shoes dry.

    You can buy an umbrella there. They are called “casa”.

    Remember, unless you are in a department store, you can haggle the price on most items you purchase.

    P.S. When you arrive at the airport you can have your luggage delivered to your hotel. There will be a small stand/kiosk, in the airport, that you tag and drop it off at. Just remember to ask when it can be delivered. Ask if the luggage will be at the hotel when you get there. I traveled cross country and my luggage got to the my college before I did. Which worked out well.

    Take a lot of photos !

  • 4. jennifer in sf  |  March 5th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I think you’ll definitely want 2 pairs of shoes. No shoes are so comfortable you can wear them every single day for 3 weeks.

    Also, I really want that MJ dress!

  • 5. chelle  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 2:59 am

    hi guys, im going to japan this coming weekend for 1 week, simple question – can i wear heeled boots while on tour? =) thanks!

  • 6. journey  |  April 26th, 2009 at 7:31 am

    I hv been to Fukuoka,Japan..We loved the food.But I came back feeling sad to b a woman ,cos we happen to stroll upon a street where there were prostituition.Night programs over the TV were rather disgusting.But I love the cherry blossoms.

  • 7. dacoda  |  May 5th, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    you might want to wear a kimono whitch is the traditional japanese dress i went to a japanese school and we where them all the time

  • 8. Susan  |  June 7th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I am going to Japan in June. I understand it is the rainy season and will only be there for a week. We are based out of Tokyo. Any advice on what to wear, see and where to eat?

  • 9. Nicole  |  November 30th, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I will be visiting Tokyo in December and I would like to know what kinds of clothes I’d need. I’m from SouthEast Asia and I’m afraid that I won’t be prepared for the weather there, yet at the same time, how do I stay trendy ?

  • 10. Mark  |  April 13th, 2010 at 6:22 am

    I will be visiting Japan late April. For a guy is it OK to wear shorts . Also what do you think about wearing Columbia style pants? These are the outdoor type (Made for hiking and the outdoors). I have very nice cargo shorts. The pants and shorts are a beige color. Not Kaiki but an off white color.

  • 11. Trisha  |  April 13th, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Outdoor pants are nicely on trend right now; I think they’d work in Japan if paired with more tailored pieces. Hope you have a wonderful trip to Japan!


  • 12. Mikee  |  February 17th, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Hi! I am going to japan maybe second week of May, is it still cold at that time?:) is it advisable to bring jackets and warmer?

    Can i still wear trench coat at that time? I really want to know how cold is it in japan during the month of May(2nd week of May to be specific :)

    please reply :) thank you so much!!:)

  • 13. tany  |  February 19th, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    i am planning to go to japan this april, will it be ok or advisable to wear a heeled boots? its about 2.5 inches high.

  • 14. Karen  |  April 18th, 2012 at 8:57 am

    What type of clothing is suitable cos I am going to japan in middle of may? Thank you.

  • 15. Laura Duncan  |  May 15th, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Made the mistake of wearing shorts and flip flops today in Kyoto, never again, could certainly tell my choice was an embarrassment. These were knee length black twill shorts and nice black leather flip flops. Don’t make the same mistake I did!

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