What to Wear in Japan

by | Sep 23, 2017

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Last updated on November 19th, 2023

I returned yesterday August 4, 2007 from a trip to Japan. As a tourist, it is unnecessary to wear business attire, but dress nicely, as the Japanese women do not dress in grubby clothes. Jeans are seen infrequently, shorts rarely, unless they are longer length walking type shorts. Most women wore crop length pants. The Japanese women do not wear t-shirts as we do in the US. Most wore a nice top, not low cut but many were sleeveless. Most Japanese women wear heels even with casual clothes. I wore Birkenstock sandals and was very comfortable everywhere I went. Take a pair of nice socks with you in case you are required to remove shoes. It is steaming hot in Japan in July and August and they do not believe in cold air conditioning like in the US….dress appropriately for the heat…..linen type, loose fitting clothing is helpful.

Janice, Cleveland, USA (2007)

It goes without saying that you should always wear clean socks when visiting someone’s home as you will be taking off your shoes at the door and be given a pair of house slippers. At an onsen (public bath) it’s best to wear clothing that is easily removable and not fussy as you will often be changing in a communal area. If you’re working in Japan many companies require that all females wear pantyhose even on the hottest, muggiest days. Also, any tattoos or multiple piercings should also be covered or removed.

Leslie-Anne, Vancouver, Canada

Take an umbrella or buy one at the airport. It can rain often in Japan, especially in June.

Bathrooms are different in Japan. In private homes, inns and upscale restaurants look for toilet slippers–and don’t wear them in any room but the toilet.

Marion Goldberg, Japan National Tourist Organization -NY

Wherever you travel in Japan, business attire should be conservative. A suit or suit coat paired with a just above knee length skirt /long flowing skirt or slacks in dark colors like navy or black work well. Avoid low cut blouses and try to wear a camisole or slip under clothing which is of sheer,translucent materials. BTW, the latest fashion craze here for professionals is wearing scarves and tying them into interesting shapes.

D.M.K., Tokyo, Japan

When I travel in Japan I never wear anything too tight or clinging. To make sure that my figure is not too pronounced I wear small lightweight vests over t-shirts and blouses. One of my favorite travel outfits is a dark colored skirt and blouse set, where the oversized blouse is worn on the outside of the skirt. We have to remember that traveling in Japan, we stick out, as foreigners, (gaijin) and the lighter our hair color the more we stick out.

Japanese is a very subtle culture, where for many years the sexiest part of the body was thought to be the back of a woman’s neck, so you can imagine what a Japanese man thinks, when he sees a Western woman wearing skin tight, “leave nothing to the imagination” clothing.

When I travel on trains, I usually wear my skirt and blouse, non-wrinkle, with leggings, to be even more sure I will not end up in a compromising position. As journey women we are dealing with two major cultural issues — the Japanese perception that Western woman are promiscuous and the tremendous curiosity about us. If we use a little common sense about our dress and lots of good will and humor, we can have a really wonderful time with the extremely interested and polite Japanese male.

Vicky Mills, Miami, USA

If you are wearing sandals, carry a pair of socks in your day pack. If you have to sit on the floor to eat, your dusty, bare feet can be uncomfortably close to the food.

Elizabeth, Toronto, Canada

As a woman who works in the Japan National Tourist Organization, I’d like journey women to know the following: In Japan, Shoes are considered dirty,and you should take them off when you enter most private inside spaces. Whenever you see polished wooden floors or tatami (straw mats),take off your shoes.

In winter time wear slacks rather than skirts, and take along thick socks since you remove your shoes when entering temples and shrines, which are not heated.

Pack lightly. Trains have no porters, no checked luggage, and there is little overhead space for carry-on items. Use “Forward Luggage” (takkyu-bin) to send all but an overnight bag to your next major stop. This service is available from airports and hotel front desks. Small bags usually go overnight; larger bags may take up to three days, but the cost is only about $13.00.

Mary Findlay, The Japan National Tourist Organization

Make sure your feet are well-kept, especially in the summer months because you will need to take your shoes off constantly. When invited to take part in a tea ceremony, it is best to dress neatly, in plain colors, with pants or a long skirt because you will be sitting on the floor for a long time. Also, if it is uncomfortable to kneel on the floor, as a foreigner it is socially acceptable to sit with your legs bent under one side of you, allowing you to shift your weight to avoid ‘dead legs’ at the end of the ceremony.


Avoid showing cleavage
Japan is famous for its fashion-forward clothes and people here (especially in cities) dress up to an unbelievable degree. Yet we are also used to Western tourists wearing sneakers and casual clothes and we’re not bothered by that. The big no-nos in this part of the world are showing cleavage, and allowing any parts of your breasts to show through tight tops. All the Japanese bras have a layer of foam to prevent this. I suggest visitors wear a double layer or a bra with a tiny bit of padding or a heavier sports bra. That should do the trick.

Jen, Tokyo, Japan

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