5 Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping for Clothes in Japan

  • Shopping is a great experience, especially when you are in a new country with lots of spare money! Japan’s large cities are gold mines for those looking for retail therapy. With endless shops, malls, and department stores, shoppers will never get bored! However, shopping in Japan isn’t always the same as shopping at home so there are a few things to keep in mind to get the most of your experience.

    1. Check the sizes

    Because people in Japan are generally smaller and more petite than Western people, be aware that the sizes in Japan might differ from your home country. An M in the USA might be an XL in Japan, for example! Men with large feet may have to opt for foreign brands for shoes and socks that fit, and men with wide shoulders may need to have clothes altered to fit appropriately. Another size issue is for women’s underwear; you might have to go to an international store such as American Eagle or Next to get larger sizes. Try on every item before you buy it – returning items is not a normal occuren in Japan!

    Some clothes have European or American sizes on the labels, but this is not usually the case. The best thing to do with jeans and t-shirts is to try them on before you buy. Jeans, especially, can be surprisingly small. If you are above average height and you’re in Tokyo, try Comme Ça or Takashimaya, both of which are in Shinjuku, for European sizes.

    2. Everything is “cute”

    If you’re shopping for women’s clothes, be prepared to see a “kawaii” or “cute” feature in almost every item! Bows, ribbons, frills, and cute characters are normal in Japanese fashion. If this is your style then it’s no problem, but bear this in mind if you go in Japanese stores.

    There are many international shops such as Forever 21, H&M, Adidas, Nike, and the ones mentioned above that have more of a neutral style. If you’re shopping for unusual or lolita style fashion, try Harajuku! Takeshita Street is a mecca for those looking for unique styles. Takeshita is filled with boutiques and thrift shops to fully give you the Japanese fashion experience. There are plenty of “kawaii” for those looking for cute items, too.

    3. Take plenty of cash

    Despite being ultra-modern in many ways, Japan is still behind when it comes to some things. Many shops in Japan do not accept credit cards (though most larger stores do), so be sure to take your budget in cash when you go shopping for clothes and shoes. It would be awful to have a huge amount of clothes, accessories, and shoes ready to buy only to find they won’t accept your card. If you are worried about taking a large amount of cash there are various international ATMs that will let you withdraw cash for a low commission cost (Your best bet would be to check out the ATMs located inside any Seven Eleven).

    4. Save at duty-free

    If you are in Japan as a tourist, you may qualify for tax-free shopping. Some stores offer this as an instant discount, and others require you to save your receipt and claim back the tax at the airport before you go home. To qualify for duty-free, carry your passport with you when you go shopping for an 8% discount!

    5. Japanese clothes are modest

    You might have noticed that most Japanese clothing highlights different parts of the body than those in the West. In Europe and America, for example, many dresses emphasize women’s curves or cleavage. Japanese clothing is more modest, rarely having low-cut necklines or waist-hugging styles.

    Shopping in Japan, especially the larger cities, is a fun experience and you can end up with some really cool and adorable items. With these tips and things to keep in mind, your experience can be a lot easier. Have fun!