What to Wear in Japan – Tips for Every Season
Heading to Japan soon but not sure what clothes to bring with you? Not a problem! Let’s check out the typical weather patterns for Japan to determine what kind of clothing we would need for each of the seasons. Plus, we’ll take a look a current fashion trends in order to be able to pick clothing that better matches what is currently being worn in Japan. By the end of this article, you should know exactly what to wear in Japan, no matter the season!
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- Fashion in Japan
- What About “Revealing” Clothing?
- A Note About Tattoos
- Shoes in Japan
- What to Wear in Each Season
Fashion in Japan
When I went to Japan, I knew that most Japanese wore western style clothing on a regular basis instead of kimono, the traditional Japanese clothing. However, despite Japanese wearing “Western style” clothing, the fashion itself was very different from what I would expect to see in the United States.
I was surprised (and admittedly a bit disappointed) to find that the current style is baggy and/or oversized clothing. All the pants and even shirts are typically very loose and flowy. It’s not something you have to be pay particular attention to when deciding what to wear in Japan, but is something to be mindful of if you’d like to try and blend in.
Also, Japanese tend to more stylish when they go out, even if they’re just going to the grocery store. This probably is probably pretty standard to Europeans, but might be a bit shocking to Americans. Around where I live in the United States, it’s not super uncommon to see people at the grocery store in pajamas.
What About “Revealing” Clothing?
If you take a look at the clothing of the people in Tokyo, it won’t be uncommon to see girls in shorter shorts and skirts, but at the same time, it’s not super common to see tank tops and low cut shirts. Plus, the further you get away from the city (and away from the younger generations and pop culture), you’ll find that clothing gets more conservative.
At the same time though, I wore short shorts and tank top style shirts during most of my summer in Japan and never had any issues. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about whether or not my clothing was too “revealing” when trying to decide what to wear in Japan. I was more concerned about being too hot or too cold.
I’d say just be considerate of where you are going, and pick clothing accordingly. If you’re going to sacred places such as shrines and temples, try not to wear skimpy clothing, and if you’re going to a nice restaurant, don’t look like you just woke up. Just use common sense, and you’ll be fine.
A Note About Tattoos
It’s also worth noting that Japan has a sort of stigma against tattoos. In the past, tattoos were given to those who had committed crimes, and soon became associated with yakuza (gangsters). While tattoos have slowly become more acceptable in modern Japanese culture, foreigners with tattoos may still run into issues on occasion.
The most common places foreigners might run into issues are at swimming pools, hot springs, and other public bathing places. At most of these locations there will be signs stating that tattoos are not allowed. You also may have problems at Ryokans (traditional Japanese Inns) and sacred locations such as shrines and temples. There have also been rare reports of foreigners with tattoos being asked to leave at restaurants.
Most time, this can be resolved just by covering your tattoo in some way. You can wear rash guards at the beach and at swimming pools. Scarves and arm covers are also commonly worn by women in Japan, and serve as a great way to cover up tattoos. However, things gets more complicated at onsen, where clothing is strictly forbidden. Many foreigners have reported being able to successfully enter onsen if their tattoos are covered with waterproof band aids. If your tattoos are too large to be covered by band aids, but you still want to experience onsen, you may have to look into reserving a private onsen.
Shoes in Japan
Chances are, you’ll be doing a lot of walking while you’re in Japan, probably more than you realize. You’ll not only walk around the various attractions you visit, but you’ll also probably be walking to and from the train station and maybe even walk to the attraction itself.
Also keep in mind that many places in Japan will require you to take your shoes off before you enter. You’ll likely have to take them off at shrines and temples, clothing store changing rooms, Ryokans, and other traditional Japanese establishments. Since you’ll be taking your shoes off and on a decent amount, you’ll probably want shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
Some people recommend wearing tennis shoes since you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Others recommend flats or sandals since they’re easier to take off. Personally, I recommend wearing whatever you think would be best. Do you have a pair of flats that you can walk in and not get blisters? Awesome. Do you have a pair of good tennis shoes that you can slip off and on without having to re-tie them every time? Perfect.
What to Wear in Japan for Each Season
Japan’s weather can vary greatly depending on what part of the country you are in. However, I’d say overall that Japan’s temperature changes are pretty mild, at least in comparison to some other parts of the world — yes, I’m looking at you Mid-West USA where temperatures will go from 40°F (4.5°C) to 85°F (29.5°C) in a single day!
For the purposes of this article, I’ve highlighted three major areas in Japan as points of reference for talking about weather in Japan. The temperatures and weather patterns in these regions will be a strong factor when determining what to wear in Japan.
- Hokkaido – North-East Japan
- Tokyo – Central Japan
- Okinawa – South-West Japan
In the northern-most parts of Japan it can get quite cold. If you plan on visiting the Hokkaido area between December and March, you’ll definitely want a winter jacket. Temperatures will typically only get as high as 36°F (2.2°C), but will get as low as 18°F (-7.7°C). You’ll definitely want not only a winter jacket, but also gloves, hat and scarf as well.
In the most southern parts of Japan, the temperatures will get lower than they would the rest of the year, but still remain pleasantly warm. In Okinawa, the temperature will usually only get as low as 57°F (13.8°C), and will get as high as 70°F (21°C). Most people would probably just be fine in jeans and t-shirts. However, if you are coming from warmer climates, you may want to bring long sleeves, and maybe even a light jacket.
It’s also important to note that winter can be quite rainy in some parts of Japan. Okinawa’s rain is about the same year round, with certain months being only slightly more rainy than others. However, in Hokkaido it can rain as often as 16 days a month during winter (compared to their average 6 days of rain in June).
The weather of central Japan in winter is almost a perfect mix of the weather between Hokkaido and Okinawa. In the Tokyo area, temperatures will typically range from 35°F (1.6°C) to 56°F (13.3°C). If you come from colder weather climates, you could probably get away with just wearing a light jacket, as Tokyo’s winter may actually seem warm to you. However, those who aren’t used to temperatures this cold may want more of a winter jacket.
The biggest different between Tokyo and the other areas of Japan during winter is the amount of rain. Tokyo can get as little as 3 days of rain during December and January. During February there will typically be about 5 days of rain, and in March it will be closer to 8 days.
As spring arrives all of Japan gradually warms. Temperatures in the Okinawa range between 65°F and 80°F, while Tokyo rises to be around 50°F (10°C) to 75°F (23.8°C). Depending on what kind of weather climates you are used to, you may still want a light jacket if you are in Tokyo for the spring time. I’m used to colder weather, but I still found myself wearing my light jacket for most of April. However, by the time May rolled around, I found I didn’t need it anymore.
Hokkaido, unfortunately, is still a bit on the cold end during spring with temperatures in the 37°F (2.7°C) to 64°F (17.7°C) range. You may still need a winter coat in the beginning of spring, but you should be able to switch to a lighter jacket closer to the end of spring.
Unlike other times of the year, the amount of rainfall is pretty consistent for all areas of Japan during spring. The Hokkaido and Tokyo areas will receive 7 to 9 days of rain, while Okinawa will receive 9 to 11 days.
When it comes to summer, things really start to heat up. In Okinawa, the low will typically only be around 75°F (23.8°C), while the high can get up to 88°F (31.1°C).
Tokyo’s weather is quite similar to Okinawa during the summer months. Tokyo can also get up to 88°F (31.1°C) during the summer, but towards the beginning of summer, the temperature can still drop down closer to 65°F (18.3°C). For this reason, you’ll probably want breathable clothing, such as loose t-shirts and summer dresses.
It’s also worth noting that June is typically one of the rainier months in Tokyo. You may also want a windbreaker or light rain jacket if you plan on being in Japan during the rainy season. Keep in mind that this is also typhoon season in Japan.
Plus, Tokyo’s summers are quite humid. If you are from Western United States or Western Australia, you’ll may find Tokyo’s summers to be quite sweltering. However, if you are from the Eastern United States or Eastern Australia, you may still find it uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be anything too drastic compared to what you are used to.
Hokkaido also warms up, but not quite at high as Okinawa or Tokyo. During summer, Hokkaido’s temperature are typically between 55°F (12.7°C) to 80°F (26.6°C).
In fall, things begin to cool off again, but only slightly. Temperatures in Okinawa are still up in the 72°F (22.2°C) to 87°F (30.5°C) range for most of fall. However, things begin to cool off a bit more in November with temperatures closer being more in the 65°F (18.3°C) to 75°F (23.8°C) range.
Tokyo’s weather experiences a similar trend. Temperatures in the beginning of fall are more in the 60°F (15.5°C) to 80°F (26.6°C) range. However, towards the end of fall it will cool off a bit and be more in the 50°F (10°C) to 63°F (17.2°C) range. During this time of the year, you’ll probably pants and jeans. Then you could either wear a loose, long sleeve shirt, or you could also wear a short sleeve shirt with a light sweater (then take the sweater off if you get too hot during the day).
For Hokkaido, the beginning of fall can still be pleasantly warm with highs around 72°F (22.2°C), but temperatures soon begin to drop during the middle of end of fall. For most of fall, temperatures in Hokkaido will be more in the 40°F (4.4°C) to 62°F (16.6°C) range. The amount of rain Hokkaido receives also increases drastically as fall continues.