What to wear in Japan: Japan is truly timeless; a destination where ancient temples and traditions blend effortlessly with contemporary architecture, futuristic food and cutting edge technology. Add to that zen-like gardens, subtropical beaches and snowy mountains and Japan is easily one of the most stunning places in the world. We recommend at least 2 weeks in Japan, and we guarantee you'll fall in love with the country.
‘The Land of the Rising Sun' is famous for its four distinct and breathtaking seasons which are deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, and its calendar is packed full with different types of cultural celebrations that coincide closely with the changing of seasons.
However, the rotating of the seasons brings drastic weather changes from time to time, which often takes visitors by surprise and leaves them unprepared. So, regardless of when you're visiting Japan, you'll need to prepare for any curveball that mother nature might throw your way. And this guide, packed with tips on what to wear in Japan throughout the seasons, aims to help you do just that.
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What to wear in Japan
So, how do you create a travel wardrobe that will not only accommodate changeable weather and a wide variety of activities but also ensure you avoid any fashion faux pas?
The key is to build a basic travel wardrobe of mix-and-match combinations that you love. Think simple, versatile, and work with neutral colours that allow you to layer your look. You can check what to pack for Japan as well.
Consider the type of travel, your level of activity, the climate and also the local culture. If you're heading to the mountains, opt for a warmer wardrobe. Or if you're spending most of your time in cities, choose pieces that reflect Japan's urban vibes.
While a largely conservative society, Japan is a melting pot of styles and each season those styles change. The country's perfect fusion of tradition and modernity is reflected in how the locals dress.
As a tourist, you won't be held to the same sartorial standards as the locals. However, if you're keen not to offend and want to be prepared, you'll need to understand some of the basic cultural rules.
What locals wear in Japan
Japanese style is often contradictory. The older generation tends to conform to a conservative style, while the fashion-forward youngsters of big cities like Tokyo are spirited and daring with an eclectic and unruly dress-sense to match. You'll likely witness some pretty out there ensembles.
The Japanese, particular Tokyoites, have truly mastered the art of streetwear so expect to see sneakers in every form and colour. With the amount of walking you'll be doing, sneakers are the sensible footwear for when you're out exploring the city.
Keep in mind that you'll be expected to take your shoes off when entering religious buildings, like shrines, temples, traditional restaurants and accommodation, so wear a matching (non-holey) pair of socks.
It's not just your socks that you'll need to keep smart. The Japanese take pride in their appearance, from their hair to their clothes. The guys all know how to wear a suit, and the ladies dress conservatively and stylishly. Even in the most humid summers, Japanese women manage to tame their hair. And while I'm not suggested you pack your best frock, frowzy flip flops and wrinkled clothes just won't cut it in Japan.
Local women do not tend to bare much skin. While there are no dress requirements for entering religious sites, it's respectful to dress appropriately. So, avoid low-cut or strappy tops, short shorts and mini-skirts.
And finally, tattoos are considered a taboo in Japan and have long been associated with mafia mobsters. Gyms, pool and public baths typically ban them or insist they are concealed. So, if you're partial to body art, cover up to avoid being refused entry.
What to wear in Japan in the Spring
Generally the best time to visit Japan is in the spring, when the dry and sunny days draw locals and visitors outdoors. As if waking from a spell, Japan springs to life as the cherry trees are adorned with buds and a sense of renewal fills the air.
May is the warmest month of spring in Japan, with temperatures reaching 23°C in the afternoon and cooling to around 10°C in the early mornings and evenings. Despite warmer days, you'll want to pack a few layers for cooler evenings and spring showers, especially if you're travelling in March. Dressing for Japan in the spring is made easier with these versatile pieces that can easily transition from warm to cold weather.
- Bottoms. Shorts and smart skirts are ideal spring staples, but keep them classy to avoid feeling out of place when visiting religious sites. On cooler days opt for a light pair of jeans or cropped trousers. Remember, the Japanese have a modern, yet conservative style - so keep your jeans rip-free!
- Tops. Smart-casual attire like tank tops and light blouses will keep you cool and comfortable while sightseeing. When the temperatures drop, layer up with a lightweight cardigan, sweater or denim jacket.
- Rain Jacket. Don't let spring showers get in between you and Japan's treasure trove of natural wonders. A proper waterproof coat or jacket is a wardrobe essential in Japan, and it's worth investing in a decent trench that is both waterproof and breathable.
- Shoes. The goal here is to be comfortable and stylish. Since shoes are not permitted in traditional or religious buildings, you'll want to pack comfortable shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
What to wear in Japan in the Summer
Summer in Japan brings beautiful flowers, festivals and lush landscapes. But with it comes tsuyu (rainy season) - a confusing combination of extreme heat, high humidity and tropical typhoons. In most of Japan, the rainy season lasts from the beginning of June to mid July, and while the rains aren't seen every day like in some monsoonal countries, when they come they are heavy.
If you're visiting during rainy season, you'll want to pack strategically. Dressing for a warm rainy day isn't quite as simple as bundling up during chilly rainstorms, so quick-drying fabrics are key to staying comfortable. Here's a few items that will set you up for a summer storm in Japan.
- Bottoms. Denim jeans are not ideal as they're heavy and hold moisture. When it's wet and warm, your best bet is a pair of tailored shorts, skinny trousers or leggings. Choose lightweight fabrics and dark colours that will dry quickly and won't show signs of rain.
- Tops. A short-sleeved tee, tank top or lightweight sweater makes a great base for your raincoat. You might have heard that it's inappropriate to show shoulders in Japan, but this belief is more commonly observed in rural areas. Don't try to suffer through the heat and humidity of summer to avoid attracting stares from the locals. If you opt for a tank top, pack an overshirt or tee that you can chuck on when entering religious sites or traditional restaurants.
- Dresses. One-piece shirt dresses and maxi skirts with breathable fabric, like cotton, can be paired with sneakers during the day and elevated with a killer pair of heels in evening.
- Shoes. When it's hot and sticky out, the last thing you want to wear is a pair of heavy winter rain boots. But flimsy footwear becomes slippery when wet, so what is a gal to do? Instead, opt for a pair of short rain boots, boat shoes or waterproof tennis shoes. If you plan on going for a night out, pack a pair of fancy shoes like ballet flats or heels.
- Rain Coat. A lightweight, yet sturdy jacket that extends mid-thigh or to your knees like a classic trench will keep you protected from the rain. But if you can't bear the thought of wearing anything with sleeves, that's okay. Ward off water with a trusty umbrella.
- Waterproof Bag. Save that cute suede handbag for your next summer vacay and opt for a waterproof bag (pretty much anything faux leather should be fine) to keep your belongings dry.
What to wear in Japan in the Fall
Japan's cherry blossoms are famous the world over, but the fall foliage is equally as impressive. As temperatures dip after the scorching summer, the crowds diminish and Japan's gorgeous gardens begin to burst with vibrant colours.
The peak months for typhoons are August and September, so if you're visiting early fall, you should expect tropical storms in most regions of Japan.
October and November are typically the best months to visit as rainfall is at a minimum, skies are clear, and it's warm but not too hot. For this reason, Tokyo's event card is packed full during the autumn months. Here's some inspiration for how to master the autumn weather in style.
- Tops. During early fall, there will be lots of warm afternoons that call for short-sleeved tees or blouses. But also pack a polo-neck and some long-sleeved tops to layer up in on cooler days.
- Light Jacket. Unless you're travelling to Japan in late November, leave your chunky winter coats at home and embrace the short period where lightweight leather or denim jackets work solo.
- Bottoms. Jeans have become a ubiquitous fashion staple in Japan. In fact, Japan has a reputation among denim enthusiasts as being the best in the world. Smart, lightweight jeans or chinos are both cool and comfortable, and will pair well with your autumn wardrobe. Or, for a dressier ensemble, style a pair of high waisted tailored trousers with a fitted blouse and your go-to sandals for an effortlessly sleek look.
- Accessories. You should still expect some rainy days in autumn, even if you're travelling outside typhoon season. Swap your leather handbag for an all-weather cross-body bag and invest in a sturdy umbrella.
- Shoes. Sneakers are a modern fashion staple in Japan and are versatile enough to mix with casual, sporty or even formal clothing. But go with something minimalist (Converse or Superga are good choices) and make sure your kicks are well worn in and comfortable before you hit the streets.
What to wear in Japan in the Winter
While it rarely snows in Japan's cities, the surrounding mountains and northern regions are regularly covered by blankets of snow during the winter. But don't let the cold put you off. In fact, if you're brave enough to take on the chilly temperatures, the winter months of December, January and February, are one of the best times to visit Japan. Bundle up in plenty of warm clothes, then head outside to enjoy the snow festivals, winter sports, relaxing onsen resorts and the impressive light displays that decorate Japan's cities. It's true, winter in Japan is dreamy. But it is often harsh and can be unforgiving, so it pays to be prepared.
- Bottoms. Versatile, warm and always on-trend, skinny jeans can do no wrong. Stretchy, slim black leggings are another key wardrobe piece that's versatile enough to dress up for nights out, and add smart layers for casual sightseeing outings.
- Tops. Most restaurants, bars and hotels have heating systems in place during winter so it's wise to pack layers that can be peeled off easily. Nix the heavy knits and opt for lightweight sweatshirts or cardigans that can be layered on top of tees and long-sleeve shirts.
- Warm Coat. Even in winter, you'll find yourself spending a lot of time outdoors. And while the harshness of winter varies by region, a warm winter coat is a necessity regardless of where you're traveling.
- Accessories. If you're travelling to Japan in winter, a cosy scarf, a beanie and a decent pair of gloves should be on your packing list.
- Shoes. Opt for shoes that are not only stylish, but practical and warm enough to get you through even the coldest days. Again, keep in mind that many establishments in Japan expect you to remove your footwear, so slip-on sneakers or ankle booties are a solid option.
Essentials for Japan
The most important thing to pack for a Japan holiday is a comfy pair of shoes and a brolly. But aside from your wardrobe staples, there are a few other essentials you might want to consider packing:
- Sunglasses. It's true. Japanese people rarely wear sunglasses, even in the summer. That said, your sunglasses should remain a go-to summertime accessory to protect your eyes from the harsh glare of the sun.
- Pocket Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is relatively common in Japan, but not as common as in some other countries. A pocket wifi device will keep you connected on your travels, giving you peace of mind and ensuring you always find your way to the best restaurants and attractions.
- Camera. Japan is so photogenic you might want to pack more power than just your smartphone. Lightweight and pocket-friendly, a Compact Digital Camera often delivers the same image quality as a bulky DSLR, at a fraction of the size.
- A Day Travel Bag. Some may prefer a tote or an oversized handbag, but if you're hitting the sights day after day, then a backpack might be a more practical option.