UPDATE: Japan is considering opening its borders for foreign tourists in April 2021 on a trial basis as a preparation for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year. However this has yet to be confirmed by the government. For latest Coronavirus (COVID-19) advisory information for Japan travel, please visit the official website of Japan National Tourism Organization or JNTO.

What to Wear in Japan: Packing Guide for All Seasons


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Along with having a comprehensive Japan travel checklist, packing the right clothing for Japan travel is also extremely important. First, let’s discuss a few quintessential points about Japanese fashion before getting started on what to wear in Japan.

What should you not wear in Japan?

  • Flip-flops. Unless you are going to the beach, leave your flip flops at home as they are considered very unstylish and underdressed by Japanese people. However, in a somewhat weird contradiction, Crocs are considered perfectly fine.
  • Revealing tops for women. Avoid wearing spaghetti straps or blouses or shirts with a plunging neckline. Some may tell you it’s okay since you are a foreign tourist, but you will be treated with respect by Japanese people around you if you dress appropriately.
  • Tanks and shorts in men. You’re unlikely to see many Japanese men walking around in shorts outside of the beach here. Men are also expected to wear jackets at restaurants and nightclubs.
  • Avoid wearing all black. Unless you’re working in a Japanese company, it’s strongly associated with funerals.

How do I not look like a tourist in Japan?

Some prefer to not to look like a tourist in Japan, and instead try to blend in. That is, at least as much as a foreigner can in a nearly homogeneous society.

Japanese women prefer to wear skirts and heels far more than their western counterparts (regardless of weather), but are more conservative when it comes to tops. So they wear more revealing bottoms in the form of shorts and high skirts, along with a long sleeved high neckline blouse. So you may do the same thing here if you’re a foreign woman.

We often see backpackers here wearing clothes that look ready to go trekking through the Amazon jungle wearing cargo pants, heavy backpacking boots, and hiking pack while sightseeing.

This is the kind of outfit that screams “tourist.” Now, there’s nothing actually wrong with it, it’s just that unless you’re in a rural area, you’re going to look a bit out of place.

1. What to wear in Japan in winter — December January, and February.

What to wear in Japan in winter -- December January, and February
My winter outfit in Japan: beanie from Walmart (similar), cowl neck wool knit sweater from Columbia (similar), gloves from Columbia, coat from Uniqlo Japan, and waterproof snow boots from Columbia.

Here is the essential clothing to bring for winter travel in Japan:

  1. Head: Beanie and wool scarf.
  2. Base: Heavyweight base layers.
  3. Body: Sweaters or a micro-fleece jacket.
  4. Outerwear: Insulated coat or jacket
  5. Bottoms: Travel pants or jeans and warm underwear (preferably long johns).
  6. Accessories: Gloves and wool socks.
  7. Footwear: A pair of comfortable snow boots if traveling in snowy areas. Otherwise, just a pair of warm shoes or boots.

HEALTH WARNING:

Winter in Japan is EXTREMELY dry, so most hotels in Japan have humidifiers. However, if you’re staying at an Airbnb, most don’t or will charge extra for it per day!

We stayed at an Airbnb one winter and they didn’t have a humidifier. We all woke up with terribly sore throats and were tired because we didn’t get a good night’s sleep due to the dryness. So make sure to bring your own portable humidifier designed for travel, such as this or this.

2. What to wear in Japan in spring — March, April, and May.

What to wear in Japan in spring -- March, April, and May.
My usual spring outfit in Japan: Wool blend trench coat from Walmart, scarf, and my memory foam boots (now retired and replaced by the comfiest GOwalk).

March can be tricky because it still feels like winter in the morning and evening, so be sure to pack your base layers.

Here are the essential clothing to bring for spring travel in Japan:

  1. Layers: Lightweight or mid-weight base layers.
  2. Body: Sweaters, pullovers, or a micro-fleece jacket. If traveling around May it can be warm, so pack some shirts and a cardigan instead.
  3. Outerwear: Water repellent coat or jacket.
  4. Bottoms: Travel pants or jeans.
  5. Accessories: Pashmina or cashmere scarf.
  6. Footwear: Comfortable waterproof walking shoes.

3. What to wear in Japan in summer — June, July, and August.

What to wear in Japan in summer -- June, July, and August.
My summer outfit in Japan: cardigan, summer dress, and my GOwalk shoes from Skechers (similar to this). Summer mornings and evenings in Japan can be cold, so I always make sure to bring a cardigan.

Here are the essential clothing to bring for summer travel in Japan:

  1. Body: Shirts, light sweater and cardigan
  2. Outerwear: Rain coat or jacket.
  3. Bottoms: Travel pants or jeans.
  4. Footwear: Another pair of comfortable walking shoes that are waterproof.

4. What to wear in Japan in autumn — September, October, and November.

What to wear in Japan in autumn -- September, October, and November.
My autumn outfit in Japan: warm cardigan and fleece-lined jeggings. This was in October and it was still kinda warm!

Here are the essential clothing to bring for autumn travel in Japan:

  1. Layers: Lightweight or mid-weight base layers.
  2. Body: Sweaters or pullovers, or micro-fleece jacket. If traveling around September it may be still warm, so pack some light shirts and cardigan instead.
  3. Outerwear: Water repellent coat or jacket.
  4. Bottoms: Travel pants or jeans.
  5. Accessories: Pashmina or cashmere scarf.
  6. Footwear: A comfortable pair of waterproof walking shoes.

Expert Packing Tip for Japan Travel

  • Pack light. Travel with a carry-on as much as possible.
  • Wear the most comfortable slip-on walking shoes. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have a pair of very comfortable slip-on walking shoes. You are going to walk a lot in Japan! Make sure none of your socks have holes in them, as you are going to take off your shoes a lot too.
  • Use packing cubes. We love packing all our clothes in packing cubes! Although rolling your clothes is a tried and true method, it’s best to use packing cubes like this one. They keep your clothes compact and tidy which allows for more luggage space. For quality, go for eBags and BAGAIL for affordability.
  • Bring the right type of luggage. Backpacks are preferred for travel in Japan, because you are going to encounter a lot of stairs. But if you need wheels to save your back, it’s best to get a wheeled backpack. See our wheeled backpack recommendations here.

Additional Tips

  • Base layers. If cold weather base layers (also known as thermals) are too expensive in stores in your home country, you can get them for cheap in UNIQLO, which are everywhere in Japan. They work really well and keep you toasty warm! Look for base layers with the Heat-tech “heat technology” label. Note that Japanese sizes are one smaller than in the US. If you are size M in US, then you are size L in Japan. For the larger people out there (like my husband) then you will have trouble finding a size that fits you in Japan.
  • Umbrellas. Leave your umbrellas at home. You can buy them for cheap in convenience stores or 100 yen stores in Japan.
  • Pack black jeans instead of denim. For versatility.
  • Do you have tattoos? Although having small tattoos are not really a big deal. If you have a huge tattoo one it can pose a bit of a problem with the immigration. Tattoos are associated with Yakuza in Japan, historically. For arm tattoos, get yourself tattoo sleeves like this one.

WHAT TO READ NEXT: What to really pack for Japan

Last Minute Essentials for Your Trip to Japan

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