Japanese fashion is great and clothes shopping in Japan can result in many pieces that you’d be hard to find at home. And you want to come back with some nice clothes, be it more street fashion or just something comfortable but nice for every day. The problem? None of those shop names ring any bell and standing in a shopping centre, in front of a shop list composed entirely of foreign brands, can be daunting. Luckily after reading this you won’t feel so lost any more.
Useful Tips for Shopping in Japan
Before you even set out shopping, there are a few things worth remembering:
1. Japanese sizes tend to be smaller than Western ones
Japanese sizes tend to be smaller than Western ones, and what you bought as a size M at home will likely be a size L or XL in Japan. To avoid disappointment, always size up – it’s better to have to later try a size smaller than to feel bad about not being able to fit into clothes that aren’t meant for your body type.
2. Different proportions than in the West
This also means different proportions than in the West. It is worth taking measurements around your bust/chest, waist and hips, but also feet for shoe size (all in centimetres!), and putting a note of them in your wallet or phone. Not all stores display measurements on the tags or labels, but a lot of them do, which helps in quickly selecting the right size.
3. Wear shoes than can be easily taken off
When planning on trying things on, wear shoes that can be easily taken off. The ‘no shoes’ rule in Japan extends into fitting rooms, and the last thing you want is to be rushing to tie your shoelaces while the shop assistant is waiting for you.
Be careful when buying butoned up blouses
4. If you are on the busty side, be careful when buying buttoned up blouses. A lot of women’s blouses in Japan are sewn to either be worn slightly loose or to accommodate smaller busts, which for you may result in an ugly gap where you least want it. A simple pin on the inside will do the trick of covering that up, but make sure to move about a bit more when trying the blouse on and simply keep the possibility of gaps in mind when you buy.
Where to Go Clothes Shopping in Japan?
High Quality Casual Wear with Various Sizes, UNIQLO
It is always a good idea to start with UNIQLO. While not so unique anymore, with many overseas branches in major Western cities, they will stock items and designs that may be unavailable at home – they even sell cheap yukatas in the summer! It’s also the one place where finding your size will be less difficult, so don’t dismiss it too easily. And if you’re staying in Japan for longer than a brief trip, making UNIQLO your friend will pay dividends later, with HeatTech clothing keeping you warm in winter and coming to your rescue when your favourite jeans tear right when you can least afford it.
Not Westernized But Cheap, ARROW
For clothes that aren’t so westernised in design, but still perfectly affordable, head to ARROW (アロー). They specialise in casual, but trendy fashion, primarily for young women, although this is just a label imposed by the shopping centre. In reality their clothes are quite timeless, and will make both great statement pieces and handy basics. Like most Japanese fashion for women, ARROW has clothes and accessories that are subtly feminine and flattering, but also versatile: good enough for the office day job as well as a night out with your friends.
Harajuku Style Clothing, SPINNS
Those looking for something a little more edgy and with a street fashion vibe to it should find their nearest SPINNS (スピンズ) store; it can be a little hard to miss, with their lit-up logo and interior design using bold colours. In there you will find a good mix of more contemporary fashion, sports clothes and casual wear – anything you could hope for when searching for street fashion on a budget. However, you shouldn’t dismiss it even if you are not into street fashion, you could miss out on some real gems. Some Spinns shops will also have a used clothing corner, offering further discounts on good quality clothes and a chance to grab items from previous collections.
Second Hand Clothing, 2nd Street
If you don’t mind buying second hand, then you should make a trip to 2nd Street (セカンドストリート), one of the biggest retailer of used items in Japan. Most of their stores may be a little out of the way for the less determined shoppers, but there are a few more central one in Tokyo or Osaka. And the prices are definitely worth it! If you shop at the right time, you may even get discount vouchers for your next shop there. Of course, 2nd Street isn’t the only used clothing store, but as buying used items isn’t as popular in Japan as in the West, locating and getting to other shops may be tricky. They may be called recycle shops (リサイクル) instead of second hand or have the kanji 古 (meaning old) in the name or description, so keep your eyes open.
The picture is from Wikimedia
This is a used kimono store in Asakusa.
For those staying in Japan longer, Aeon
Finally, if you’re already venturing out so far as to find a used clothes shop, or if you’re staying in Japan for longer, you should check out your local Aeon (イオン) supermarket, if you live close to a big one. Aeon itself sells some clothes, but it’s also likely to have some clothing shops on its premises. Their kind and price range will depend on your area, for example Aeons in close proximity to university campuses may have more cheap youth fashion than those in older residential areas, but they’re still worth a look.
With those pointers in mind, there is nothing now to stop you – and once you’ve visited a few of those, finding new places that suit your style and budget will be a lot easier. Though, just like at home, you can always hit the shops during the sales. Either way, enjoy your shopping in Japan!
Thumbnail image is from Flickr