When contracting on as an ALT you will be issued residence in Japan for at least 6 months to a year.
During this time you will see the seasons change, you may lose/gain a bit of weight or you might even take on a new fashion trend.
There are many possibles reasons that you will find yourself in the situation where you have to buy new clothes. But the Japanese sizes seem so small, right? Compared to the Japanese, as a ‘bigger sized’ foreigner, buying clothes in Japan can be a difficult feat.
So we have put together a quick guide to buying foreigner fitting work clothes in Japan!
What Size am I in Japan?
Obviously, foreigners are historically bigger than Japanese people and not just in height but also girth.
A general rule of thumb is to go the next size up from what you are back home. If you are a medium back home then you are a large here. If you’re going to a place with personal service they may take a measurement which will be in millimeters or centimeters. Unfortunately, it is rare to find anything in inches over here.
Clothing measurements are a little different from country to country, and Japan is no exception so here are some conversion charts as an example to help. For more size conversions on Men’s and Women’s pants etc, here is a very helpful resource.
Male Dress Shirt Size Conversion in Japan
Female Dress Size Conversion in Japan
In addition, shoe sizes are of course different too!
Shoe Size Conversion in Japan
Where to Buy Foreigner Fitting Clothes in Japan
Now you know what sizes would fit you the best, the next thing to worry about is where to go shopping!
The favorites among foreigners is without a doubt, Uniqlo and Aeon. They have a wide variety of styles and also a variety of sizes. Places like Uniqlo have weekly specials too which are good to keep an eye out for. Aeon has seasonal specials, which you will find to be in July or January.
Other similar options include various department stores and malls which are laid out and have stores that are similar to home. Another option is to go to second-hand boutique shops.
If you live in Osaka or Tokyo you can find some outdoor shopping districts or markets where you may be able to “practice” your Japanese (haggling). Arguably the best areas are Shinsaibashi/Namba in Osaka and Harajuku in Tokyo.
Also of note is Comme ca and Gap which have some great European and US sized clothing for women, men, and children. Takashimaya also provides some fashionable but expensive options for plus-sized clothing. If you live in a major city with a Costco you could be surprised to find out that they can have some suitable work wear. In Kansai, there is also a big and tall shop called “Big and Tall”.
Going Shopping at a Clothing Store in Japan
The Japanese people are very friendly and helpful. Although they may not be able to speak English they will try to assist you and are quite good at using body language with the little English they do know. As Japan is getting more international they are becoming more aware of our foreign ways.
However, here are a few pieces of advice to remember.
1. Make sure to always take your shoes off before entering the changing rooms in a clothing store. Sometimes there are no visible instructions or signs so it is very easy to forget.
2. Not all stores in Japan accept foreign credit cards, especially at smaller places.
3. Keep your receipt. If you need to exchange or return your recently purchased item you need your receipt or the store clerk WILL NOT accept the return. Even keep the tags on just to make sure although this is not a guarantee that the store will accept your return.
13 Online Clothing Shops in Japan with Foreigner Sizes
For the ALTs that have chosen to live and work in the countryside, or you are just living somewhere far from a major shopping hub, online shopping is another option you can take.
Online shopping in Japan is very popular, safe and reliable!
Here are 13 online clothing shops that cater for ‘bigger’ foreigner sizes.
- Uniqlo which also has “Gaijin Size” clothing in its online store (up to XXL), for women and men.
- Isetan has an online tall size (166-175cm) women’s shop and also plus size shops for women. Tall and plus size stores for men online is also offered. Don’t forget you can visit an Isetan store also.
- Aoki has a website and stores across Japan that have loads of suits and formal wear as well as tall and plus size clothing for men and up to 3L plus size for women. The women’s selection isn’t as varied as the men’s.
- Cecile offers plus size wear for women, men, teens and kids. Larger size bras are available.
- Ito Yokado has a selection of plus-size clothes.
- Nissen has a tall size online women’s shop.
- Rope offers tall women’s sizes online.
- LLQueen focuses specifically on women’s plus size clothing (online).
- Chayclub sells women’s plus size clothes online.
- J.Crew offers tall and some plus sizes for women, and tall sizes for men.(Up to US size 12 shoes for women are available but if you get anything with leather, the import fees could get pricey.)
- L.L. Bean has some US sizing.
- Sakazen has an online shop.
- MD (Mido) carries plus size men’s clothing, up to 8L.
There you have it! A guide to buying work clothes in Japan. If you have any additional advice, whether it be a good website, shop or stories leave a comment below!