What to pack for a trip can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve never been to wherever you’re visiting. I’d never been to Japan before and I really wanted to make sure I packed appropriately. I wanted my outfits to be functional, casual but not too casual, and fashionable so that my photos were Instagram-worthy! I am a blogger after all…
It’s easy to say “wear cotton” or “dress in layers” but those recommendations are so hopelessly vague that they offer little to no help. Aside from the SLR in my hands, I didn’t want to look hopelessly like a tourist, either. If you’re reading this, you likely know exactly what I mean.
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- A Detailed Guide of What To Pack For Japan + What To Wear In Japan
- 6 Things to Consider When Packing for Japan + Choosing Outfits To Wear In Japan
- 5 Things I Didn’t Pack For Japan + What I Wouldn’t Wear In Japan
- My Capsule Wardrobe: What To Pack for Japan In The Spring
Things to Consider
When Packing for Japan:
- Weather + Humidity Levels: I found the humidity level in Japan in the spring to be similar to that of Vancouver or Los Angeles (i.e. not like Rome or Florida!). I actively checked the weather forecasts to see what temperatures would be like while we would be there and adjusted my packing list accordingly.
Examples: I threw in a packable raincoat and a thin, packable down vest.
- Activities: Are you going to be hiking or going for fancy dinners? Is the theatre or clubbing on your itinerary? How about visits to temples and other places of worship? Are you planning any sporting activities that might require specific clothing items? Are you attending a tea ceremony?
Examples: We were planning on spending time in the mountains, so I packed a thin, packable down vest, sneakers for hiking and clothing I could layer. I also made the mistake of wearing a dress the day we attended a tea ceremony – we sat on the floor and it was a bit tricky!
- Modest Style: I didn’t find Japan to be hyper-conservative, but I did find that the women dressed modestly. For instance, low necklines, spaghetti straps and super short skirts or short shorts aren’t something you’ll see locals wearing. It’s not a faux pas to wear whatever you want, but do consider dressing a bit more modestly, especially when visiting temples and shrines, if for no other reason than to be respectful of the place of worship.
Examples: Crew neck sweaters, reasonable v-necks, shorts/skirts/dresses that are slightly above, at or below the knee.
- Where You’re Visiting: We spent a number of days in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka as well as smaller places such as Nagano, Odawara, Hakone, Nara and Kameoka. I found the style to be a bit more casual in smaller centres than in large cities.
Examples: If you’re visiting Okinawa – pack beach wear. If you’re visiting the mountains – pack light, warmer layers.
- Mix + Matchability: You don’t want to have to bring a ton of outfit pieces if you can help it. I tried to pack things that were in a similar color palette and that would mix and match easily to create a wardrobe of several outfits. Most of my clothes that I packed were casual in nature, but still stylish.
Examples: I packed jeans, tops that were pink, blue, grey, white, skirts and dresses that were navy, pink, light blue and jackets that were pink. This gave me a cohesive palette of pieces that I could interchange to create different outfits.
- Footwear: Sneakers are obviously the smartest footwear choice, but consider a more stylish sneaker than a traditional trainer for time spent in the city.
Examples: I opted to bring two different pairs of casual sneakers to not only switch things up, but to give my feet a change of pace from day to day. You’ll be doing a TON of walking, so consider an insole like Superfeet as well! I brought a light, comfortable (+stylish) trainer for time spent in the mountains.
Clothing I Didn’t Pack For Japan:
- Athleisure: Unless someone is actually running or doing yoga in the park, you won’t see anyone wearing activewear (i.e. they only wear it while doing said activity). If you see anyone local wearing leggings, they are likely beneath shorter shorts or a skirt. I have to say that I liked not seeing hundreds of people in leggings and yoga pants. Pack athletic wear only if you plan on working out at the hotel gym. If you’re a leggings addict, then just make sure your backside is covered. Tights are not pants.
- Short Shorts: When I say “short shorts”, I mean anything shorter than the private school rule (i.e. when your hands are at your sides, the shorts aren’t any shorter than where your fingertips end). I certainly wore shorts and skirts that were above the knee, just of an appropriate length. If you see someone wearing short-shorts in Japan, they likely have tights on, too.
- Anything Super Fancy: We didn’t have any fancy dinners or events on the itinerary, so I mostly stuck to casual basics that could be mixed and matched. People in Japan are very stylish and their outfits are always well put together, but they aren’t flashy or overdressed. Business people will wear suits, skirt suits and other business wear to dinner and drinks after work, but only then.
- Flip Flops: Unless you have some time booked in Okinawa, I wouldn’t pack flip flops. These aren’t something you’ll see anyone wearing. If you want sandals, opt for something a bit nicer, or even a Birkenstock. If you’re visiting an onsen, there will be sandals provided to you. Your hotel will also have sandals or ‘indoor shoes’ for you to wear while on the premises.
- A Large Purse: In all reality, what are you going to be carrying around with you all day? I brought a small crossbody bag that held my wallet, IC Card, lip gloss, a few first aid items (bandaids), my phone and sunglasses. My husband did have a backpack that held our SLR and a few other items for a ‘day bag’ but unless you have a large camera, it’s not entirely necessary. Things like snacks and bottled water are available at the countless 7-11 and Family Mart stores as well as at vending machines.
What I Noticed Locals Wearing
- Business Attire: Business attire truly does go from day-to-night in Japan, particularly in Tokyo. No one is going home to change before after-dinner drinks. Don’t worry – restaurants and bars don’t expect you to wear business attire at their establishments.
- An Outfit For Everything: It seems the Japanese have a specific outfit for each activity that they do. If they’re running, they have a running outfit on. If they’re on their way to or from the tennis club, there’s an outfit for that!
- Flared + A-Line Midi Skirts: I know midi skirts have been on-trend this Spring, but they seem to be everywhere in Japan! You’ll see girls wearing varieties from just below the knee to mid-calf with loafers and white ankle socks.
- Large Brimmed Hats, Visors + Umbrellas as Parasols: The Japanese are very cautious about sun exposure, so they’re always sure to be covered up.
- Jeans, Tees + Casual Sneakers: On weekends and during leisure time, you’ll see the Japanese dressed casually, but still dressed well. If they’re wearing distressed jeans, the rest of their outfit is clean cut and tailored. You’ll see graphic tees, many with attempts at English phrases scrawled across them.
- Beige, beige and more beige!: I’ve never seen so many people wear so much beige in my life. It must be their Pantone Colour of The Year a few years running.
- Traditional Clothing: It isn’t unusual to see the Japanese, particularly women, wearing traditional clothing in the workplace. You’ll see many women dressed up in full kimonos going to and from the office.
Additional Tip: If your casual sneakers are white or suede, fret not! Japan is very, very clean (almost immaculate) so those new kicks aren’t going to get dirty. You’ll notice in some of my photos I’m wearing baby pink suede sneakers, which seems like a ludicrous choice – they only got dirty when I rolled my suitcase over them by accident!
My Japan Trip Wardrobe Capsule
We had a mix of weather on our April trip that varied between 15C to 30C with a mix of sun, cloud and rain. Spring can be unpredictable when it comes to weather so it’s important to pack accordingly!
Here is What To Pack for Japan In The Spring!
- 2 Pairs of Jeans: 1 Pair Boyfriend, 1 Pair Skinny
- 1 Pair Casual Pants
- 2 T-Shirts
- 2 Tank Tops (For Layering Under Sweaters)
- 3 Long Sleeved Tees: 1 Tie Front, 2 Basic
- 2 Cotton-Linen Button-Down Shirts: 1 White, 1 Blue
- 3 Pullover Sweaters: 2 Knit, 1 Half Zip
- 1 Sweatshirt
- 1 Skirt
- 2 Dresses: 1 Cotton Shirt Dress, 1 Floral Wrap Dress
- 1 Pair of Shorts
- 1 Rain Jacket
- 1 Anorak Jacket
- 1 Thin Packable Down Vest
- 3 Pairs of Sneakers w. Superfeet Insoles: 2 Pairs Casual, 1 Pair Trainer
- 1 Crossbody Purse
- 1 Pair of Sunglasses
- 1 Pair of PJs
NOTE: This list includes both what I did pack and what I would pack if I repeated my trip!
What I Wore In Japan In April:
7 Outfit Ideas For Your Trip
Click any of the titles to shop these outfits!