Japan is a shopper’s paradise. With high rise boutique shopping centers, endless underground mazes of malls, to the bustling shopping streets in Shibuya and Harajuku—there are endless opportunities for shopping just in Tokyo!
Shibuya is Tokyo’s most famous shopping neighborhood.
Japan is at the forefront of global style and trends, and you can find a wide variety of unique fashions that are exclusive to Japan. But, what can foreigners expect while shopping in Japan? One important thing to consider is size.
The most common question I get from people thinking about traveling to Japan is “Will Japanese clothes fit me?”.
If you aren’t familiar with Japanese sizing, most trendy stores geared at young women will simply have one size clothing titled (fittingly) “One Size” “OS”, or in a lot of cases, just “M” for ‘medium’. Other Japanese stores may carry “Small” “Medium”, and “Large” sizes, but expect these to be significantly smaller than the sizes of the same name in North America.
Generally, “OS” clothes will be looser in fit, with an elastic waist in skirts and short to wide a wider variety of sizes. They will generally fit between a XS-M in North American women’s sizes.
The average height for women in the US is 162.5 cm, while for Japanese women the average is 158 cm. All clothes in Japan are cut for people of a shorter stature than the average American person, so sleeves may be shorter, and skirts shorter. In “OS” clothes, you will find they favor people on the shorter side of the Japanese average.
While all this might seem daunting for finding that perfect fit—fear not! Big fashion outlets like Uniqlo and GU offer a much wider variety of sizes than the average small boutique store. Also, don’t forget! Most popular chain stores from North America and Europe have locations in major Japanese cities and shopping centers. You’ll be able to find familiar US sizes for things that may not fit at the “OS” stores no problem at all. Stores like H&M, Forever 21, American Eagle, Zara, Next, and Bershka are incredibly popular with Japanese shoppers and have locations in most major shopping centers.
Be careful though—They favor the Japanese market and tend to stock sizes on the smaller end of the spectrum. But in large cities with large foreign populations like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Yokohama, most likely will carry the full variety of sizes you’d find in North America.
How About Shoes?
Shoe shopping may also be different than you may be used to. Shoe sizes are generally listed in cm, or as “Small” “Medium” and “Large” sizes. Be careful though, shoes in the S/M/L sizes generally are not great quality and may fall apart quite quickly.
Just like clothes, shoes will favor the smaller end of the spectrum. The largest shoe size you may find in stores is 25 cm, or a US Women’s size 9. The best advice if you are above this size is to bring plenty of shoes from home.
Can I Find the Right Cup Size?
What about other wardrobe staples, like bras and underwear? As you may expect, these too run both on the smaller side and are designed for the average Japanese women’s shape. Most bras come with a whole lot of padding inside of them, to give the appearance of a larger bust. Thankfully, most of this padding is removable. Cup sizes are much smaller than their US counterparts, and most band sizes will only go up to 75 cm in most stores. In general, you will have to go up one or two cup sizes than your US size to find a good fit. If you are usually a 32A in the US, you will most likely be a 75C in Japan. The largest cup size commonly found is a F size (US D).
Underwear generally will come in S/M/L sizes, but like everything else, they will run significantly smaller. For comfort’s sake, I always recommend bringing a hefty supply of your favorites from your home country.
Don’t let all of this scare you though! Japan has so many options available for shopping, and as the foreign population rapidly grows, stores are offering more varieties of styles and sizes for customers of different backgrounds. Just keep these tips in mind and be prepared to size up a bit, and you’ll be ready to enjoy all that Japan’s shopping centers have to offer!
Caitlin / USA