Wondering what to wear in Japan? If you’re traveling to Japan on a business trip, you’re going to need help packing.
Japanese business culture contains myriad do’s and don’ts, including for business attire, which can be confusing for the uninitiated. Here’s what to wear in Japan, for both business and leisure.
What to Wear in Japan for a Business Trip
The business landscape in Japan is a bit more formal than what you’ll find in some Western countries. As such, you can expect the dress code in any business setting to lean toward formal. Business casual is out, and suits are in for both men and women, and minimalism and simplicity are key.
However, don’t just throw any suit into your luggage. Color holds specific meanings in Japan, and certain colors aren’t considered appropriate for office wear. Pack a dark-colored suit in dark blue, dark gray or black. Avoid bright colors and flashy accessories. Black suits are a little tricky, as, with the wrong accessories, they can feel too close to funeral garb. For this reason, if you go with a black suit, do not wear a white shirt or black tie. When choosing a tie to go with any suit, don’t choose the tie that’s bright or that features a bold pattern. Remember: minimalism and simplicity.
Women’s Business Attire
Women are expected to dress rather modestly and femininely. Skirts should hit the knee, the chest area should be covered, and arms and shoulders should be covered, too. In keeping with feminine expectations, skirt suits are generally preferred over pantsuits. However, with the overall focus on modesty and simplicity, shoes should be low-heeled (flats are also typically acceptable), and purses and jewelry should not be overly eye-catching or bright. Makeup and hairstyles also follow this trend.
As you’re packing, pay special attention to your shoes. Depending on the location of a meeting or other business event, you may need to remove your shoes indoors. Opt for shoes that can be easily removed without a lot of unwieldy and awkward bending and untying. (Along with this, pay attention to your socks or stockings. You don’t want to take off your shoes and be embarrassed by your old, holey socks.)
Lastly, leave the perfume and cologne at home. Wearing heavy scents is considered slightly inconsiderate, especially when you’ll be in enclosed spaces with others who can’t escape your scent.
In general, when choosing what to wear in Japan when you’re in a business setting, go for a groomed, classic, stylish look that’s minimalistic and sleek.
What to Wear in Japan Once You’re Off the Clock
Once you’ve finished up your meetings and other business obligations, it’s time to see the sights. So, what do you wear in Japan once you’re off the clock?
You’ll see that there are several commonalities between Japanese business attire and leisure attire. Modesty is still a consideration, and the preferred style is still groomed, minimalistic, sleek, simple and hardly flashy. (Yes, you’ve likely seen photos of the younger set in Japan wearing bright pastels and neon, with bold, over-the-top outfits and hairstyles, but this Japanese street style isn’t the norm.)
Consider packing more casual slacks and blouses or dress shirts that you can pair with sweaters, jackets, camisoles and other layers. Jeans aren’t the norm, but black denim is more acceptable than traditional blue denim. Neutral colors and reserved tones and patterns are still popular, just as they are in business settings.
Likewise, just as you would when traveling for business in Japan, when choosing footwear for your leisure time, you should pick shoes that are easy to slide on and off. Go for comfortable shoes appropriate for walking.
Additionally, just as is the case in business settings, a certain degree of modesty is expected when sightseeing around Japan, particularly if you’re visiting the country’s many temples and shrines. Along these lines, in both leisure and business settings, tattoos are frowned upon and are best left covered.
What to Wear in Japan: Seasonal Considerations
Where you’re traveling in Japan will influence the seasonal and weather-related attire that you pack. The changes in temperature and weather can fluctuate heavily depending on whether you’re in the north or south. If you’re traveling to the north in the winter, snow is likely. If you’re staying in the south, however, temperatures are balmier. Likewise, in the summer, most of the country can become quite hot, so lighter fabrics will be appreciated.
While it is true that some organizations will revise their dress codes in the warmer months, this isn’t the case across the board, so don’t risk dressing down in a business setting unless you’re extremely familiar with the company you’re doing business with. You may wear lighter colors in the warmer months, but that doesn’t mean you should wear any color in the rainbow; try light gray rather than dark gray.
If you’re traveling for business in the winter, be sure your coat matches your business aesthetic. Don’t pack the puffy jacket that looks a bit like a sleeping bag. Instead, go for a formal, fashionable coat that’s suitable for the workplace, such as a pea coat. (Similar attention should be paid if you pack a raincoat as well.)
Whenever and wherever you travel, though, pack layers that you can add or remove to your outfit, for easier adjusting to the temperatures and setting.
What to Wear in Japan: The Bottom Line
Overall, whether you’re attending a meeting or sightseeing in the city, when it comes to what to wear in Japan, you’ll fit right in so long as you choose well-kept, modest, and classically sophisticated styles.
Need more help preparing for your next business trip to Japan? Check out our resources and brush up on the 10 must-know phrases you need for traveling through Japan, as well as everything you need to know about when to plan a business trip to Japan.