The Disappointing Detail About Clothes Shopping Many Tourists In Japan Don't Realize

Japan has long been a global fashion capital, from the days of decora fashion in Tokyo's Harajuku district to Uniqlo's international takeover. And where else to dabble in Japanese style than in the country's own clothing stores? Japan's big cities are packed with local boutiques, vintage shops, and affordable chain retailers, offering endless options for refreshing your wardrobe.

There is one catch to Japan's thriving fashion scene, however: The garments might not fit many non-Japanese bodies. Size ranges are typically designed to fit the average Japanese frame, which, for women, tends to be 158 centimeters (5 feet, 2 inches) tall and weigh around 55 kilograms (121 pounds), per WorldData. This varies considerably from many Western countries, where women tend to be taller and curvier.

To make matters worse, many trend-focused brands in Japan limit the number of sizes they offer. In some stores, you might find "free" clothing sizes (sometimes denoted with an "F" on the tag), which is another way of saying the item is one-sized. Similarly, you may discover that some garments are only available in an "M," or medium, size. Even shoes may only come in a few sizes, from "small" to "large," rather than a range of number sizes.

Where to find extended sizes in Japan

If you're worried Japan's free-size clothing won't fit you, but you still want to take advantage of Japan's cheaper-than-Thailand prices, look for international stores (such as Zara, H&M, and Gap) when hitting up the shopping districts. Sure, these retailers may not be Japanese, but their product selection may be different in Japan compared to your home country. Plus, Western brands occasionally have collaborations with Japanese designers and idols. Note that you may have to size up when shopping at familiar American and European brands.

Thrift and vintage stores are another option for women who might be taller or curvier than the average one-size-fits-all garment in Japan. In Tokyo, head to Shimokitazawa and Omotesando for some of the best thrifting in the country. In Osaka, try Shinsaibashi and Americamura. In other cities, look for chain thrift stores including TreFacStyle, Hard Off, and 2nd Street.

Still struggling to fit into clothing off the rack? Thankfully, there are several brands that cater to plus sizes in Japan. Shimamura, a budget-friendly chain store, is known to offer a range of sizes and can be found across the country. Supure, Punyus, and Eur3 are a few other brands to look for when out shopping.

When in Japan, stock up on accessories and baggy streetwear

Japanese clothing trends tend to favor loose and oversized clothes over tight, form-fitting garments. This may work to your advantage when visiting Japan from abroad. Pack light and leave space in your luggage for roomy jackets, big sweaters, and billowy skirts. These items might just work for your frame, even if you can barely get the smaller crop tops and lolita-style dresses over your head.

Accessories are another safe option when the free sizes on tops and bottoms are getting you down. You can find hats, bags, socks, and jewelry at many boutiques and chain retailers, as well at specialty shops. For instance, Tutuanna and Tabio focus almost solely on cute socks, while luxury jewelry shops can be found on the streets of Ginza in Tokyo. Keep your eyes peeled for fun and fashionable souvenirs when you're exploring, and you'll surely find something that fits your proportions and personal style.