Traditional Japanese clothing is usually known to be a kimono and the accessories that go along with the kimono style. Japanese clothing has a long and rich history with a unique fashion style and various well known Japanese clothing brands. Nowadays not many people wear a kimono on a daily basis, but there are many clothes for sale that can be worn casually in daily life. From the kawaii Harajuku girls style, to sophisticated(and sometimes expensive) Japanese designer clothes, there’s something for everyone in Japan. Find out about popular Japanese fashion stores and trends before you visit Japan! This is our list of popular Japanese clothing stores.
- Shopping in Japan
- Sales period in Japan
- Types of Japanese fashion
- Online shopping
- Popular affordable clothing stores in Japan
- Higher end/ designer clothing stores
- Outlet Shopping in Japan
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Shopping in Japan
Before we dive into the wonderful world of fashion here in Japan, we’d like to let you know about a few things. Japan is one of the biggest fashion hubs in the world and definitely has something to offer for everyone. Whether you are looking for cheap, functionable clothes, limited designer items or something super kawaii, Japan has got you covered. But before going on a shopping spree, let us explain a little bit about shopping in Japan and how it might differ from shopping in your home country.
The first thing you will notice, or maybe the second thing after the style here, is that the sizes can differ a lot from other countries, especially if you come from a Western country. Typically, Japanese clothing is smaller, so pay attention to the length of sleeves and trouser legs and the so-called ‘Asian fit’. When you hit the shops, staff generally follow you around, but don’t worry this is normal in Japan! They are trying to bring you impeccable service so don’t get uncomfortable and feel free to ask them anything you might be wondering.
Next, when you want to try on clothes, be aware that it is super common to take off your shoes in the dressing rooms. Woman are also asked to cover their face with a white sheet to prevent makeup from ruining the clothes. When you are done, it is considered very rude to leave clothes in the dressing room. So when you are finished trying on clothes, the staff and other customers would appreciate it if you returned the clothes to them.
Lastly, always try to check the return and exchange policy of each store. In Japan it is not common that the store will allow you to return your purchased goods. When you are an overseas resident, also make sure to ask for the tax-free shopping options! As an international tourist you can save a great amount of money shopping tax-free.
Sales period in Japan
Japan has a reputation for being expensive, but despite this, there are some ways to save a few yen and shop cheaper. The best time of year to go shopping is either December or January, when most Japanese stores have their winter sales. The peak for summer sales in Japan is from late June to mid July. Besides these two major sales periods, the first week of January(for holiday shopping and the famous lucky bags) and Golden Week(for spring sales) are also good times to go shopping.
Types of Japanese fashion
Recently, two types of Japanese fashion have been gaining popularity among both Japanese people and people all over the world, “プチプラファッション(Petit-pura fashion)”, and “セレクトショップ(Select shop)”. Let’s see what kind of stores they are.
プチプラファッション (Petit-pura fashion)
Nowadays, functional and stylishly designed clothes that you can purchase at reasonable prices are very popular in Japan. Stores that sell such clothes are called “プチプラファッション (petit-pura fashion)” in Japan. “プチ(Petit)” means “little” in French and “プラ(pura)” is an abbreviation of “price”. Petit-pura fashion has gained a huge following among Japanese students and families, regardless of age. Not only are they inexpensive, but a variety of different kinds of clothes, from casual clothes for daily life and sports, to formal clothes for lunches and dinners, are sold.
セレクトショップ (Select shop)
There is another type of fashion stores called “セレクトショップ(select shop)” in Japan, which sell products from multiple brands in addition to their own brand. Select shops are basically scaled-down departments stores. Their prices are often higher than those of petit-pura fashion. But in the case of select stores, products of other brands are displayed in addition to their own brand. Their original purpose was to be a place where you could go to discover new brands and see them combined together in a refreshing way by people that understood and followed the trends. This was, of course, before magazines and the internet made their appearance. The biggest appeal of select shops nowadays is that you can find products from a variety of brands and get inspired by the latest global fashion trends at one store.
Japanese designers are known for their distinctive trends and minimalistic style. Recently, Tokyo has become one of the biggest fashion cities in the world with many local designers trying their luck. Tokyo Fashion Week is, unlike other big fashion weeks around the globe, known for their smaller label exhibitors that can be quite expensive and exclusive.
With COVID19 affecting all of us, the whole world has shifted to doing a lot of its shopping online. Like everyone else, Japan has moved in this direction as well. There are lots of Japanese clothing stores online where you can do your shopping and I’m sure there is a store that has what you’re looking for. There are even some stores that have a service where they will do a video call with you and show you their selection as well as how each item fits and looks when tried on. It’s a pretty amazing world we are living in! Many of the clothing stores on our list also have an online store and some even have stores in other countries as well. Have a look at their official websites for all of the details!
Popular affordable clothing stores in Japan
Not long ago, Japanese fashion was a well-kept secret, but that is not the case anymore. Popular Japanese fashion shops and brands are available worldwide, while others are exclusive to Japan. Let’s learn a bit about Japanese fashion stores and brands to shop at while you are Japan.
The leader in petit-pura fashion in Japan is UNIQLO. As of November 2020, UNIQLO had a total of 2,298 stores worldwide. Of these stores, 1,483 are located overseas, in places such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and Australia. UNIQLO’s clothes are characterized by their low prices, simple design, and high functionality. Kei Nishikori, a famous Japanese professional tennis player, often wears UNIQLO clothes to his matches. Other Global Brand Ambassadors include Roger Federer, Ayumu Hirano and Gordon Reid among others.
UNIQLO’s standard product line includes are “AIRism” and “Heattech”. AIRism is a series of highly functional under wear that uses ultra-fine fibers to absorb sweat, keeping you dry and comfortable especially in the hot summer. On the other hand, Heattech is a fashion series that uses fibers that generate heat, making it perfect for the cold winters. Only at UNIQLO can you buy clothes that make use of Japanese technology for such a low price.
GU is a petit-pura brand launched in 2006 by the same company that operates UNIQLO, with the concept of “making fashion more free.” If UNIQLO is known for its high performance Japanese clothing, GU is known for its low-cost trendy fashion, and is popular mainly among the younger generations. When you want to buy the latest trendy fashion at a reasonable price, GU is the place for you to go.
MUJI, popular for its retort foods such as butter chicken curry all well as interior goods, has also entered the world of Japanese fashion brands! MUJI offers a large selection of clothes with simple, natural designs that never get old and that you can easily match with other clothes. They have also focused on using high-quality materials for their clothes, such as organic cotton. If you like clothes in calm colors, MUJI is a great option for you.
Shimamura, another petit-pura brand, has recently been gaining rapid popularity in Japan. They now have over 1,300 stores nationwide. The brand is quite affordable and has been involved in many collaborations with various anime characters and celebrities, which has been attracting a lot of people, especially anime fans. This fashion brand is more localized than urban, and mostly targets families with children. For this reason, they have a large selection of children’s clothes and clothes that are easy to wear in everyday life.
If you are interested in Harajuku fashion or Japanese street fashion, WEGO is a great place to get them at an affordable price! WEGO is a popular fashion brand among students and young people, mainly in their teens and twenties. WEGO has 148 stores nationwide, including an online store. Their fashion is full of original designs that can be coordinated with in cool ways. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to try out the current younger generations Japanese fashion, check out this brand.
BEAMS is a fashion brand that offers imported and original products, and is said to be a pioneer of select stores. Therefore, you can find a variety of brands other than BEAMS at each store. The store was started by Etsuzo Shitara with a single small shop in Harajuku called American Life Shop BEAMS. The clothes sold at BEAMS represent a mix of American looks from the 1960s and Japanese craftsmanship. The stylish interior of BEAMS stores is very appealing, and it is sure to get you in the mood for fashion shopping.
7. United Arrows
United Arrows is a must mention if we are talking about famous Japanese select stores. The Japanese clothing brand was founded in 1989 and has since collaborated with popular international brands like New Balance, The North Face and Dr. Martens. The founding members of United Arrows were mostly former BEAMS employees who envisioned a store where you could not only buy clothes, but also create ideas for a more stylish lifestyle. Their overall design is stylish and luxurious and quite popular among people of all ages. Their prices tend to be higher than others, but their clothes are perfect for parties or a date.
8. Journal Standard
Journal Standard is another select store in Japan that sells a wide variety of products from Japan and abroad. It is a popular brand and their American style casually designed clothes have attracted Japanese teenagers, young adults, and university students alike. Clothes available at Journal Standard are known for their high-quality materials. Their contemporary designs are great for everyday outings or a day out with friends.
Honeys is a petit-pura fashion brand that is popular among Japanese teens and women who like designs typically made for adults. Honeys has collaborated with many anime characters such as Sanrio, Disney, Moomin, etc, so if you’re a collector of anime character goods, you should check it out. If you are having trouble coordinating your outfit with Honeys clothes, don’t worry. You can check out the professional coordination page by the shop stylists on the official online store for help. They will give you some fashion tips.
10. nano universe
Known as a select store that started in Shibuya, nano universe is a fashion brand that targets people in their teens to thirties. Their designs are generally cool, and recommended for those who want to wear clothes with a slightly formal but relaxed vibe. They also sell a unique fashion series called “Anti-soaked”, which is specially manufactured to cut UV rays and reduce sweat, making it perfect for the hot summer season.
Higher end/ designer clothing stores
11. Comme des Garçons
Comme des Garçons(also known as CDG) is a Japanese fashion label founded by the famous Rei Kawakubo in 1969 which officially became a company in 1973. The name of the company is French and translates into “like boys”. The brand got big in Japan in the 1970’s and had its debut fashion show in Paris in the early 1980’s. Throughout the 20th century their clothes were often thought of as punk oriented and viewed fairly negatively. However today they have become extremely popular and are well known around the world. In the past the brand was known for its use of black distressed fabrics and unfinished seams but nowadays they’re more famous for their casual luxury line “Play”. You might have seen their red heart motif on T-shirts or shoes. They now have stores not only throughout Japan but also in places like London, Melbourne, Hong Kong, and New York City to name a few.
12. A Bathing Ape(Bape)
You may have heard of the legend Nigo, who is famous worldwide as a fashion designer, DJ, record producer and entrepreneur. Nigo started A Bathing Ape in Harajuku in Tokyo in 1993, but little did he know it would become a global powerhouse. He got inspiration for the name of the company from the film “Planet of the Apes” that he loved watching from a young age. At the beginning, due to Nigo’s low budget, their product quantity was very low, meaning the clothing was pretty rare and hard to obtain. As the company got bigger he continued using this exclusive strategy, which allowed him to sell his product for a higher price. The use of cartoony prints, vivid colors, and the famous military patterns became not only popular in Japan but in other countries as well after various hip hop stars started wearing the brand. Now Bape is massive throughout the world and can still be hard to get depending on where you live. If you’re ever in Tokyo(or almost any other big city in Japan), it might be worth checking out the local A Bathing Ape store. Their products are much cheaper in Japan than in other countries!
Undercover, started by the Japanese fashion designer Jun Takahashi around the same time Nigo started Bape, is a high end streetwear brand designed for men, women and children. Undercover made its fashion show debut in 2002 at the Paris Fashion Week in France. This is one of the only brands out there that can pull off both streetwear and designer style clothes that appear in fashion shows. They started as a punk streetwear brand that was inspired by The Sex Pistols, and now have grown into a full on fashion label. Recently Undercover has become even more famous for their collaborations with brands like Supreme and Nike, which are sought after all over the globe.
14. Yohji Yamamoto
Similar to the previously mentioned Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto became a big name in the early 1980’s at the Paris Fashion Week where he showed the world his unfinished garments that appeared to be in tatters and thrown together last minute, but were actually just a part of his own unique style. Now with the 3 famous labels “Yohji Yamamoto”, “Y’s”, and “Y-3”, he is one of the most famous fashion designers in the world. You may have seen the well known Y-3 collaboration with Adidas that is quite sought after in the sneaker and streetwear world. Yohji Yamamoto stores can be found throughout Japan and in other countries like the UK and France. Like any other designer stores, the clothes aren’t exactly cheap, but they are well made and are definitely worth checking out.
Sacai is a luxury fashion brand in Japan that was founded by Chitose Abe in 1999. Growing up, Abe’s mother worked as a seamstress and Abe learned how to make clothes for her own dolls from a young age. Abe worked for both Comme des Garçons and Junya Watanabe, gaining experience before starting Sacai. The brand is breaking the barriers of what normal wear and casual wear are, creating clothes that can be worn on any occasion. The brand has really started to gain popularity recently, collaborating with big companies like The North Face, Beats, Apple and Nike.
Outlet Shopping in Japan
Outlet malls offer better deals and discounts throughout the year, which makes them an ideal shopping spot for everyone at any time. Some of the above mentioned shops are also located at the outlet shopping malls in and around Tokyo, but also nationwide. Here you can score your new Japanese wardrobe for a bargain! These outlet malls offer not only great shopping experiences but also a wide range of services and helpful facilities. Most of them have information desk services operated by multilingual staff, playgrounds for kids, free parking and much more!
We talked about 15 Japanese clothing stores in Japan, have you found one you might want to check out? Each store has established its own targeting age group and has its own style. Some brands may have stores overseas, so check their official websites to see if you can shop for their clothes in your country too. Depending on the time of year, there may be exclusive collaborations with characters or discounts, so don’t miss out! Have fun shopping for Japanese clothing!
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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture, and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education of Japan and got her Master’s degree in March, 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.
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