Monday, 4 July 2011

Shopping in Japan #2 : Casualwear and Shoes

Welcome back. For this installment of Shopping in Japan, we'll address the issues of shopping for weekend wear and keeping oneself shod whilst living in Japan...

It’s the weekend and you can finally wear what you want! But where can I buy clothes that will fit me? There are two options in Japan in terms of aesthetics; Japanese style and Western style. For Western style, again, Uniqlo also stocks lots of active wear and casual wear in larger sizes. You will also want to visit Gap, Zara, Forever 21 and H&M whenever you happen to be in a larger city because these brands do stock Western styles in larger Western sizes.

If you are interested in dressing Japanese style, you can drop into any clothing store at your nearest mall. But if you are like me and you don’t find the frilly, girly Japanese style appealing (when my mother came to visit me, she described it adequately as “tissy”) then you will want to stick to the recommendations above. However, there are some Japanese clothing stores which may be worth a visit…COMME ÇA ISM, Lowry’s Farm, Honeys and Page Boy stock Japanese style clothing which is perhaps more wearable by Western standards. Keep an eye out for these stores when you go to the mall. A bit of trial and error is required when it comes to buying from Japanese brand stores if you want to stay true to your own personal tastes.  

Japan has a very strict culture of never wearing your outdoor shoes indoors and vice versa. When you are a guest at another workplace, someone’s home or even in the changing room at some department stores, you will be provided with a pair of slippers which can be worn indoors. You can leave your outdoor shoes in the ‘genkan’ (entrance way). The slippers will be communal indoor shoes so always remember to wear/bring socks. Many shoe stores and gift shops sell little ‘half socks’ which are cute and don’t show when you wear ballet flats. Stock up on these.

Keep a couple of pairs of indoor shoes in your allotted cubby hole at work (one pair nude, one pair black works well for me) so you will always have a pair that matches your outfit. Ballet flats are recommended. Laces are time-consuming.

If you are a (Japanese) size 25 and below, congratulations, you are not going to have any trouble. Some good places to shop for shoes are ABC Mart, COO ICI in Harajuku (both casual and work footwear), the shoe department of any department store, and anywhere else that sells shoes.

If you are above a size 25 in Japan, then you are like me and need to compete with fellow Westerners for shoes. There are little to no Japanese shoe stores which stock Western sizes. There is a ‘Zen Mall’ in Shibuya, Tokyo which sells larger size shoes but I have not been able to locate it. ‘Big B’ is another one which sells larger sizes so keep an eye out. These Japanese chains are, however, not widespread. Your best bet is to drop into Gap, Zara, Forever21 or (sometimes) Uniqlo. All of these brands sell Western clothing and also stock shoes in Western sizes. They tend to sell fast so get in there quickly when new season stock arrives.

If all else fails, you will need to write a pleading email to friends and family back home to send you shoes, or you can rely on the internet for all you footwear needs. If you are a (Japanese) size 28 and above, you will not be able to keep yourself shod in Japan. You will also need to rely on people back home and online stores to send you shoes. 

Happy Shopping!

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