Japan is different than America in a lot of ways – one of those is shopping.
In America, when I go shopping with my friends, we will bring in armloads of clothes into the dressing room, chatting loudly as we go through our selections. I know that the sales attendants have got to hate me; for every 20 or so outfits I try on, I buy one – maybe.
In Japan it’s a little different.
When you try on clothes, especially in small boutiques, there is a certain assumption that you will buy something. Now don’t get me wrong, you are in no way obligated to buy anything – especially if it doesn’t fit or looks weird.
It is common to go window shopping, but is uncommon to try on slews of outfits at different stores. One of the first times I ever tried on clothes in Japan (a cute sweater and shirt combo), they actually CUT the tag of the shirt before giving it to me in the fitting room. I was mortified. I wasn’t in love with the shirt, but ended up buying it anyways – because I felt guilty that they cut off the tag already.
So here are some tips for clothing shopping in Japan.
1. Take off your shoes before you enter the changing rooms. Most fitting rooms have a wooden platform you step onto, and make it obvious where you are supposed to leave your shoes (kind of like the genkon/entrance of a typical Japanese home). If they don’t have a wooden platform – general rule of thumb is to leave your shoes just outside the door or curtain of the fitting room.
They have a couple Forever 21s in Tokyo that I love to go to because, well, cheap clothes. And Japanese clothes rarely fit my “body type” and/or are just a little bit too cutesy and flamboyant, so it’s always nice to get some good, American, “plain-looking” clothes. This is a dress I fell in love with (but sadly didn’t buy).
But the point is, look at my feet. No shoes. Even at Forever 21, an obviously Western shop. You ALWAYS take off your shoes, no exceptions.
2. Try to limit your “trying on” garments to two or three. Most of the small boutiques (that are coincidentally enough rather expensive), have a limit of four items. You have to leave the rest outside.
3. If you go shopping with a friend, don’t wait until the end to try them on together. A lot of shops only have one “dressing room” – which usually happens to be a curtain wrapped around a wooden platform off to the side of the shop. It is rare (but pleasant) to find a locking door. So to save time, stagger trying things on.
I went with my friend about a month ago – and they wouldn’t let us go to the same changing room, so I had to wait until she was done before I even started. It was a little awkward.
4. If you are wearing makeup – wear the face cover-up. It kind of looks like the fabric softener sheets that you use in the dryer when doing laundry, only much larger and unscented. You put these on your face kind of like this.
It’s to prevent the copious amounts of make-up that some girls wear from “ruining” the expensive clothes. It’s nice that I have yet to find a stained or broken outfit in the stores.
Once when I was with a friend she found a cute shirt that she liked, but one of the buttons was loose. She took it to the cashier (trying to get a discount) and they wouldn’t sell it to her.
Not only did she not get a discount, but they physically took the shirt away from her, claiming they couldn’t sell a shirt that was torn.
Shopping in Japan is different, but it’s still insanely fun. Watch out for your wallet though, clothes can get pretty pricey – especially in small Tokyo/Shibuya boutiques.
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