Clothing in Japan: My Experience

I used to never really give a second thought about what I wore. My high school’s dress code was relatively forgiving, and the only rules were that you had to wear shoes and something that covers the midriff. That was never a problem for me and most of my other classmates, since it was a necessity to keep our bodies covered to survive the unpredictable Midwestern weather. Because of these lenient rules, I used fashion as a method of self-expression. I simply wore what I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. Although I do regret some of the fashion decisions I made, I never realized how grateful I should have been for such an unrestricted environment.

I was shocked by Japanese fashion when I first came to Japan. In the United States, it was relatively rare for people to be wearing the same clothing since they had their own distinct styles, even if there were trends that people followed. However, many Japanese people simply wear what the magazines are featuring and what is popular. There was relatively little individualism and it was as if there were many clones walking around the streets of Tokyo. In Waseda though, many people dressed in a slightly more unique fashion that a typical Japanese environment, but there were still remnants of typical Japanese society in Waseda students’ fashion.

My orchestra was an eye-opening experience for me in terms of finding out how the Japanese think about fashion. In orchestra, it is considered normal for a girl to wear skirts, a blouse, and heels no matter what kind of weather it was. As a person who usually prefers jeans, t-shirts and boots as opposed to dresses and heels, I would sometimes get some skeptical looks for what I wore. Those glances didn’t really faze me. But what shocked me was how I found out my perception of what was “scandalous” was very different from those in my orchestra. On hot and sticky July day when there were far too many people crammed into one room, I wore shorts and a t-shirt to orchestra rehearsal to prevent myself from overheating. Some people would comment on the length of my shorts, which didn’t bother me. But what did bother me was that a girl came up to me and said “you’re probably not too serious about school if your shorts are that short!”

Those words stung. It disappointed me that there were still people who judged others based on their appearances. I thought that time had past. Immediately I didn’t say anything in response, but afterwards I came to the realization that people have no right to decide what I wear. I should wear what makes me happy and what I feel good in. So that’s how I will continue to be as long as I possibly can. Most people never really give a second thought about what they wear on a daily basis, but living in an environment that is completely different from what I knew opened my eyes to some subtle cultural differences. It’s not one culture is better or worse than another, but moreso that these two cultures are simply different.