Photo:cherrypatter on Flickr

Where to Find Clothes in Japan If You’re a Big Guy

In some of my previous posts you will recall that I discussed my recent, and rather successful diet. In a little under 6 months, I have managed to shed almost 30% of my body weight, coming down from 140kgs to a far more human 98kgs. The reality is though, in Japan, 98kgs is still considered somewhat freakishly big, and while I am delighted to be able to fit into a 36 inch waist for the first time since I was a teenager, finding clothes is still rather difficult here.

At almost 190cm tall, even if I do eventually reach my intended target of 85kgs, I will always be a big guy by Japanese standards and as such you would think that my clothing options will be severely limited.


Photo: Aika Felt Works on Flickr

Not so however. During the recent golden week holidays, I was delighted to discover that, contrary to my perceptions, there are actually plenty of options in Japan these days for bigger and taller people. Japanese sizing charts are radically different from what we may be used to in Europe and the US however, and as such we need to be careful when choosing the right sizes, and indeed we may have to choose different sizes depending on the types of clothes we buy. For example, when it comes to t-shirts and sportswear I am now a Japanese “2L” size. However, for trousers, a 2L won’t get near me in terms of length.

So, hopefully, with some of my guidance today, you will be able to better negotiate the many different and confusing shapes and sizes of Japanese clothing and find the right clothes to suit you.

If you are really big, i.e. A 40 inch waist or higher, then you will struggle to find clothes in regular shops here in Japan. However, with the increased proliferation of American brands and US sizes in some of the higher end fashion chains and department stores, it is becoming easier to find those larger sizes. After all, let’s face it, nobody does obesity quite like our American friends!

Jokes aside, the fact is that even in the smaller sizes, American clothes do tend to have more room and be less constrictive. One of the big problems with shopping for trousers or tracksuit pants in Japan is that while you may be able to find trousers of an appropriate length and waist size, they can often feel very tight around the buttocks, as well as around a gentleman’s “private parts” as it were. Whilst some guys may welcome the extra attention this could bring, I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable with skin-tight jeans.


Photo: maako ikeda on Flickr

Besides, Japan is on the face of it at least, a very conservative and modest society. Preserving your dignity during work and social gatherings is of paramount importance.

These days there are a number of shops in the big cities that cater to the “big and tall” clientele. One such shop can be found in Osaka. If you go to the “Bic Camera” electronics department store in Namba, on the 9th floor, you will find such a shop.

It can be a little expensive. I paid 10,000 yen for a pair of jeans, but they were certainly a far more comfortable fit than any I had tried in the various Japanese stores up to that point.

Finding shirts, jackets and casual wear like t-shirts and sweaters is far easier.

One of the best places to go for this kind of thing is Uniqlo. Uniqlo has stores all over Japan, with about half a dozen in Osaka alone. There you will find both business attire, like shirts, slacks and dress jackets, as well as more casual wear, and it is all competitively priced. During one trip in golden week I was able to buy 3 t-shirts, 2 jackets, 2 business shirts and a sweater for a combined total of less than 15,000 yen.

If you are a fan of those “retro” style t-shirts that pay homage to movies and characters from your childhood then you won’t be disappointed. Uniqlo has everything from Back to the Future, to Ghostbusters, to the Blues Brothers with t-shirts from as little as 990 yen.


Photo: jpellgen on Flickr

As many of you will know, this year is the year of the long awaited return of the Star Wars Saga to the big screen, with the latest movie, The Force Awakens, set to open worldwide in December. Not slow to recognize a cash cow when they see one, Uniqlo is also selling its own range of Star Wars inspired t-shirts, for 1500 yen each. Yes, before anyone asks, my inner Jedi got the better of me and I’ve bought 4 so far. I’m planning to buy more come next pay day.

Uniqlo isn’t the only nationwide chain store to realize the value in marketing clothes to bigger people. So long a mecca of the more outrageous and obscure elements of Japanese popular culture, the famous “Don Quixote” store chain is also getting in on the act. With sizes going up to a 3L, there are certainly plenty of options available here. As a general rule, I tend to use Uniqlo for my fashions and Don Quixote for my sportswear and shoes. Don Quixote (pronounced Don Kihote in Japanese) tends to stock most of the famous American and European sports brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma and so on. From time to time you may even find American fashion items too. Last week I was fortunate enough to find a nice, American L size Ralph Lauren cardigan for only 3,000 yen.


Photo: Karl Baron on Flickr

So how exactly do the sizes in Japan work?

As I have said the proportions by which sizes are measured here are quite different from Europe and the US, but here is a rough guide to help you.

Generally speaking, a Japanese L size is equivalent to either an M or S size in the US and EU. A 2L is the same as a Large (L size). 3L is the same as a Large US again, but with slightly longer torso and if it’s a long-sleeved top, slightly longer sleeves.

4L is the same as an American XL and is probably as big as you will find in any regular store in Japan. In all honesty finding anything beyond 2L or 3L is unusual.

Some stores, like Uniqlo have adopted the US style size grading system of S, M, L, XL but again these ratings should be taken with a massive grain of salt. Generally, I would downsize one size from the American scale to get a fair equivalent. For example, I bought a couple of XL shirts in Uniqlo and their size is undoubtedly the same as a standard L size in the US or Europe.

By all means you should also check out all the major European and American fashion brand retailers too, but be prepared to pay a premium for what is, after all, imported goods.

One thing is for sure, since I lost weight, clothes shopping in Japan became a lot more interesting.

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