Can you wear leggings in Japan? Know where and when it is appropriate

If traveling to Japan for the first time, you may naturally feel concerned about what clothes to wear. It is especially true if you want to wear comfortable leggings that fit tightly.

Japan is indeed a fashion hub. The locals there are mostly tolerant of more revealing Western clothing. However, the culture in Japan favors simple and conservative clothes.

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So, is it appropriate to wear leggings when you leave your lodging, visit tourist sites, or buy something at the mall? 

Let’s talk about it in detail.

Can you wear leggings in Japan? Know where and when it is appropriate 1

Can you wear leggings in Japan? 

It’s not an easy Yes or No to this question. 

Yes, you can wear leggings in Japan, but you must always wear a long shirt, a dress, or a tunic that will cover your hips and bottom. If not, wear shorts or skirts on top of the leggings to cover your lower body.

Why?

Because the Japanese think of leggings as stockings that you should wear on their own in public, you wouldn’t want to leave your house naked and cause quite a stir in public, right? It is simply inappropriate!

Moreover, the Japanese are conservative. They disapprove of revealing clothing that emphasizes body shape, especially for women. Women are expected to embody modesty, simplicity, and purity. 

Meanwhile, certain places in Japan consider wearing leggings inappropriate.

When is it okay to wear leggings in Japan?

Japan has four seasons, and during the colder months, it is appropriate to wear leggings to keep you warm and protected from the cold. 

You can wear leggings for nature activities like hiking, trekking, and biking. You can pair them with comfy sandals or sneakers.

Going to the mall is another casual activity where you can wear breathable, comfortable leggings.

You can wear leggings, but cover your hips and behind with a long top or shorts, as Japanese women do.

Make sure to do a squat test and pass it. Before leaving the house, squat and check if your private areas are well covered. If they are not, change your top and find something longer to avoid looking bare when you lean over. 

When is it not okay to wear leggings in Japan? 

When visiting Japan, remember that we aim to immerse ourselves in the country’s culture and experience it deeply; we’d try Japan as if we were locals.

This means we will follow their customs, traditions, rules, and traditional Japanese dress code, especially in revered places.

Japan values modesty and conservatism. Therefore, we should avoid wearing flashy or inappropriate clothing that reveals too much skin or tattoos (if we have any). This will help us avoid offending the people.

Just think of it this way – there is no fun in being denied entrance from places we’d like to visit or being shunned because of inappropriate clothes we could have easily changed.

When attending semi-formal and formal events or functions, leggings are a No, No! 

The Japanese believe in always wearing appropriate and modest clothes. Leggings are considered very casual and unsuitable for formal occasions. 

You must be extra mindful of your clothes when visiting schools, temples, shrines, and historical sites. This means no wearing of leggings in these places. Your top should also be covering your shoulders and arms to show respect. 

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Embracing Leggings in Japan

To find out what locals think of leggings, we asked a few to understand their perspectives. Japanese people share meaningful quotes and opinions that reveal how leggings are seen in their culture.

  1. Tokyo Resident:
    • “In Tokyo, leggings are pretty common, especially in casual settings. It’s not just about fashion but practicality in our fast-paced lifestyle. Comfort matters.”
  2. Kyoto Local:
    • “When visiting temples and traditional places, some people prefer more modest attire. But honestly, it’s changing. Younger generations blend tradition with modern style, and leggings are part of that shift.”
  3. Osaka Native:
    • “Osaka has a vibrant street fashion scene, and leggings are embraced here. It’s common to see people rocking stylish leggings with unique patterns or textures. It adds a flair to the overall fashion culture.”
  4. Onsen Town Resident:
    • “In onsen towns, the vibe is different. Most onsen places prefer traditional attire like yukata, but they understand tourists might wear leggings for comfort. It’s about balancing respecting traditions and accommodating diverse visitors.”
  5. Sapporo Local:
    • “Up here in Hokkaido, where it gets pretty cold, leggings are like a second skin during winter. It’s less about style and more about staying warm. Nobody bats an eye; it’s just practical.”

Different perspectives show that the acceptance of leggings in Japan depends on where you are, how old you are, and your situation.

A Lesson Learned Through Experience

I wore leggings a lot when I traveled in Japan. When I explored the busy streets and beautiful landscapes, they were my favorite things to wear.

However, there was one particular day when being more prudent with my choice of leggings would have saved me from a minor hiccup.

I walked through a small old town with preserved old buildings and a peaceful atmosphere.

While appreciating the beauty of centuries-old structures, I stood in front of a revered temple. Eager to explore the cultural gem, I confidently approached the entrance, only to notice a subtle discomfort in the glances of the locals.

It dawned on me that my choice of leggings, while perfectly fine in bustling urban areas, might have been too casual for this sacred setting.

The lesson here was not about giving up leggings. It was about understanding the need to adapt to the cultural context.

I should have brought a light wrap or a longer skirt in my bag. That way, I could have easily changed my outfit to show respect for the solemnity of the place.

Combining comfort and cultural awareness is essential for a travel wardrobe. Leggings are very versatile, but it’s crucial to consider the atmosphere of each place and make small changes as needed. 

The incident at the temple became a funny story, reminding me that even the most comfortable choices in fashion should be tailored to the unique nuances of each cultural setting.

What to wear in Japan

When in Japan, here are a few things to remember when it comes to clothes:

  • Follow the “not too much, not too little, just right” rule. 
  • Show as little skin as possible.
  • Avoid bright colors and stick to subdued tones. In Japan, humility is a virtue; wearing bright-colored clothes translates to boldness, arrogance, and self-importance.
  • Do not wear clothes that will call unnecessary attention.
  • Always choose modest clothes over revealing ones to avoid incurring the ire of the locals.
  • Respect their customs, like wearing socks with sandals, even if it does not make sense to you.

Lastly, a word to the wise: You never know when you’ll need help. Having friends in a foreign place is better than having people angry at you for something as simple as clothes. Follow the norms and rules to enjoy as much of Japan as possible.