Practical clothing tips for Japan during Tsuyu (the rainy season)!
I will be the first to admit that I am not that fashionable, but I do know how to pack for trips that involve a lot of walking and exploring! I have been to Japan several times over the years and, it seems to me at least, I ALWAYS choose the rainy season for my visits. Here are some lessons I have learned:
Hot weather + VERY high humidity = permanent press, walking around looking like a giant wrinkle is embarrassing.
Jeans and other heavy cotton apparel will end up damp and in danger of mold. Look for travel pants in lightweight materials that will dry fast or something else light and not wrinkle prone. Knit is good, if you like the look. (I don’t, it clings to my butt….)
If you do get travel pants, try them out first, you may have to hunt for a pair that is cute AND doesn’t go “ZWOOP! ZWOOP!” when you walk.
I never look good in zip off pants.
Skirts are always good; they stay cool in the hot, humid and rainy weather. Make sure to get something a little longer than knee length (consider my cousin in the Counting Swans blog post!).
Even when you are expecting to be hot, bring a thin long sleeve shirt in something synthetic in case you get cold or need to hide from the sun. Light cotton is good too; skip anything heavy as it will just end up warm and sticky.
But I do carry a polar fleece sweater on trips (because airplanes are cold), but I have never actually worn it in the rainy season.
The last thing you want to wear when it is 90F and 100% humidity is tight clothing. Heat rash is not a happy adventure.
Carry an umbrella. A rain parka may well end up just as damp on the inside (from sweat) as on the outside…. That said, I usually travel with a rain parka or waterproof windbreaker just in case. There is the occasional hurricane, making umbrellas pretty pointless.
If you are hiking, bring a wide brimmed hat or use your umbrella as a sun umbrella.
I always argue in favor of trying to blend in. Wear short sleeve blouses, or t-shirts (preferably with a synthetic content so they dry quickly) instead of spaghetti straps or halter tops that bare your shoulders. Or, anything that exposes your bare tummy. And ALWAYS make sure your shirt isn’t see-through when wet! Shorts are considered sporting goods, if you wear them you will be immediately marked as a tourist unless playing in the water or out hiking. Skirts should be knee length or longer.
Unless you are running in a marathon, you will be stared at in leggings.
In Japan, ALWAYS have nice socks! You have to take off your shoes in too many temples, restaurants and residences. Holes in your toes will be embarrassing. No, you won’t get out of taking your shoes off, no matter what sort of insanity you claim.
On the same subject: In Japan, your shoes should be easy to remove and put back on. Balancing on one foot while tying your shoe makes for a great image but isn’t really practical. I have a pair of light slip-ons for nice wear and a pair of running shoes with the laces replaced with elastic laces for long days of walking. I do take hiking boots if I expect to hike up mountains, but people don’t expect you to slip shoes on and off on mountains….
Carry a handkerchief or bandana. Tissue packets are offered with coupons all over the cities, but there are no paper towels in restrooms.
Snag a pack of those tissues. Public toilets occasionally lack toilet paper as well….
High humidity and heat do bad things to hairdos. Carry supplies (anti-frizz conditioner, extra hair bands) if your hair normally SPRONGS when it rains.
Always consider the wash-ability of your clothing. Are you washing it in the sink and hanging to dry? Are you finding a laundromat and negotiating the buttons in a possibly unknown language? Will you have to iron?
Drying your underwear on lamps in the hotel room is a fire hazard. Neither you, your roommate, or the hotel will appreciate the results.