Summer is fast approaching! Warm weather, cool drinks, and what else? Shorts? No! Well, at least not if you’re a sophisticated and respectable fellow out and about in Japan. Shorts over there just aren’t viewed the same way they are here in America. If you live in Europe or some other fashionable place, the rules might be different, but for an American visiting Japan, the view on shorts can seem a bit strange.

Why Men Can’t Wear Shorts in Japan

no-shortsIn Japan, shorts are not really viewed as cultured or sophisticated wear for adult males. Unless you’re at the beach or lounging around the house or pool, people might be a bit surprised to see you sporting an excessive amount of calf.

On the whole, Japan is viewed as a pretty fashionable place, especially the high brow city areas and shopping districts. You might be able to get away with wearing shorts out in the country, but around the cities and classy areas, pretty much every respectable dude is going to be wearing pants. If you wear shorts in these areas, you might get noticed for it.

It’s not like anyone is going to call you out on it though. But if you want to “blend in” and not draw any more attention to yourself than you normally would for being a foreigner (if you are one) then wearing pants would be the way to go.

When it’s Okay to Wear Shorts


Image sources: 1, 2, 3

However, if you’re a woman, very young, or very old, then the no-shorts “rule” doesn’t really apply to you. Kids and old people can basically get away with anything, but that’s a pretty universal rule I feel. Women can wear shorts whenever they like, but it is a bit unusual for girls to show too much skin. That’s not to say their shorts aren’t short, they just tend to wear tights underneath them. Whenever I saw a girl with a whole lot of bare leg showing, it was definitely out of the ordinary.

I think this might be changing though. As I’m not over there currently, it’s a bit hard for me to tell, but I feel like fashion is moving towards bare leg showing being more of an okay thing for girls. Maybe someone living over there currently can help me out with this in the comments. It might also depend on the area of Japan as well.


Image sources: 1, 2, 3

And the shorts that young men do wear tend to be of the longer variety. It’s also not unusual for men to cuff their pants up into manpris, but this seems to be more acceptable than traditional shorts. Japanese fashion is always changing, so some of this can be a bit hard to keep up with.

Also, it’s okay for adult males to wear shorts around the house, at leisure time, or at the pool or beach. That makes sense. And like I said before, it’s not like anyone outside your friends and family is going to bug you about wearing shorts out and about in the world, but they’ll definitely notice. Unless you’re going to a place with a dress code, the most you’ll get is a confused look. And then they’ll notice you’re a foreigner and go, “Ohhh, I see.”

It’s Okay, You’re a Foreigner


From my personal experience, nobody really expects much from you when you’re a foreigner in Japan, especially if you’re a tourist. They’re always really surprised when you know how to speak Japanese, sit in seiza, use chopsticks, and all those other things that don’t really seem like a big deal to us students of Japan. Therefore, if you’re a foreigner in Japan wearing shorts everywhere you go, the Japanese will just brush it off because you’re a gaijin and you don’t know any better.

Now I’m not trying to say that you need to conform to every Japanese societal custom and everything when you’re over there, I’m just trying to inform you on what sort of fashion differences you might encounter. If you want to wear shorts over there, go right ahead! But if someone acts funny around you when you wear shorts out to Ginza for shopping or you get an odd look from a granny on the train home or something, now you’ll know why.

And all this is just my personal experience and observations. When I went over there in the spring, it got pretty warm, especially when we were all walking around so much. I wore pants every day, and a lot of my male American friends wore shorts. Nobody gave them any crap for it, but I did get told a lot that I was “very Japanese” with how I dressed.

That being said, I’m interested in what you guys have to say. Do you have any experience with the shorts/no-shorts issue in Japan? Did your experiences differ from my own? Share your stories down in the comments!

  • Pindy

    I’m in Japan now (July 2013) and I can tell you that the moratorium on shorts-wearing seems to have been officially lifted in Tokyo. I arrived having thought that I’d have no shorts-wearing opportunities, but I would say that every 8th Japanese man I’ve seen, between ages 17-45 are wearing shorts, and not the Man-Pris Japan so common in Japan, but the knee-bearing kind. Everywhere I go, as well, there are shorts on display in stores for sale, with men trying them on regularly. A quick pop in to UNIQLO has an entire wall of the things. Dickies, ever popular in Japan, are also selling massive amounts of them. I think if you’re still worried about this, you’re concerned about being laughed at by the Harajuku set.

  • Kimberly

    Considering Japan has special split toe socks(tabi)designed specifically for wearing with sandals(geta, waraji, zori, et cetera)… I think they thoroughly embrace the concept.