A Timeless Guide To Spring Fashion In Japan

A Timeless Guide To Spring Fashion In Japan

by Azra Syakirah • 11 min read

There are classic trends that repeat every year – it might as well be a Japanese spring aesthetic. I promise you, by the end of the article, you’ll be clued in on what they are and try them out for yourself before your big, adventurous trip here. Ready to be fashionably prepped?

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m deeply in love with spring in Japan. Heck, it’s arguably the most anticipated season in the country – not too hot nor too cold; it’s just right. The season is welcomed and celebrated by locals with tons of activities, and tourists from all around the world travel to The Land of the Rising Sun just to witness the breathtaking sights – cherry blossom, anyone? – that come about with the warm yet cooling Japanese spring.

With all that buzz and excitement, don’t you want to look amazing while at it? The locals can agree that not only is the weather perfect for fashionistas, but the spring sceneries make great backdrops for every “outfit of the day” picture. As the cherry trees bloom, so does the local fashion scene – from neutral winter nudes to popping spring patterns and prints.

Oh, and I don’t just mean Tokyo – the rest of the country maintains just as high of a standard too, especially during spring.

What’s Spring Weather Like in Japan?

Before anything else, our first order of business is to look at how the weather is actually like during the spring season in Japan. As I said, this time of the year is one of the best times ever in the country, and just about everyone has plans for out and about every weekend. Tourism booms during this time of the year – the Japanese spring sees the most amount of inbound international travel out of the whole year! So it’s safe to say this season is one of the busiest times for Japan.

Generally, spring lasts for three months – starting from March and ending in May. However, the exact dates and duration can vary each year depending on the overall weather in the country as well as which part of Japan you’re in – spring can start eas early as mid-March or as late as early April, and the season can end as early as late April or as late as mid-May. So if we’re lucky, we could get a full two months of this beautiful season – but on the other hand, we could luck out and get just a couple of weeks.

Remember when I mentioned that the season depends on the part of the country? If you go further up north, like in Hokkaido, spring usually starts later as the weather warms up later in the year – and generally, it lasts longer. Down south in Kyushu and even Okinawa, spring hits earlier and can even be shorter! I’d say, Tokyo – centrally located in the Kanto region of Japan – has a pretty stable spring season.

If you’re worried about missing out on the cherry blossoms when planning your trip to Japan, keep a lookout for sakura blooming forecasts. Since tons of people anticipate the cherry blossoms every year, the blooming predictions are always scattered on Japanese news – even on trains! They’re extremely accurate and reliable – no one wants to let millions of people down.

What’s the temperature?

From my own personal experience, the spring temperature in Japan can fluctuate quite drastically. The highest and lowest temperatures vary depending on the month.

You can expect a sunny afternoon in March to go as high as 13ºC but drop to as low as 3ºC in the evening and early morning. I personally have quite the dilemma when dressing for this kind of weather – it’s best to have a good coat with you if you’re planning to be out the whole day. It doesn’t have to be a down-feather one at all. In some parts of Japan, this month is still too cold for the cherry blossoms to bloom, so if you’re traveling here during this time, be sure to check the forecasts in advance and book your travel time later in the month, preferably.

My favorite time in spring is April – it’s without a doubt the best month of them all, and also the most popular time of the year for travelers. It’s your best shot at witnessing the bloom of cherry blossoms. Most of Japan sets at a comfortable temperature of 18ºC at the highest, and just 10ºC at the lowest – so a sweater or a cardigan would do just the trick at keeping you toasty. I recommend bringing your cutest outerwear to spice the sakura pictures even more!

May’s the hottest time for the spring season as it signals the approach of summer – sunny afternoons of 23ºC and chilly evenings of 15ºC. While your chances to view cherry blossoms during this time are slim to none, it’s not impossible – northern Japan’s your best shot! Because it’s warmer during this time, I go around in a long-sleeved shirt sometimes and it’s enough. Occasionally, I bring a light cardigan out as it can get quite windy.

Is it humid during Japanese spring?

Just like the temperature, the humidity during Japanese spring is lower earlier in the season and gets higher later. March is the least humid month of the season with a relative humidity of 55.5%. April goes up to 60% and May goes even higher to 65% as it leads up to summer.

Japanese summer is not only warm but also quite humid, and that’s when the fashion scene starts to be less flashy and more ‘comfortable’ – but that’s a whole other article entirely!

Now that we got that out of the way – even though it’s relatively important to know how cold or hot it’s going to get so we can dress for the weather – we’re going to look at the trends that set the Japanese spring fashion scene.

You can never be too prepared when it comes to dressing for Japan’s weather. All year-round, it can be quite unpredictable – warm and sunny one day, cold and rainy the next. While it’s kind of like a surprise each day, the general guidelines for temperature we looked at earlier will be a good judge of how to dress (and pack) accordingly.

Oh, and when I say trends, I don’t mean the all-out 2021 or 2022 fashion forecast like the weather – during Japanese spring, I personally notice repeating trends year after year which I now consider the classic aesthetics for Japanese spring. You can definitely bet on seeing them and blending in when rocking them as the weather warms up after winter.

This repetition and continuity of style might come from the Japanese people’s strong sense of identity and unity – even in fashion! They have their head wrapped around this whole notion of “everyone else is wearing them, so I want to wear them too”. It’s not at all a bad thing – it creates such a strong cultural force that makes Japan what it is.

Anyway, enough of that babbling before I get into a whole other topic – here are the top 3 classic Japanese spring trends that I, personally, have noticed.

Credit: hanas.travel.journal on Instagram

1. Floral For the Win

Not only are the flowers on trees during spring, but you’ll also see them on clothing! Floral prints take over Japanese streets as soon as the season rolls around, and this trend is one of the most recurring ones in Japan. They’re on everything – you name it, you’ll see it. From dresses and skirts to shoes and accessories including socks and hats! I have to admit, I’m guilty of caving into this trend – who can resist cute daisies printed on a shirt? And why shouldn’t we greet the sakura season with anything else but florals?

The girls aren’t the only ones that go all out with this trend – Japanese guys are not afraid to join in on this trend, either! In fact, Japanese guys aren’t the only ones proudly wearing sunflower tops and floral printed trousers; traveling fashionistas pitch in as well.

Not a fan of the floral? It’s not for everyone, I admit – but hey, it’s a sight to see. Tokyo’s main fashion neighborhood, Harajuku, is always full of various floral prints in spring. Pop by if you’re nearby for a once-a-year sight, literally!

Credit: nettyliee on Instagram

2. Pop with Brighter Colours

The Japanese winter called for neutral and monochromatic tones – Japanese spring, instead, is a shout for colors. Bright and popping shades of red, yellow, orange, and just about any other bright color come out to play. Since people can be gone with the thick down-feather coats and woolen scarves, there’s more room for expression and, well, enthusiasm to get all dressed up.

You do get the occasional neon, but it’s more common to see the pastel range, especially shades of pink – it is sakura season, after all. Yellow and orange are pretty common color palettes too. To get rainbow sights, parks are your best bet. That’s where the crowd gathers as they are the best locations for the annual “hanami” − friends, family and even colleagues gather together under blooming cherry trees with a drink or five, and chat the day away.

If you’re lucky, you would even see photoshoots happening during this season. Well, you don’t have to be lucky to see at least one – even I’m guilty of this. Similar to kimono-wearing pictures at famous temples, you see girls (and guys) posing in front of a fully bloomed sakura tree. Some of them dress up for the occasion – whether it’s floral prints, popping colors, or our next trend, kimono.

Credit: Masayuki Sugita on Flickr

3. Take It Traditional with Kimono

Bring out the traditional wear! Kimonos aren’t reserved only for temple visits – Japanese people take the chance to bring them out during spring for the picture-perfect sakura shot as they roam the streets.

The kimono is such common clothing of choice during spring that there are even ones made especially for this season. Spring kimonos have intricate prints and detailings that are exclusive for the season only, indicating the blooming sakura and changing scenery – sometimes featuring brighter colors as a nod towards the warming of the weather. Wearing them outside of spring can be weird – even culturally inappropriate. You wouldn’t want to get weird looks from locals, do you? I personally wouldn’t know the difference, but that’s just saying that I need to educate myself on kimono culture.

If you’re thinking of getting one for yourself, don’t get scared off by the prices you see online. I’m here to tell you that there are tons of kimonos ranging from luxurious to extremely affordable. You don’t have to break the bank for a traditional and authentic experience. In fact, there are tons of rental stores scattered around Japan if you don’t fancy buying one.

Tips & Tricks to the Perfect Spring Look

If you’re thinking, “what? Only three trends?” Relax, I’ve also prepared a few tips and tricks to get your gears rolling on putting together the perfect Japanese spring look and walking around town like a fashion pro.

Fashion is flexible, but in Japan, there are a few rules to obtaining the “Japanese aesthetics”, as I would say. In my years of fashion research, I found that Japan has quite a coherent silhouette and style that if you see someone dressed with the tips I’m about to spill, you have a 50-50 shot of that person being from Japan.

So here are my top 3 tips & tricks to achieving the perfect Japanese spring aesthetics – a list personally put together by yours truly!

Credit: yuuuuukko_ on Instagram

1. Flow Away!

The ultimate Japanese aesthetic is the flow. What’s flow, you ask? It’s all about the swinging, sway-ey movement of clothing, of course. Japanese people love this sweepy motion of the clothes. You generally see this style all-year-round, but when spring comes, it’s like everyone is wearing something that sweeps off the body frame elegantly when the wind blows. I feel like it really does reflect the mood of the season – especially when the cherry blossom leaves start falling to the ground when the wind blows.

To get this effect, shop around for a silky dress with an effortless sway or a long pleated skirt that bounces with every step. Trust me, it wouldn’t be that hard to find in local shops in the country.

Credit: dennisags on Instagram

For the guys, opt for an oversized shirt or baggy trousers. They, too, give you the flowy element that you’re looking to achieve. And for our adventurous fashionistas out there, experiment with everything to get the utmost flow factor – pleated trousers, perhaps? You’ll definitely fit in with the Harajuku crowd. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll get spotted by professional photographers who want a shot of your creative outfit!

Credit: rford.deedfashion on Instagram

2. Layer Up

This next tip is my personal favorite: you can never go wrong with layers. Even though the weather is warmer compared to winter, there’s still the opportunity to layer up as much as you want without feeling like you’re suffocating. Japanese people love their layers regardless of weather – I’m not even kidding; they even layer in summer!

They’re really smart, though. Depending on the season, the various layers are different. While winter calls for thicker layers and summer for thinner ones, spring has no boundaries. It’s warm enough to have some thinner layers but also cool enough to mix a few thicker ones in the mix.

There are tons of ways to play with layers – so many that the sky is the limit, really. You could double up on your top layers – an undershirt with a flowy (remember, go with the flow!) outerwear; a short skirt with some tights; a dress with a long cardigan.

I would recommend playing around with the lengths of your layering pieces. Not only does this add more dimension to your looks, but it’s an extremely important styling point for any and every outfit you curate – whether it’s for Japanese spring or day-to-day look. The right combination of lengths can change a look from a fashion no to a fashion yes.

Credit: asako.mdc on Instagram

3. Modesty Is Sometimes The Best Policy

Before anyone jumps to any conclusion, the Japanese culture is traditional. And with tradition comes this modesty factor, an important part of the culture. While fashion in Japan is pretty modern, this aesthetic still reflects but also adapts to the changing times.

Don’t worry, it’s not drastic. It’s more like opting for long sleeves instead of spaghetti straps, midi skirts instead of thigh-length ones, an overshirt on top of the tank top – just some common factors to name. I mean, let’s face it – it doesn’t really matter in spring, the cool weather calls for longer clothing pieces anyway.

Even with this modesty factor, the Japanese people are extremely creative, so much that even I’m impressed. This goes to show that incorporating modesty doesn’t necessarily mean compromising style – and, boy, do the Japanese have a high level of stylishness.

So what I’m saying is, once you’ve mastered this pointer, you can basically blend in like a local – so start off with your Japanese spring fashion.

Get Dressy!

I don’t see any reason why to not experiment with fashion during Japanese spring – it’s the perfect country to go all out without any judgments, and now you’ve got all you need to curate the perfect Japanese spring wardrobe.

Plus, there are no rules in fashion – take those trends, along with our tips and tricks, and let your fashion creativity run wild. Remember: floral prints and colors are key, and get the flow and layering going!

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