As spring and summer approaches, most of us look forward to the weather warming up — warm enough for a dip in the water and a laze under the bright sun. Oh, doesn’t that sound like a dream right now? Summer in Japan is packed with that and a whole lot more activities and festivities that include fireworks, local street festivals, and music events.
So we can all agree there are quite a bit of things to do during the summer in Japan — but with the heat comes... the heat. How do we prepare for that while still being at the top of the fashion trends? The Japanese have basically solved that problem quite some time ago, establishing classic summer trends that are alive to this day. Combating the summer heat while still being effortlessly fashion-forward and enjoying all there is to offer — can there be a more perfect trio?
What’s Summer Weather Like in Japan?
I’m from Singapore, but even I didn’t expect the weather in Japan during the summer to be that hot and humid — and I thought my country had it hard. Japan’s summer weather is like nothing I’ve experienced before, but I might be a little bit overdramatic. Before giving you insight into Japan’s summer fashion, we first have to look at the weather. I mean, don’t we all dress for the weather? Comfort first, am I right?
The summer season in Japan lasts from June to August, a total of roughly three months. If you’ve read our spring fashion guide, you’ll know that the exact duration and weather can change quite drastically depending on which part of Japan you’re in. With global warming as well, summer can sometimes begin as early as late May for some years and last till September.
If you’re further down south of Japan, you’ll experience quite a long summer — and quite the heat and humidity as well. Because it’s closer to the equator, the weather tends to be hotter than, say, the Kanto region, where you can find the capital city Tokyo. Further up north, the summer season is slightly shorter. Tons of locals and tourists travel to the Hokkaido region for a less “torturous” summer as the humidity is lower — some say it’s not that humid at all!
If you want to play it safe with summer weather, the Kanto region is a middle ground between the two ends — and here is also where all the great festivities are happening!
If you’re in Japan for early summer or late spring in late May or early June, you’re in for a treat — hydrangeas bloom everywhere in the country! A popular hydrangea spot closest to Tokyo is Kamakura, where temples and shrines are full of them. I recommend Meigetsuin Temple — this Zen temple is already so peaceful on a normal day, and it shines even brighter with its garden of blue hydrangeas.
One thing to note is that summer in Japan also means the rainy season — or tsuyu — which usually comes hand-in-hand with typhoon season. Again, it greatly depends on where in Japan you are, but the rainy season is usually from the end of June to early July. Sometimes, it can be a week of constant rain and strong winds; sometimes, it can be up to two weeks! If you’re not a fan of the wet and sticky, avoiding the tsuyu season is probably best — just a warning.
What’s the temperature like?
Japanese summer’s temperature fluctuates quite a bit throughout the season — it can be pretty unbearable at one time and pleasant the next. In recent years, especially, the temperature has been particularly high. It gets so warm that locals are advised to take extra precautions to prevent heatstroke or other heat-related illnesses.
At the start of the summer season in June, it’s a comfortable temperature of 22ºC in the peak afternoon and drops to a cool 18ºC in the evenings and early mornings. I would still be wearing a light long-sleeved out during the days of this month as it does get windy and chilly sometimes. It’s also the approach of the rainy season, with an average rainfall of 267.7mm — pack an umbrella just in case.
After the rainy season, it warms up even more in July. Instead of warm 22ºC afternoons, you get 22ºC in the evenings and early mornings instead, with an even warmer 28ºC afternoons for this month. I ditch long sleeves entirely as soon as July creeps around, and would opt for a light outershirt in case of a chilly breeze in the evening — though some would even dare to go without! Oh, but towards the end of the month, you’re looking at short sleeves all the way, though.
Because as soon as August kicks in, you’re looking at 26ºC evenings and early mornings, and a high of 31ºC afternoons — the most recent summer saw a whole week of 35ºC daylight, and I swear I was dreading the step out of the house. I would go for anything baggy, breathable, and sometimes even sleeveless (if I’m not going to a temple or shrine that day). My best friends are my sunscreen and water bottle for this month. At least we’re not having any rainy days for August — I wonder if that’s a good or bad thing.
How humid is Japanese summer?
The temperature doesn’t quite tell you how hot it actually gets in Japan — the humidity does. If you read our spring fashion guide, Japan's summer humidity was briefly mentioned, and we hinted at how fashion changes from chic to comfy. That’s just how significant the humidity is here — no chilly nights that call for cozy cardigans. Just stuffy evenings with high humidity levels.
Even early summer is humid enough — June’s humidity is at an average of 75%. It’s quite the jump from our spring humidity levels of 60-65%. July is the most humid time of the year, jumping even higher to 79%! I bet, in recent years, the levels have gone higher than that. While August is the hottest month of the year, the humidity does go slightly down to an average of 73% — though, it doesn’t seem like it at all. I personally feel like August is the most humid and hottest time ever, but it’s also the month with the most festivities — win-win, right?
Classic Japanese Summer Trends
Don’t be scared off by the heat and humidity — Japanese summer is still a wonderful time to spend in the country. As I’ve mentioned before, there are tons of exciting events happening this time of year. What can I say, the Japanese have a habit of making the best out of any situation.
And that’s the same for their summer fashion style. What heat? What humidity? None of that can stop the locals from styling their looks while still remaining comfy and cool. Similar to our spring fashion guide, there are a few summer styles that I’ve noticed repeating themselves every year — kind of like the classic summer trends.
Of course, it goes without saying that breathable fabric like cotton and linen are the go-to choices — for any country’s summer, I’d say — as well as a layer or two of sunscreen.
Earlier I briefly mentioned about not wearing sleeveless shirts if I were to go to a temple or shrine on a specific day — that’s one fashion point to note when you’re roaming the country during summer. While Japan has been modernizing in recent years, it still has its traditional and religious roots. So as a sign of respect, if you do plan on visiting sacred grounds, it’s best to cover your shoulders and refrain from wearing any clothing pieces that reveal certain areas. The Japanese culture is still conservative in many ways — fashion is partially one of them.
Plan your days to go to shrines and temples with indoor shopping — because it’s so hot out, shopping malls, restaurants, and trains blast their air-conditioning to the fullest, leaving you feeling extremely cold in contrast to the outdoor heat. Put on light outerwear or bring a scarf for that day, and you’ll be breezing through a nice summer’s day.
But anyway, we’re here to discuss classic trends during Japanese summer. Here are the top 3 ones that I’ve noticed being repeated the past couple of years.
1. Skirt The Look Up!
I wasn’t a fan of skirts until I came to Japan and saw all the girls wearing them. FOMO — “fear of missing out”, I guess. I can understand why this is one of the top trends to consistently appear every Japanese summer, as the style of skirt that’s the most prominent are the flared, flowy ones. They’re cooling and conservative, stylish and comfortable — if that doesn’t scream the Japanese summer aesthetic, I don’t know what does.
Though normal, straight-cut, flared skirts are as common, the pleated ones tend to be shining brighter than the others in recent years. Even in a classic trend, there’s its own trend. From opaque to sheer, layered to single, pleated skirts are opted for more recently.
If you’re thinking of getting a skirt to include yourself in this Japanese summer fashion and you’re thinking about the prints, don’t think too much. Pretty much anything is included. Floral? Sure. Plain? Go for it. Stripes? Definite yes. There’s no wrong because all are right!
2. Dress it Down With Shirt Dresses
You don’t have to sacrifice chic when you want to dress comfy — a shirt dress basically encompasses both, and the Japanese have caught on to that. This classic summer trend has been popping up every year for a while now, and I’m confident it’s here to stay for a while more.
Shirt dresses are baggy, which means it’s airy and cool. Those factors make it the summer wear for Japan’s heat and humidity. While this clothing piece provides enough “ventilation” for the body, it also is perfect for any indoor activities where the air conditioning makes shopping malls and restaurants feel like the North Pole, by providing enough heat retention.
Shirt dresses can come in any shape and size — quite literally. Because it’s such a big style in Japan, most Japanese stores, regardless of local or international brands, would have multiple shirt dress designs on the racks when the season approaches. You can have anything from sleeveless to long sleeves, short in length to maxi ones, straight cut, or voluminous.
The best thing about shirt dresses is that it can be styled in a few different ways — you can wear it as it is and on its own, or wear it as an overshirt. Don’t think that layering is not an option in summer? It all depends on the material that you choose for your shirt dress. Ideally, get a chiffon-type shirt dress if you’re using it as outerwear. Not only does it prevent too much heat retention, but it also adds dimension to your Japanese summer look.
3. The 90’s Shirt + Slip Dress Combo
I’m a fan of 90’s fashion — I suppose, from this classic trend, so do the Japanese people. Back in the day, the combination of slip dresses and a shirt was all the rage. Everyone was wearing this particular style and it was the chicest of them all. This trend died down in most parts of the world, but in recent years it’s making a comeback.
In Japan, however, it never really did die down — the shirt and slip dress combo lives on to this day from the ’90s. I would say the conservative aspect of the culture plays a part in retaining this trend — while the Western world would simply opt for the slip dress on its own, a modest society like the Japanese would prefer to not have their shoulders bare, so a cooling cotton shirt underneath does the trick. Fashionable and practical — kill two birds with one stone.
The Japanese people have up-ed this classic trend by not only pairing a shirt with a slip dress, but basically anything slip — slip jumpsuits and slip tops are just to name a few. Various fabrics are also experimented with — a silk slip dress, bumps up the look to an evening night out, and a basic cotton one is perfect for an afternoon picnic at the park.
Achieving The Perfect Japanese Summer Look
So you’ve got the trends down. The question now is, how do we get the perfect Japanese summer look? While three trends are enough, it’s not like we’re going to rinse and repeat three looks that we have for the whole summer, are we? It may not seem like it — what with their unity in their fashion image — but the Japanese are quite experimental when it comes to clothes. It’s like a challenge of who can stick out just a little bit without actually sticking out from the crowd.
Similar to our spring fashion guide, I’ve come up with three tips and tricks that will help you to curate perfect Japanese summer looks throughout the whole summer! You’ll realize that, even though it’s extremely warm in Japan during the summer, there’s no sacrificing style. It’s about taking a different approach while adapting to the situation.
So without further ado, let’s look at the top 3 tips to achieving your perfect summer look in Japan!
1. Flare It Up!
Spring calls for flow — summer calls for flare! You’ll see it everywhere. There will be flared tops, button-down shirts, skirts, but most of all flared trousers. It’s not only cooling but extremely comfortable. I know some of us gave jeans a quit since it’s unbearably tight and unbreathable, but I have a solution: flared jeans! Not tight and extremely breathable — that’s the answer to all your jeans problems during the summer!
A big thing in Japan is matching a flare top with a flare bottom. You might look like a baggy ball, but I promise you that the aesthetics are quite pleasing in Japan. Experiment with your pairing, and you’ll soon realize it’s not an ugly set at all — it’s actually quite refreshing, literally!
Male readers, don’t feel excluded — the guys in Japan also participate in this flare trend. Everything from flared trousers to oversized tops (I guess it does fall under flare), they have all been tried and tested, and succeeded, by Japanese men.
2. Accessorize Appropriately
Accessories for summer? You must be out of your mind!
On the contrary, I’m completely sane. Since the Japanese simplified their clothing style, they ramp it up on the accessories to spice up their outfit even more. Start off simple with the most basic summer accessory: a hat! There is more than one style for hats. So even with this simple accessory, you can already change a whole look — bucket hats are extremely in trend now, so I’d say go for that first.
Nothing can beat a big floppy sun hat, or you can experiment a little with panama hats or wide brim ones. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, time to boost your hat vocabulary! I know you’ll know this one: fedora. That’s one that both the ladies and gents are rocking during the summer in Japan.
Want to take it up a notch? Get a fancy handbag, tote bag, or backpack to match your looks! One iconic bag is enough, but if you are a bag collector like me, you can never have too many bags — am I right, ladies? Oh, and footwear, too!
Accessorizing goes to the extent of accessories. Play around with rings, necklaces, earrings, hair clips, and hair ties. You could put on a simple white dress but be popping with rose gold jewelry!
3. White & Neutral, Always
Our last but definitely not least of all tips is always to go for white and neutral colors. I mean, you could pop a bright yellow hat on, or slip on a pair of bright heels to brighten up the summer look. In Japan, however, the casual summer look is pretty neutral most of the time.
Just like how some of us think the color black is a safe color, so is white. It may be a myth, but I personally believe that white is one of the most cooling colors to wear. And during Japanese summer, I’ll do anything to keep myself cool.
Try layering a solid color on top of each other — you’ll end up liking the aesthetics of it. I love white on white on white, but it makes a bad combo when I want to eat ramen. Alternatively, go for various shades of neutral and combine them with prints for a more vibrant Japanese summer look.
Have Some Fashion Fun in the Sun!
For those of you who have yet to experience a Japanese summer, I definitely recommend that you do, despite the heat. It’s one of the most eventful seasons in the country and you wouldn’t want to miss that out. From music festivals to local ones, fireworks and feasts, you’re all set to dress the part with our insight of three classic Japanese summer trends and three tips to put them all together.