When preparing to move across the world, one of the first questions incoming JETs ask themselves is what to pack. Japan is often viewed as an extremely conservative culture, and in many ways that is true. However, that does not mean you need to abandon your personal style and comfort. The important thing is being able to feel like yourself while still being work-appropriate. So what is work appropriate, anyways?

The strictness of dress codes varies by school or office, so you’ll have to contact your predecessor for specifics. However, most places follow the same general trends: guys wear dress slacks and a dress shirt (or polo shirt in the summer), girls wear dress slacks or modest skirts/dresses and dress shirts or modest blouses. Some schools require guys to wear a tie, but not all. CIRs may have a more formal dress code due to their placement in a government office. Elementary school ALTs may have a more casual dress code, as a lot of their job involves playing with the students at recess and getting dirty.

But that’s a very vague description, ne? So, we thought we’d put together a few examples and guidelines for you so you can get a good idea of what to start packing! Check out the categories below to help answer all of your packing questions.

General Do’s and Don’ts

Each school and office is a little different, but we thought it’d be helpful to show you some general guidelines that should be safe no matter where you are placed! Sleeves Sleeveless shirts are unacceptable at schools and offices, and should only be worn with a cardigan. That said, the summer months are often too … Continue reading General Do’s and Don’ts


Japan follows the “Cool Biz” movement, which is an attempt to save money on electricity by wearing lighter clothing and using less air conditioning. Eco-friendly? Yes. Human-friendly? Debatable. The upside of this is that we in Miyazaki Prefecture are allowed to wear short sleeves from May 1st to October 31st each year, which is a … Continue reading Summer

Autumn & Spring

The “in-between” seasons can be very frustrating to prepare for on a daily basis. The weather can change quickly and suddenly, and what may have started as a double-layer-plus-a-sweater morning could very well develop into a single-layer afternoon. The weather in autumn and spring is very similar, so you can generally follow the same guidelines … Continue reading Autumn & Spring


Miyazaki winters are deceptively cold. Most classrooms don’t have heaters, and many teachers’ offices only use kerosene stoves in the winter, requiring frequent ventilation and thus negating all the accumulated heat. Outside of work, even if you are lucky enough to have an air conditioner that also functions as a heater, the uninsulated buildings won’t … Continue reading Winter

Rainy Season

Rainy season, called tsuyu, is the bane of many an ALT’s existence. It will rain. A lot. And you will hate it, no matter how much you “love rain.” Even on days when there is little to no rain, the pervasive cloud cover will mess with your emotions as well as your perception of time. … Continue reading Rainy Season

Hair & Accessories

Hair As for hair, the general preference is to go with “natural” colors. That said, westerners have a wider variety of “natural” than Japanese do, so we get a lot of leeway. Hairstyles are pretty flexible as well. We’ve had ALTs with undercuts, dreadlocks, guys with long hair and/or facial hair, girls with pixie cuts, … Continue reading Hair & Accessories


In Japan, we change out of our normal shoes and into “indoor shoes” at school. Many people just use crocs or sandals because they are cheap, but really you can wear any kind of shoe so long as it is a “school-only” pair. We recommend it be a slip-on style, as you will also have … Continue reading Footwear

Formal Wear

Japanese schools have many more ceremonies and formal functions than western schools do. For graduation, staff picture day, and the new student entrance ceremony, a suit jacket is a must. Term opening and closing ceremonies differ by school and season. During entrance exams and PTA days, most of your Japanese co-workers will be wearing suits, … Continue reading Formal Wear