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 lifesaver for many people.
In general, we recommend lightweight, breathable clothing and minimal layers for summer. Not only is summer hot, but it is also quite humid and sticky. Many female ALTs bring sleeveless blouses figuring they’ll just wear a cardigan over it but, unless it’s a thin cardigan, the double-layer of fabric often proves to be too much for the heat. The less layers you can get away with wearing while still being school-appropriate, the better.
During “Cool-Biz,” some offices will let guys get away with polo shirts, or even nicer (“fashionable”) T-shirts. Guys, unfortunately, can’t get away with shorts on a normal school day, but girls can get away with capris or sometimes even long walking shorts. On non-class days (i.e. school breaks, class match, sports days, etc.), many teachers will wear sportswear to school. In this case, long athletic shorts are sometimes acceptable.
If you need to shop for summer clothes while in Japan, Uniqlo sells “Airism” clothing for both men and women, which are designed specifically for the summer heat. They also sell UV-blocking lightweight sweaters and cardigans to protect you from the sun. Most of these items cannot be worn on their own (too thin), but they are light enough that even if you layer them you won’t die. 😉 Uniqlo’s prices are also very reasonable, they carry larger sizes than most Japanese stores, and can be found in most of the bigger towns and at Aeon malls throughout the prefecture.
Other summer tips:
- If you sweat a lot, we recommend that you wear dark clothing so it is less noticeable. (People will comment. You will be annoyed. Save yourself some grief.)
- Wear lightweight cotton or other moisture-wicking socks, and keep an extra pair on you (they’ll come in especially handy for those who wear sandals a lot). You can also buy a large variety of socks at Daiso (100円 shops). Save yourself the luggage space and get them here.