It’s time to suit up.
Japan is famous world-over for its wild, over-the-top fashion sense.
Even if you don’t necessarily want to buy clothes, traveling screws with your plans – you may need to buy a new shirt or some socks in a pinch.
Don’t forget to learn some key shopping phrases before you head to Japan.
Take it from me – I learned all this the hard way.
I thought I was totally prepared when I hit the streets of Tokyo, but all of my polite conversational phrases, basic Japanese verbs and food ordering prowess only got me so far when I found myself in an emergency shopping situation.
The Ultimate Japanese Vocabulary List for Shopping for Clothes
When visiting Japan for a wedding the single most important piece of clothing, for a male, is his suit.
So, you can imagine the absolutely sickening feeling I got in my stomach when I arrived at my hotel in Osaka, opened my suitcase and discovered that the clothes wrapped in the dry cleaner’s packaging was not in fact my suit. It was my girlfriend’s work suit.
We had mixed up our dry-cleaning, and I was out of luck.
No matter how many times I checked my suitcase it didn’t change the fact that there was no suit inside it.
I would need to brave the shops of Japan in search of clothes, a task which is easier said than done. Trousers which fit my waist tend to be short in length, and jackets which fit my shoulders are massive around the waist!
All this meant that I needed to be able to clearly explain what I needed to shop assistants. Through the process of shopping for my suit, I learned a lot of valuable lessons that I’d like to pass on. Here, I’ve organized my lessons learned into 8 major points.
1. The Importance of Being Able to Communicate when Shopping
Being able to shop for clothes is something which is not always covered in-depth in Japanese classes, which is odd considering that it is a pretty essential activity for everyone.
It would be odd if we never ever bought clothes, and even odder if you managed to buy clothes without ever saying anything to anyone – even in your home country. This kind of activity is right up there with normal daily tasks such as going to the supermarket, using public transport and ordering food at a restaurant.
So if you are going to be in a foreign country, it makes sense to know proper shopping vocabulary and phrases.
If you can’t clearly say what you want, you aren’t likely to get what you want!
It isn’t always a simple case of just being able to say “I want to buy a T-shirt.” Think back to when you have been in a shop. You will probably remember that you had to ask about sizes, colors, using the changing room, refund policies, payment options and more.
In addition to the words contained in this post, you can find even more vocabulary words and prepare for your shopping experience on FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
If you’re looking for a method to familiarize yourself with Japanese as well as deepen your knowledge of the culture, FluentU is the best way to go!
2. Preparation for Clothes Shopping
Before planning a shopping trip, it is best that we get our student hats on and cover the basics!
So, let’s have a look at some important vocabulary and grammar.
To go shopping – 買い物します/ かいものします
To buy – 買います/ かいます
To sell – 売ります/ うります
To have – あります
To look for – 探します/ さがします
To match – 合います/ あいます
Department – 売り場 or 売場 / うりば
Female clothing section – 婦人服売り場 (or 売場)/ ふじんふくうりば
Male clothing section – 紳士服売り場(or 売場)/ しんしふくうりば
Children’s clothing section – 子供服売り場 (or 売場)/ こどもふくうりば
Money – お金/ おかね
Cash – 現金/ げんきん
Credit card – クレジットカード/くれじっとかーど
Big, tall, large – 大きい/ おおきい
Small – 小さい/ ちいさい
Bag – 鞄/ かばん
Hat – 帽子/ ぼうし
Shoes – 靴/ くつ
Dress – ワンピース/ わんぴーす
Blouse – ブラウス/ ぶらうす
Suit – スーツ/ すーつ
Shirt – シャツ/ しゃつ
Pants – ズボン/ ずぼん
T-shirt – ティーシャツ/ てぃーしゃつ
Jeans – ジーンズ/ じーんず
Jacket – ジャケット/ じゃけっと
Black – 黒い/ くろい
White – 白い/ しろい
Blue – 青い/ あおい
Red – 赤い/ あかい
3. What to Expect at the Shop
Entering any shop or place of business in Japan is quite similar. You will quickly get used to hearing “Welcome!” or いっらしゃいませ!
Greetings from the Shop Assistant
Besides the above the shop assistant will additionally ask “Are you looking for anything in particular?” or 何をお探しですか？(なにをおさがしですか？), and you can specify what you are looking for, such as “hats” or “帽子です/ ぼうしです).
Alternatively you can say “no, I am just looking” by using the phrase いえ、見ているだけです/ いえ、みているだけです) .
Asking For a Particular Clothes Section
If you feel a bit lost, i.e. you are in the men’s section when you want women’s clothing, then you can ask “where is the women’s section?” by using your new vocabulary and forming the sentence 女性の物はどちらですか？/ 女性の物はどこですか？(じょうせいのものはどちらですか？/ じょせいのものはどこですか？). Stick in whatever vocabulary you need. For men’s clothing, you just need to say 男性 (だんせい ) instead of 女性 and for children’s clothing you use 子供 (こども).
If you are in a department store, then you can use the same sentence structure to ask where the female or male clothing section is: “where is the female clothing section?” – 婦人服売り場はどちらですか？/ 婦人服売り場はどこですか？(ふじんふくうりばは どちらですか？/ ふじんふくうりばはどこですか？).
Understanding Clothes Sizes in Japan
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this except to try clothes on and to try different brands. Japan’s clothing stores can be confusing places for foreigners. In Uniqlo (ユニクロ) I have found that M size fits me even better than M size in Uniqlo in other countries. Try a few different places and hopefully you can get an idea of which brand and which size fits you best.
4. Asking Questions
Asking For a Particular Size/Color
Once you know the size you are looking for it is relatively simple to ask for it. For example:
“Do you have this in medium?” – この服のMサイズはありますか？/ このふくの えむさいずは ありますか？
“Do you have this in red?” – この色違いで、赤はありますか？/ このいろちがいで、あかはありますか？
Finding your way to the Changing Rooms
Even if you are sure that you now know your clothes size in Japan, it is still best to try new clothes on and check. Don’t be shy, step right up and ask:
“May I try it (them) on?” – 試着してもいいですか？/ しちゃくしてもいいですか？
“Where are the changing rooms?” – 試着室はどこですか？/ しちゃくしつはどこですか？
Alternatively, if you just need the mirror you can ask:
“Where is a mirror?” – 鏡はどこですか？/ かがみはどこですか？
While in the changing room, or looking in the mirror, the sales assistant might call out and ask you:
“How is it?” – いかがですか？
“How is the size?” – サイズの方はいかがですか？/さいずのほうはいかがですか？
Getting a Different Size
If you need a different size you can use the sentence we already know about asking for particular sizes. To this, the assistant will reply “wait a moment and I will bring it for you” – ただいま、お持ち致します。(ただいま、おもちいたします。).
Asking About the Material
If you particularly want to know about the material you can ask:
“What material is this made from?” – この素材は何ですか？/ このそざいは なんですか？
Asking About the Washing Instructions
If you are worried about how to wash your new planned purchase you can say:
“Can this be machine washed?” – これは洗濯できますか？/ これはせんたくできますか？
5. Getting Advice
Does This Top Match These Pants?
If you are feeling particularly brave you can try asking the sales assistant further to get their thoughts, for example:
“Do you think this top matches these pants?” – このトップはこのズボンに合いますか？/ このとっぷは このずぼんに あいますか？
“What do you recommend?” – お勧めはどれですか？/ おすすめはどれですか？
It’s Out of Stock
Sometimes our particular size or the color we want isn’t available, and the assistant will say:
“I’m really sorry, but it’s currently out of stock” – 申し訳ございません。ただいま売り切れております。/ もうしわけございません。ただいまうりきれております。
“This is out of stock in our shop, but it is still in stock at a nearby shop” – こちらの店舗では売りきれておりますが、別の近くの店舗にはございます。/ こちらのてんぽでは うりきれておりますが、べつのちかくの てんぽには ございます。
When you take your clothes to the cashier she will scan them and give you the total amount:
“That will be 10,000 yen please” – 一万円になります。/ いちまんえんになります。
In reply to this you can say:
“Thank you, it is okay to pay by card?” – ありがとうございます。カードで払っていいですか？/ありがとうございます。かーどで はらって いいですか？
Or alternatively you can say this:
“Thank you, it is okay to pay by cash?” – ありがとうございます。現金で払っていいですか？/ ありがとうございます。げんきんで はらって いいですか？
8. Coming Back for a Refund
If it turned out that you got the wrong size after all then when you return your item you just need to say the following:
“I am sorry, but this size wasn’t right” – 申し訳ありませんが、サイズが合いませんでした。/ もうしわけありませんが、さいずが あいませんでした。
“I would like an exchange.” – 交換をお願いします。/ こうかんをおねがいします。
“I would like a refund.” – 返金をお願いします。/ へんきんをおねがいします。
The sales assistant will simply reply:
“Okay, I understand.” – かしこまりました。
Once you have been shopping a few times, and have used the guide above, you will quickly become a master at clothes shopping and will have developed your Japanese in a key area which is essential for daily life in Japan!