From capsule hotels to internet cafes with small personal cubicles, Japan is often thought to be oriented towards small spaces. This may intimidate you if you are big, or tall, or both.
Here we will look at the reality of visiting Japan as a tall or curvy-figured person. You will see that while there are some small obstacles when it comes to shopping, your experience in the country will be very enjoyable, and there is no need to worry about your size.
- Table of Contents
- 1. Restaurants can be of a squeeze
- 2. Trains are fine, but buses could have you wishing for some extra space
- 3. Public baths will be easily accessible but bring your own yukata
- 4. Ryokan are spacious and beautiful, but check if they have western-style beds
- 5. Concerts, Stadiums, Sport Events: as big as your passion for them
- 6. Shopping for Plus-Size Clothing in Japan: Some knowledge needed, but not as tough as you may think
- 8. Discrimination against big people in Japan: not really a thing
- 9. A lot of things to see means a lot of walking - prepare well, especially in the summer months
1. Restaurants can be of a squeeze
As a quite big and tall person, even among plus-sized people, I was often worried I would not fit in Japan, or I would struggle, but I was wrong. As a bigger person, you will have the same issues, or lack thereof you have in your country of origin.
One notable exception may be restaurants. While the vastest majority of restaurants in Japan can comfortably accommodate people regardless of size, some traditional, or more typical hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurants may prove to be difficult to maneuver in, if you are bigger than average size.
Some restaurants only offer floor seating, while izakaya (Japanese soul-food restaurants) usually use small stools or chairs. This is not to say that you won’t find traditional Japanese restaurants that can accommodate you if you need more space. On the contrary, those that may prove challenging to visit are quite the exception.
2. Trains are fine, but buses could have you wishing for some extra space
When it comes to public transportation, size will not matter, unless you are on a particular subway line or train with uncharacteristically small seats. My worst-case scenario has always been being on a train seat with no adjustable armrest, next to someone I don’t know.
Even in those cases my issue was more about my own worry of being a nuisance to my neighbor. Looking at it objectively, I can recognize that even in that case I was bothering no one. However, I may have been a little uncomfortable.
By and large, though, you will be able to sit comfortably in trains.
Buses may be a little less accessible because they tend to have slightly smaller seats, but the seats in the back, and on the sides, by the driver, are usually larger and have no armrests. Unless I see empty seats in the back, I tend to stand when riding the bus, as the front-side seats are usually for the elderly, differently-abled, and pregnant women, and I have a hard time fitting in the smaller ones with no adjustable armrest.
3. Public baths will be easily accessible but bring your own yukata
If you want to visit a public bath, you will have no issues at all, aside maybe if you want to visit one of those spas that offer multiple services, and want to wear the yukata they offer.
While you will have no issues using the baths, spas, saunas, and everything else, the facility may not have a yukata to fit your size. This small inconvenience, though, will probably not be too much of a burden, as you can wear your own clothing, too.
4. Ryokan are spacious and beautiful, but check if they have western-style beds
Similarly, if you decide to visit a ryokan (traditional Japanese-style hotel), you may have some trouble finding a yukata in your size. Still, on the bright side, you will likely be more comfortable than you would in a conventional hotel, space-wise.
These hotels tend to be spacious, and use large areas to create a more relaxing, and beautiful environment for their guest.
One thing to take into consideration, though, is that many ryokan do not employ western-style beds, but Japanese-style futons on a tatami floor (ask ahead of time if they also have regular beds, as they might).
5. Concerts, Stadiums, Sport Events: as big as your passion for them
In case you feel like going to attend a sports event, or a concert in a stadium, or in some other venue, and you are worried you may not fit in the seats, do not worry. It’s not impossible to have issues when it comes to being comfortable in this kind of place, but the comfort or discomfort will not be any different from that you may experience in your country of origin.
When going to the stadium in Japan, you can expect a similar situation to that you experience in America, or Europe: large crowds, close neighboring seats, but large enough chairs.
6. Shopping for Plus-Size Clothing in Japan: Some knowledge needed, but not as tough as you may think
This is one of the dreaded aspects of visiting Japan as a bigger person. Where do I buy clothes, if I want to go shopping? Places like the famous Shibuya 109 often offer 1-size clothing, which, of course, for someone even slightly bigger than average won’t be feasible.
The good news is that this trend is declining in Japan, making room for a new rising one of “all sizes” seeing stores from small to big chains gradually adapting to catering to larger sizes as well - especially in areas popular with tourists.
While we can see things changing in stores in general, finding clothes that fit in famous stores like Uniqlo can still be very challenging. Most big names will have sizes up to L, and occasionally XL (LL), but only rarely 2XL/3XL (LLL/4L) (and keep in mind that the Japanese ones are usually smaller than the ones you may be used to).
That being said, albeit at a smaller percentage than some other countries, also Japan has big people, and there are options to choose from when it comes to clothing, especially in Tokyo, where you can find many of them (although some of these names are easy to find in other prefectures and cities as well.
・Grand-Back Big and Tall
・Isetan Men’s Shinjuku
29-4, Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0042
Shibuya Station （JR Shonan Shinjuku Line / JR Yamanote Line / JR Saikyo Line / Tokyo Metro Ginza Line / Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line / Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line / Tokyu Toyoko Line / Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line / Keio Inokashira Line）
5 minutes on foot
- Phone Number 0800-888-1641
- Address 29-4, Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0042
Surely, while thinking about big and tall, and Japan, you may have thought Sumo. Tokyo is home to many sumo wrestlers. If they can find clothes, so can you.
A great area to visit for everyone and to shop especially for big and tall people is around Ryogoku, on Tokyo’s eastern side, also known as Sumo Town. Here you will not only find great restaurants with traditional food, but also many stores where you will find casual clothes, shoes, suits, shirts, underwear, belts, suspenders, socks, yukata, jinbe (and other Japanese-style clothing), and more.
Depending on where you are from, when you are visiting Japan, you will likely notice that their letter-based sizes (S, M, L, XL) do not correspond to their counterparts in the U.S. or Europe.
Japanese retail stores, with some exceptions, cater mostly to small and average-size customers, and shopping for yourself or your XL friends can be confusing, or lead you to buy the wrong sizes.
As a rule of thumb, whether you are European or American, you can think of Japanese sizes as a letter-size smaller than the ones you’re used to (Japanese XL→L, Japanese L→M, etc). In some cases, the difference may be even bigger.
To have an idea of what to expect when shopping in Japan, use the chart above to see how sizes compare.
Buying shoes in Japan
When it comes to shoes, Japan measures size based on length in centimeters. Buying shoes in Japan may end up being the only actual problem you may have, if you are looking for sizes that exceed those in the charts above.
While it’s possible to find shoes of bigger sizes in selected stores, the choices are usually limited. If you are looking for something specific, you will likely be able to order it online or at a store, but it will cost significantly more than its smaller-size counterpart (usually twice as much).
8. Discrimination against big people in Japan: not really a thing
It’s no secret that, sometimes, it’s hard to be big, and on occasion you may even have faced discrimination, or curious looks, or immediate changes of attitude when sitting next to someone on the train, or the plane.
Japanese people are renowned for being very polite and respectful, and that tends to be true. Equally as true is that they do not consider pointing out obvious physical traits as rude behavior, especially when it comes to weight (be that for heavy people, or fit, or skinny).
It may feel, occasionally, that someone is staring at you, or you may even hear (albeit rarely) someone saying, or whispering “big!” (that usually happens with tall and big people who look also strong).
With that said, though, discrimination based on weight, or poor treatment socially, professionally, or as a customer in Japan, is unheard of. Shop staff will look to accommodate you the best they can with more comfortable seating for example, and it’s very unlikely you will ever feel like people are looking down on you because of your size, or weight.
In a more jovial, drunken environment you may meet Japanese people who will openly comment on your size, or even touch your belly (if you’re a man), and while that can be quite annoying, it’s fairly rare, and usually done with a spirit of wonder, or as a joke poor in taste, but that may not be perceived as such.
Being overweight, big, tall (or the opposite) in Japan, will not get you treated any differently than anybody else.
9. A lot of things to see means a lot of walking - prepare well, especially in the summer months
Here is something that not many articles will talk about because it can be considered a touchy subject. As a visitor in Japan you will walk a lot, and especially in summer, that means a lot of discomfort. Let me tell you, this is not because you are bigger than average. You will sweat just the same if you were at the peak of your physical fitness, simply because summer in Japan can be extremely hot.
Also, there is so much to see, in usually such a brief time that you will want to and need to walk a lot. As a big person, there are some additional things to consider, to make your stay more enjoyable.
You may be a little self-conscious to show your body in public. If that’s the case, wearing summer clothes can sometimes be daunting. If that’s the case, of course, the important thing is to understand that you have nothing to be ashamed of, but while you work on that confidence, make sure you pack some clothes to protect you from hot weather, especially articles that will wick away sweat.
Also, because you will walk a lot, make sure you pack light underwear that will help you protect your inner thighs when you walk a lot, and some anti-chafing cream, and/or baby powder.
Extra stuff to pack to better enjoy your Japan visit in summer include:
・Cool clothing/clothing that wicks away sweat
・Comfortable shoes/open shoes
・Backpack (for an on-the-go change of shirt, water, sunscreen, extra towels – everyone carries a towel around in Japan in summer)
Being particularly big and tall, or either, can sometimes be the cause of worries and even make you want to rethink your vacation abroad. When it comes to visiting Japan, though, despite the widespread idea that a lot of stores, rooms, clothes in Japan are small, you will find that you will still have an incredible time in the country!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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