*CAUTION-I’m going to speak pretty straightforwardly regarding different races in Japan*
Japanese people dress pretty conservatively. Japan is a homogenous country; so many non-Asian looking people will be seen as foreigners.
Being a Non-Asian Foreigner in Japan
PROS: You can get away with what you wear, poor manners, and (non-violent) actions. ALSO YOU GET AWAY WITH TATTOOS most of the time! Japanese people know that most foreigners with a tattoo are not part of the yakuza or mafia, but the idea of exposed tattoos is still unaccepted/taboo. However, I have seen many foreigners get away with it. Once, my Chinese friend was told to cover up his back tattoo at the beach, but my Caucasian friends with visible tattoos next to us were not called out. However, I have seen onsens where people were denied to use the public bath because of tattoos. So I guess it depends on your situation. So be wary and wear clothes that covers tattoos or bring concealing tape/makeup.
CONS: You will stick out like a sore thumb and draw attention to yourself in many areas. Unless, you know how to speak some Japanese, people might get frustrated at you for taking forever to order or avoid helping you if you’re looking for help with directions or something. MOST Japanese won’t be rude to you upfront and show politeness, but you can tell that they want to move on with their day since the lifestyle there is very fast paced and time-limited.
Being an Asian (like myself) in Japan
If you possibly look like you’re Japanese, you will definitely feel the pressure or greater judgement if you are doing something ill-mannered or wrong. Makes sense since a Japanese person would ‘know better.’ I have been judged for wearing spaghetti strapped dresses, double dipping food (on accident), and being ‘loud.’
You will be treated as Japanese.
Pros: more Japanese people will have conversations with you which is great if you are studying and learning Japanese. More people will be patient with you if you need help.
Cons: You will be held to a higher standard and judged. Also if you are the only Asian in a mixed race group, you will automatically be looked at first in restaurants to talk/order. Tattoos are much more taboo for you than others.
So it is up to you to decide if you want to blend in or not!
What I Did
At first, I dressed more conservatively, trying to blend in (shoulders covered, no low cleavage shirts, and no miniskirts/shorts). I don’t like standing out so I was useful. But over time, I stopped caring. I know, it’s rude and sometimes I do feel bad for making this choice. However, I was unhappy and often extremely uncomfortable in the bulky clothes I wore to keep up with Japanese female standards. So I began to wear my spaghetti strapped dresses and shorts I wanted and stopped caring about being judged. I also realized that there are those in Japan that also dressed in styles that went against social standards. So I figured, I’ll just be like one of them and embrace who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go around shoving my views in people’s faces, I still spoke in Japanese respectfully. From then on, to be honest, I actually felt less pressure to ‘fit in.’
So it’s up to you how you want to physically portray yourself, but a good rule of thumb anywhere, be nice and respectful to the people and culture (don’t be a Logan Paul).
Dealing with Tattoos
On the street and most restaurants, you don’t have to worry about hiding your tattoos (with Asians often exempted from this unfortunately).
Most public areas that deal with water (bath houses, onsen, beaches) will deny service or ask you to cover up if you have tattoos.
- Easiest way is to cover up tattoos is with long sleeves, gloves, pants, etc.
- You can also apply makeup to cover up
- There is also tattoo concealing tape you can buy online (not sure if they work well).