Business dress for women in Japan?

Old Nov 12th, 2002, 11:58 AM
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Business dress for women in Japan?

Hi All! Does anyone have experience doing business in Japan? I will be visiting Japan (Shin-Yokahama specifically) for business at the end of the month. I am a 33-yr old woman. I will be travelling with 2 male colleagues (1 older, 1 younger). We are visiting a new partner to train them on our product, so we will not be in a sales situation.

Anyway, everything I've found so far about dress for women talks about dresses and long skirts. My question is: Can I wear pantsuits during the day while working? I don't want to offend anyone, but I can't stand wearing skirts and dresses, esp. in the winter!
And in the evening when we go to business dinners, do I have to change into a dress, or is my suit, or nice pants with a sweater set, OK? Also, are there certain colors that offend? Is it OK to wear a bit of red?

Thanks in advance!
Old Nov 12th, 2002, 12:44 PM
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Yes, I have some experience doing business in Tokyo.
Typical wear for a woman is some sort of suit, skirt, blouse and jacket. That is the standard uniform. One worthy of respect. The Japanese typically are much more dressed up than we are in the States.
Now on the other hand, you are a foreigner and able to get away with wearing pantsuits etc. It would just barely be acceptable because the Japanese understand foreigners have their own way of dressing.
I have been here almost three years now, and I have noticed this past year more of the young people, girls, wearing pants. When I first came, pants were hardly ever worn by the girls.
You will find not much winter in Shin Yokohama this time of the year. November is usually like a late Fall in the Eastern parts of the USA. It will be warmer than you think.
I am not sure what your business is but I can tell you that even the Western women here do wear skirts and dresses to their work places.
For myself, when I am teaching, I wear my "school" clothes.
Sundays are a more free day, and that is when you will see the blue jeans come out even on adults.
You should consider dressing up a bit more in the evening when going out to dinner. I am not sure where you will be taken, but dinner dressing would be like going to church on Sunday in the States. You probably could get away wearing pants but they'd have to have a dressy look to them.
Colorwise, I have not found my Japanese friends offended by any color I wear and I love red. I often wear sweater sets with skirts. I have long skirts and shorter skirts too. Longer ones for the evening.
It sort of depends on you, as far as dress goes. You will not offend anyone but they may silently think you have bad manners because you did not show respect for the business. Business holds very strict protocol in Japan. You would like them to open the gate to you, not silently close it. Good luck, have fun and do see Kamkura, where you wear pants and hike around! Myszka
Old Nov 14th, 2002, 05:45 PM
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Hi- I live in Tokyo and Japanese people here don't go home and change between work and dinner. They dress to look appropriate and put-together no matter what may arise. Thus, business men and women going out to dinner after work are still in their suits. Bring a scarf or different jewelry if you want to spiff up a little bit, but it's not necessary. Your pantsuit will be fine. Suit colors are ususally dark (navy, black, brown), but add color in your shirt or scarf, if you like. In business with men, I personally wouldn't wear a colorful suit. As a foreign women in business with men you'll stick out enough as it is. You'll feel more comfortable if you can fit in as much as possible. Think of what it was like in the late 1970's in the US when women really entered the "male dominated" work force. It's like that here now. Best to go conservative. You even see men/women in regular work suits at evening shows, performances, opera, ballet. A suit is a safe bet for any event where you want to look nice. White Pearl strands are reserved for funerals. Khakis or jeans on the weekend are fine.
Old Jul 17th, 2006, 08:20 PM
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This post is nearly four years old, does the info still hold true? I will be going with my husband on business and I may be invited to dinner etc, and I don't want to be disrespectful. I may also be travelling with our 19 year old case he is asked to go out to dinner would khaki slacks and a dress shirt be nice enough? The boy doesn't own a sports coat!
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Old Jul 17th, 2006, 08:32 PM
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The young man should have a sports coat.
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Old Jul 18th, 2006, 02:57 AM
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In most cases, khaki pants and a nice shirt and perhaps a tie would be just fine for a young man who is accompanying his parents on a trip. Most young people that age are university students and do not own a suit jacket, even a casual one. The suit gets purchased during the fourth year of university for job interviews. It is highly unlikely that you would be taken to a place that requires formal dress. If you want to be sure about the appropriate dress for a restaurant they are taking you to, it is perfectly OK to ask your hosts about it.
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Old Jul 18th, 2006, 05:37 AM
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I'm a female frequent business traveller to Japan, so quite familiar with the protocols.

The first question is, what season will you be travelling? If you're going in summer months (up to mid-Sept), be prepared for hot and humid weather. Japanese offices thesedays have "ecologically-correct" recommended temperature of 28c, which is too hot for my taste. I managed
with short-sleeved tops (blouses, cool cotton knits) under the jacket. Unfortunately, you do need to wear tights (pantyhose for those of y'all American ladies) even in the middle of summer. Bring an extra, as the ones sold locally (at every convenience stores) have either awful colours or too short/tight. Slight open-toe shoes are ok, but no sandals.

Pantsuits are perfectly acceptable for business occasions. I'd play conservative and wear a skirt/jacket suit ONLY IF you're meeting board-member level executive of major corporations/banks (eg Mitsubishi) or government ministers.

I won't wear short-ish (ie above-knee) skirts, because many companies' reception-meeting rooms have very uncomfortable low sofas, and my skirts tend to "hike up" when you sit down. (Another reason for opting for trousers). Didn't notice anything on colour.

KK is correct--no need to bother dressing up for the evenings. A nice scarf or dressy accessories should do.

Also, you may want to ask discreetly if your hosts are expecting your family to join for the dinner. (I had a few occasions where I was invited whereas my hubby was left on his own at the hotel...) Your son should be ok with a dressy-ish shirt and a khaki, and a tie.

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Old Jul 18th, 2006, 11:29 AM
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This would be a good time for him to get a sports coat. I believe that it will enhance his experience.
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Old Jul 18th, 2006, 08:01 PM
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Thanks for the replies! We will be there in October. I have been to Japan once ten years ago in August and I thought the humidity would kill me! I am looking forward to more temperate conditions. I was lucky to accompany my husband on a business trip to Matsuyama. It was a much more casual type situation. My husband's customer invited me to come along on the trip and his wife and sister-in-law who lived in the US for about ten years took me all over the city while my husband worked! It was the best trip I have ever been on and I have been longing to go back. This trip my husband will be meeting with the president of the Japanese company whose product our company distributes in the US. I prefer wearing pants so I am glad to hear that is acceptable. My son is thrilled to have a chance to visit so I won't have a problem convincing him his standard scruffy jeans are out! I am having a blast searching here for Japan and making my doubt I will be back with more questions for all of you!
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