Japan is definitely not designed for someone of my size. I am over six feet tall (nearly 2 meters) with pretty broad shoulders. I am not particularly fat—although I’ve put on a lot of weight since my diagnosis of depression, a side-effect of antidepressants, and being inside a lot due to the pandemic—but I am most definitely too large for Japanese spaces.

Of course buying clothes has been a challenge for most of my life. Most ‘big & tall’ shops cater to people who are tall and big, leaving those of us who are relatively slim in proportion to our height being swamped in huge clothing if we want to get the sleeves or trousers long enough. And that for me has always been the problem: I have long arms, broad shoulders, a long body, but I don’t have enough muscle or fat to fill out shirts or sweaters. Even t-shirts if I buy them in Japan tend to be too short in the body.

When I moved to Japan in 2003, I got my first post-student job so didn’t have a great deal of money to spend on new clothes. Certainly no savings to speak of. Most of the clothes I had I bought in the UK and the fit wasn’t great, but better than I could find here in Japan. I was used to having shirts with sleeves that weren’t quite long enough or which had a ton of material in the body that I had to stuff into the back of my trousers. I didn’t consider taking those shirts to a tailor to get altered (I’d never really had the money to do that in the UK so it didn’t occur to me).

Eventually I had enough money to fork out some on decent fashionable clothes I could use for work (I’ll write another post on me and ‘fashion’ in future), but there was only one shop that I could find for my size: Isetan Super Men’s on the 7th floor of Isetan Men’s in Shinjuku. I used it so often that the staff there recognized me and knew how to help. Back then Paul Smith did tall sizes and they stocked them (they’ve since stopped doing these sizes annoyingly), along with Calvin Klein which also tended to be slim as well as long enough. So I was sorted for trousers and sweaters. Shirts for work, however, continued to be a problem. And then I decided to try just once getting shirts tailor made (also at Isetan’s, though I later tried different cheaper tailors and more recently Mitsukoshi). This was a revelation. For the first time in my life I had shirts that fit me properly. They’d put darts in the back so that the chest and waist were the proper size, the sleeves long enough, the collar not too loose or too tight. It was expensive, but if you’re going to be wearing for work every day then definitely worth it. The same goes for suits. Pay to get one made if you can afford it—see it as an investment if you’ll be wearing more than a few times a year.

There are Big & Tall shops in Tokyo, but as I say, they tend to cater for the larger (read: wider) among us:

Sakazen: https://www.sakazen.co.jp/shops (I found their trousers started at size 38” waist which is just too large for me)
Grand Back Big & Tall: https://online.taka-q.jp/shop/brand/grandback (similar issue)
Aoki Men’s (has some bigger sizes): https://www.aoki-style.com/shop/storeTop

But so much has changed since 2003. Now online shopping is much more reliable. Although I am not working at the moment I would still recommend getting shirts and suits made, but for other things there are online options:

J Crew is our friend!: https://www.jcrew.com/jp/r/shopall/men/size-tall
Amazon has some tall sizes
Land’s End: https://www.landsend.com/shop/mens-big-and-tall-clothing/S-xez-y5b-yoz-xec
LL Bean: https://www.llbean.com/

Shoes were a problem for me even when I lived in the UK, and I’ve actually found I can get much more variety in Tokyo than I could back there simply because of one store: Big B shoes: https://www.big-b.jp. Seriously worth the trip to Gotanda station to browse their shoes and sneakers. Once you know your size you can also buy online. There’s also Hikari shoes in Kanda/Okachimachi (used to be in Shinjuku)

I asked on twitter for other suggestions. This is the link to that conversation.

Feel free to leave any other suggestions in the comments to help out the tall or larger among us!

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