Japan is fascinating. It is a country of many contrasts, where the strict formal work culture adjoins the cute and frilly kawaii lifestyle. The contradictions are attractive, as well as Japanese peculiarities and its rapid economic growth. You can see it in many spheres, and of course, fashion is no exception.
In the last 30 years, Japan has become a pop culture superpower. Almost every childhood craze is coming from the Land of the Rising Sun, starting with Tamagotchi and Pokemon. The country became rich by selling cars and TVs, but it became loved by the whole world by selling fantasies. Nintendo games and Hello Kitty opened the way to a deep appreciation of Japanese lifestyle. We watch sophisticated Murakami anime, dress in kawaii, cook mochi at home and try out the “life-changing magic” of Marie Kondo.
Kawaii Lifestyle Is More Than Fashion
These days, Japan is as known for offbeat trends as it is for anime. Its street-fashion craze is wild, unique and ever-evolving. The epicenter and the dream of weeaboos is Harajuku District in Tokyo. Gwen Stefani introduced Harajuku to Western audiences in 2004, but for Japan, Harajuku was a place to showcase one’s style for decades. It’s not only a place to dress bright and cute; it’s also one of the world’s fashion centers, compared to Paris’s Champs-Elysees.
Harajuku is the heart of kawaii culture. Its colorful stores have your favorite anime characters and people around dress up like Gothic Lolitas. Though kawaii is about cuteness, the evolution of the style spawned unprecedented combinations featuring punk hair and combat boots. However, it remains playful, colorful, and young.
Kawaii has become one of the most popular Asian fashion trends, but it is much more than just an aesthetic choice. It is a way for people to escape the stress and extreme pressure from work and school. Most Japanese have to wear a uniform all day long, but in the evenings and weekends, they indulge themselves in crazy cuteness.
Carven SS 2015 collection. Source: Vogue
However, fashionistas like Japan not only for kawaii. Edo pictures, stories about samurais and geishas, and Japanese writing are all sources for designers’ inspiration. The trend emerged a decade ago when tourists wanted to buy T-shirts that reflect an aspect of Japanese culture. Messages were playful, funny and often quirky. When French brand Carven presented its pret-a-porte SS 2015 collection, the trend became global. The fashion house used prints in Edo-style and writing in katakana. Since then, luxury designers and mass market brands alike look at Japanese art for a muse.
Let’s see the hoodies with Japanese prints and designs that we believe can grab your attention.
One of the most popular trends in Japanese hoodies is writing and symbols. This one, for example, means “warrior” (at least, this is what the seller says). The hoodie is thick for colder days and has front hand warmer pockets.
Mass market is broadly adopting the trend of Japanese clothing. This fleece knit hoodie has contrast drawstrings and a character that translates to “East” on sleeves. The apparel is made with cotton and polyester, slightly cropped and has an oversized silhouette. It is subtle enough to show your love to Japanese culture without shouting it out.
For many people, kawaii is the first association with Japan. Originally, the word kawaii was derived from a phrase that means blushing, but now it’s mostly translated as “cute.” This hoodie is definitely one of the cutest and the cosiest on the list.
The design of this hoodie is derived from one of the most recognizable Japanese art works, The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Hokusai. Ukiyo (or ukiyo-e) is a genre of art that flourished from the 17th to the 19th century. The term can be translated as “pictures of the floating world.” This is a unisex hoodie available in black and white.
The hoodie for true anime fans who are tired of reading subtitles and want to understand what their favorite characters are talking without translation. It has a Japanese flag on the front and words “Learning Japanese so I can watch anime without subtitles” in English, Japanese and Kanji (one of the writing systems in Japan).
For many of us, Sakura is the symbol of the spring. Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossom, the flower-symbol of spring, renewal, and feeling of nature. But the life of the blossom is very short, and we need to say goodbye - therefore sayonara. This hoodie is neither too warm nor too cold, perfect for spring weather or cold summer evenings.
This is a classic zip hoodie with a kangaroo pocket with no design on the front but a purple sunset on the back. The words in Kanji mean “sad post,” which is an internet meme connected with Vaporwave. The theme of such artworks is often a sarcasm about the darker side of life. A sad and somber message is put in a beautiful and colorful background. Vaporwave was originally a music style, mutated into art and design, which features neon colors, 80s aesthetic and outdated computer graphics. So, with this hoodie, you’d feel a part of a very niche subculture.
A luxury hoodie inspired by the same Hokusai Wave as number four in this list. This art is perhaps the most famous ukiyo-e woodblock painting ever. The painting is spread across the front, sleeve and part of the back, blending with the grey material. The red zipper makes the design look unusual.
If you’re more into cosplay and want to feel like a real samurai, this set could be your choice. It is designed true to the aesthetics of the armor and helmets worn by samurai. Each hoodie comes as a set together with a mask and a tatemono crest.
10. Harajuku Hoodie
Harajuku is a district in Tokyo, the heart of Japanese street fashion. This hoodie fits the spirit. It features striking red flowers and a painting of geisha. It is a loose-fitting, pull-over-the-head hoodie that is perfect for chillier spring or summer evenings once the sun has gone down.
Katakana is a Japanese syllabary, a component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana and kanji. Its characters are derived from components or fragments of more complex kanji. This hoodie features something like Snellen eye chart with katakana symbols.
Japanese language has many words that are hard to translate directly into other languages. For example, Aiwokomete means “with love” but is more complicated. You can see how it is divided into syllables, what each of them mean and how they come together. The design was created by YouTuber, actress, and racer Emelia Hartford. Ten percent of the profit goes to charities.
13. NANI?! Hoodie
Nani means “What?”. You can often hear this word in anime and see in manga books. It is the usual response to something confusing or offensive. This hoodie is simple and comfortable and will be loved by fans of Japanese culture, anime series, and movies.
14. Totoro Hoodie
A hoodie for fans of the famous Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. Totoro is a friendly wood spirit from a 1988 animation that tells the story of two young girls in postwar rural Japan. This hoodie is warm and cosy, with embroidered Totoro face and ears.
A sweatshirt for those who love Japanese culture but want to avoid awkward conversations whilst abroad. The design has Sakura flowers, a silhouetted skyline of Tokyo, and a sentence “I do not speak Japanese”. And if you do speak the language, it would be a nice friendly prank.
Sushi is probably the most well-known Japanese food. This nice blue hoodie declares that you love everything umami, spicy and sweet, or just want to be kawaii.
If you're into Japanese visual novels and also like cats, kittens, and kemonomimi, you can declare it with this hoodie. The design features a vintage retro-style cat with the word "KAWAII" in Japanese. Perfect apparel for otaku and weeaboos in a good sense.
Kaomoji is an emoticon style made up of Japanese characters and grammar punctuation. They are used to express emotion in texting and virtual communication. This one, in particular, means excitement. A happy waving kaomoji helps you stay positive and make other people smile.
Maneki Neko is a common Japanese talisman for good luck. It is a figurine made of ceramic and plastic that depicts a cat beckoning with an upright paw. You can see them at the entrance of shops, restaurants and other businesses. But maybe it will also work printed on a hoodie and bring good luck to you.
This list would not be complete without something about ninja. Although originally ninjas were covert agents or mercenaries in feudal Japan, now they have a romantic image of warriors skilled in espionage and surprise attacks. They are always mysterious and therefore appealing. This hoodie has a Japanese word ninja written vertically in Kanji characters.
Things to Pay Attention to When Choosing a Japanese Hoodie
First of all, money matters. You can choose a thing on Amazon for 30 dollars, but if you’d like something more interesting and fashionable, Japanese designers have unique prints that cost up to $100 or more.
Second, Asian sizes are often smaller than European and American, so pay attention to sizing charts and reviews as well as to delivery terms.
Third, make sure your hoodie does not contain anything offensive. Sometimes, the message can have intentional puns and you’d better know what they mean, especially if you plan to wear them in Japan.
The variety of Japanise hoodies is vast and colorful. Everyone can get something to fit their taste and budget. Choose whatever you like about the country — writing, art, street style, food or traditions — and show your love with clothing.