What do Japanese high school uniforms look like?

What Do Japanese High School Uniforms Look Like?

You have probably seen pictures of Japanese high school students or anime characters wearing a school uniform. But what do they actually look like? And what kinds of uniforms are there? I went to a Japanese high school myself and will gladly give you the answer in this post about “what do Japanese high school uniforms look like?”.

In this post you’re going to learn:

  • what types of uniforms exist in Japan
  • what Japanese high school uniforms look like
  • whether all high school in Japan have uniforms

I will also show you many pictures and tell you what my experience wearing a Japanese high school uniform was like.

Table of Contents

Do All High Schools in Japan Have Uniforms?

Japanese high school students wearing uniforms
Photo by Stephanie Hau on Unsplash

Actually, not every high school in Japan requires students to wear a uniform. But most do.

The main reasons why Japanese high schools have uniforms is that wearing one gives students a sense of community and discipline. In Japan, this is important as they tend to be a bit more collectivistic rather than boosting individualism.

However, those two aspects are becoming less and less relevant in today’s world. Due to Western influence, Japan is starting to move away from a collectivist society and closer to one that emphasises individuality. Nowadays the school uniforms fulfil another purpose: looks.

From my experience, students actually care a lot about what their uniforms look like. Many even choose the school they go to based on how cute the school’s uniform looks like. For instance, when my high school introduced a new better-looking sweater, almost every girl in my class bought it. As a matter of fact, my high school also offered besides the standard blue tie, ties and cute bow-knot-ties. Almost everyone I knew had at least one different coloured tie.

For these reasons, Japanese high schools now put a lot of effort into designing good looking uniforms. Having a good-looking uniform not only attracts more students, but it also acts as an extra stream of income.

In addition to making one look good, school uniforms in Japan also act as a status symbol. If you’re in the train wearing a school uniform with one of the city’s top school’s logo on it, people around you will notice that.


Related: What is Japanese High School Like?


What Kinds of Uniforms Are There in Japan?

Regardless which uniform a school has, boys and girls get their own uniform. Besides the normal school uniform there’s also an extra PE-class uniform.

In most cases, both the normal and the PE uniform have a Winter and Summer version, as I’ll show you later.

The three main types of uniforms in Japan:

  • セーラー服 – sailor fuku
  • 学ラン – gakuran
  • ベレーザ blazer-style

I will now explain those further.

Sailor-Fuku

セーラー服 – Sailor Fuku is probably the uniform type that you know from anime or pictures on the internet. It’s obviously inspired from Western sailor clothes as anyone can tell.

Sailor Fuku is typically worn by females, but there are probably some high schools were boys also have to wear sailor style school uniforms.

Gakuran

学ラン – Gakuran is almost exclusively worn by boys. The design is simple and the uniform is generally either blue or black. This is a prime example for what Japanese high school uniforms were meant to be: they make everyone look the same, they are blank and boring and thus don’t distract during classes.

But because nowadays looks are becoming more important than discipline, blank gakuran uniforms aren’t as common any more as they once were.

Japanese school uniform gakuran

Blazer-Style School Uniforms

Most common nowadays are blazer-style school uniforms. They look (compared with the others) rather modern. Still, many schools have girls wear skirts, even in winter. And boys must always wear long trousers. But yeah, at least it doesn’t look like as boring as the gakuran uniform.

What Do Japanese High School Uniforms Look Like?

You probably came here to look at some pictures of Japanese high school uniforms. So, here you go:

The cool thing about my school’s PE uniform was that my name was stitched onto everything.

What Is Wearing a Japanese High School Uniform Like?

what is japanese high school like

I often hear stories about Japanese high schools being enormously strict. But at my school that wasn’t really the case. Or was it?

Okay, to be honest my school was pretty strict. But probably not as strict as some other high schools in Japan. For instance, one girl in my class was sent home once because her socks didn’t match the white trainers in PE-class. Another time, my PE-teacher almost didn’t let me participate in PE-class because I had borrowed the sports uniform from a friend which had my friend’s name instead of mine stitched onto it. This obviously prevents one from participating in PE-class, so my teacher was definitely right in that aspect /s. And yes, apparently students male students cannot have long hair and they have a list with acceptable colour types (dying hair is prohibited even if it’s just a bit).

So, all in all the Japanese high school I went to was quite strict.

But hey, it could be worse…

Oh wait, there is something worse…

Let me introduce you to Japanese high school shoes.

What I Hated About My Japanese High School Uniform

Japanese high school uniform shoes

Here’s my review of Japanese high school uniform shoes:

“Hard” probably is the best word to describe them. Because the material is hard, they are hard to walk with, they caused hard skin at my ankles after I had worn them for two months and lastly, they are hard to look at.

If you were fantasising about going to a Japanese high school wearing a cute uniform, I’m sorry but the shoes destroy everything.

School Uniform Accessories

Besides the main uniform there is also the PE-uniform, a hand-made leather bag and a gym bag. Instead of describing them, I’ll rather show you some pictures.

Why Wearing a Japanese High School Uniform Is Cool

Just to be clear, I would never want to wear a uniform back home in Switzerland. But as an exchange student in Japan, wearing a uniform has one huge benefit.

Everyone realises you’re not just a tourist. In Japan, foreigners are quite rare outside of major cities. (Read: My experience being a foreigner in Japan) And so you often get stared at in the sense of “Oh look a foreign tourist!”. But when you’re wearing a school uniform you take this to a whole other level. Because now, you’re not just a tourist, no you, as a foreigner, are going to school in Japan! Chances are that when you hop onto a local train, people have never seen a foreign-looking person wearing a uniform.

The positive aspect of this is that you often get talked to by random people. I have probably exchanged Instagram details with at least five people I randomly met while riding my bike back home from school. At the gym, where I wore my PE uniform, I got talked at by literally every person over the course of something like three months.

This is also true for the students at your school. Had I just come in normal clothes, students would have probably thought I was some other English teacher. But because I was wearing the same uniform as them, they knew I was also just a student. Again, this led to many people randomly coming up to me to talk, take pictures or just shyly wave at me from a distance.

Thanks for Reading

Thanks for sticking around so long! I’m planning to write more about my high school exchange year experience in Japan. So, if you don’t want to miss any new post, subscribe to my newsletter!

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