Are you a towering titan stuck in a land of smaller stature? Being tall in Japan can be a hilarious adventure full of unexpected challenges and perks. From ducking through doorways to accidentally becoming the center of attention, towering over the average height in Japan can be a comedy of errors. But fear not, fellow giants, as we explore the ups and downs of being vertically blessed in Japan, we’ll also uncover some insider tips and tricks to make your tall life in Japan a little easier and lot more entertaining. So, sit back, stretch those long legs, and let’s dive into the world of being tall in Japan!
The average Japanese male is about 170cm, so anything above 5’9 and you’ll be considered tall as a man here. The average female is about 160cm, so if you’re above 5’4 and you’ll be an Amazonian. Being 191cm man myself, I can’t begin to tell you how many conversations start with a shocked, “Se ga takai desu ne! (You’re so tall!)” It’s mostly a laugh and a decent in for conversation. But, I’ll be honest, sometimes it can be really annoying.
I was at a clinic once and there was nowhere to sit, so I stood next to where I had to go in for a blood test. An old man walked over from the other side of the room and stood next to me, without saying a word, just to compare height. I’m forever baffled in a society so based on politeness that something like that isn’t weird. To be honest, I found it pretty funny and played along, but it certainly wouldn’t happen in England. So, being tall you’re instantly a walking attraction, regardless of whether you want to be or not. Embrace it, I say! Use it as a power and an excuse to carry on conversations people start with that bloody line that I’ve heard so many times.
I will say though, living in a short country has its challenges. You won’t be able to easily buy clothes or shoes, transport will likely be an issue at times, and the fact every doorway won’t be catered for your height means you’ll likely get a few injuries along the way. Seriously, once I walked into a shop’s awning accidentally and I still have the scar. Let’s have a quick look at ways around some of these difficulties.
Buying Clothes and Shoes
Let’s start with clothes. I find personally that I can fit into most brands’ tops. I’ve found decent fitting stuff in shops like Uniqlo, H&M, Zara, and more. But my long legs prevent me from ever being able to buy decent trousers here. Most of the time, if I try and buy trousers here, they end up as ¾ lengths and I look particularly nerdy. I think your best bet is to get online and see what deals you can get. Amazon sporadically stocks decent-length trousers, and sometimes I like to get in on a group ASOS order to share the cost of international shipping. Overall, my biggest advice is that if you ever visit home, buy more trousers than you think you’ll need, and then get good at sewing to fix your stuff if it ever breaks.
As for shoes, you’ll be lucky to find anything above a 29cm shoe in Japan. As a 31cm man, I have stopped even looking in Japanese stores for shoes. It’s just not worth the hassle anymore. The best solution I have found is to befriend someone who has access to one of the many American bases in Japan. Regular civilians can’t just walk onto a base, but they can be signed in by any member of the military. It’s absolute heaven for a tall person when you’re in. Although the shops might not stock the latest fashions, you’ll be guaranteed to find the Western sizes you need.
I went to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa after being in Japan for 3 years and it was such a day of joy. I spent about an astronomical amount of money that day on shoes. And you know what? I’d do it again! The high of finally being able to try on shoes and have them fit off the shelf was too exciting of an experience to not go on a manic shopping spree.
I’ll be honest, transport can be an issue being above 6ft tall here. Forget being able to sit down on most seats on the bus. Book a flight on a low-cost carrier? Be ready for a rough flight. Essentially, whilst travelling in Japan, you’ll have to accept that literally nothing is made for your size here. But there are some tips I have to help you:
- Try and get put in the emergency exit seats on planes, which is often done without incurring an extra cost.
- Use overnight buses, which often only have 3 seats in a row, so plenty of room to stretch out.
- Pay that little bit extra to get a white plate car (普通) rather than a yellow plate (軽) if you rent one. Normally it’s a tiny financial difference for an enormous amount more comfort.
- Use trains! Trains tend to have a pretty decent amount of legroom, especially compared to buses. If you get there early to choose the best seats, I don’t foresee you having any issues.
Beds can be a bit tough here as a giant. A lot of places are only fitted with a single bed, which simply won’t do for most of us. I find my feet dangle off the end of them, which is a recipe for an uncomfortable night. The solution is to go with a floor mattress. Your feet will surely hang off the end, but you’ve got the support of the floor if you need to sprawl out. I recommend getting a firm floor mattress from Nitori or a similar shop. They’ll set you back about 20,000 yen for a good double mattress. Buying mine was really a game-changer and I’ve never looked back.
I understand the importance of this particular point, as it has significantly enhanced my overall well-being. I highly recommend investing in a stick-on showerhead holder, as it can greatly improve your showering experience in Japan. When I first relocated here, I encountered the comical situation of having a showerhead holder set at chest height in my apartment. It resulted in a shower routine that resembled a dance, struggling to expose my upper body to a mere trickle of water. However, my discovery of a stick-on showerhead holder on Amazon proved to be a game-changer. This simple yet ingenious device allowed me to easily adjust the height, providing a newfound level of comfort. While it may not be an obvious consideration when moving to Japan, trust me when I say that investing in a stick-on showerhead holder is truly worth it for an improved daily routine.
Living in Japan as a tall person presents a unique blend of amusing and challenging experiences. However, with some foresight, you can navigate this beautiful country with comfort and ease, leaving behind only a few humorous anecdotes and the occasional bump on the head. Embrace the journey, adapt smartly, and savor the remarkable experiences Japan has to offer, irrespective of your height.