One of the biggest cultural differences between Japan and America that I can spot from a mile away would be the campus culture. While there are many different elements to campus culture, the one that I would like to point out today is the fashion differences between the college students in America and Japan. Yes, the type of clothing that people wear will be different depending on which part of the country you are from (if you are in America), but I am still going to make an overall assumption of what American college campus fashion is compared to the Japanese trends.



First, let’s take a look at how many of the American college students dress to school. While there are plenty of people who dress nicely, the majority of students (from my own personal experience) opt to go for comfort. They often wear sweatpants, and at times even their pajamas. Many students wear sports pants, jeans, leggings and a tshirt. When the weather gets cold, they will pull on their college hoodie or a North Face jacket. Make up is an option that can go either way. The hair styles usually consist of pony tails or leaving the hair down. Guys often wear hats. Sneakers, boots or sandals are the preferred choice for footwear. Most students carry around a backpack to hold their laptops and at times, you see students using the school stringed backpacks that hold practically nothing.



Let’s now take a look at what Japanese college students usually wear to campus. The average girl will most likely wear tights, a skirt or shorts, and layers of frilly shirts and cardigans. Often times wearing high heels and carrying handbags that may contain a folder with some worksheets or handouts. They will also have their face full of makeup and their hair done perfectly. You will see guys wearing khaki pants or skinny black pants wearing button downs with nice jackets and boots. They will also usually opt to carry shoulder bags with their hair completely styled.



To roughly summarize the differences, American students generally go for the comfortable look while the Japanese students choose fashion.


Now, why is this?


The reasons as to why so many American students do not try to dress up and wear heels to class is due to the major work load that is assigned to students. Classes require attendance and papers to be written on a weekly basis. When you are spending nearly all your spare time on campus, and seeing the familiar faces, you begin to care less about the need to look fashionable, and choose to be comfortable for the long hours of work ahead of you.



Also, in America, because most of the high schools do not require a uniform, many Americans have had the opportunity to express themselves during that time. Now that they are in college, fashion is not the priority, grades, comfort and school pride have taken over.

Plus, when you either live on campus or so close to campus, and you wake up late, no one has time to put on makeup or slip into their high heels to run across campus to make it to class on time. Also, at least at the school I attended, every Friday was school spirit day and if the campus crew saw you wearing the school colors they usually gave you some kind of school gear (tshirts, koozies, sunglasses, frisbees, mini basketballs, etc). This encouraged students to show off their school pride, and let’s face it, the school clothing is pretty damn comfortable.




In Japan, however, many students are forced into uniforms until they graduate high school. And because once you get into the workforce, many people have to wear uniforms or suits, the 4 years in college are the only years for students to express themselves.



Also, students do not have as heavy workload in Japan as students in America might, so time spent on campus is much less and comfort isn’t exactly an issue when you will be going home before 5pm. Also, whether this is still relevant, college is a great place to meet a potential life partner to, perhaps, settle down with after graduation. Unlike America, Japanese students also tend to live either at home or on their own away from campus. This thus requires students to travel long distances through the city to get to school, and who wants to walk through Tokyo in their sweats and messy bun?



And then finally, the biggest difference of all…in general, people in Japan care more about their fashion and how they are perceived on the outside. And perhaps this is why, many people tend to wear similar outfits and often times look as if they coordinated to be twins that day. While, yes, they do look good dressed nicely, there is a lack of individuality when everyone tries so hard to fit a certain trend.



So when we look at all these differences, it is pretty clear as to why Japanese students put in more effort with their outer appearance than the American students. While there are many other different elements as to why there is such a large difference in the college cultures, these are the major points that I see right off the bat.


What do you think about these differences?
Do you agree?
Do you disagree?
Let me know!


*These are all based off of my personal experiences in both an American university and a Japanese university*