I Just Got Back From Japan, and These Are the 16 Popular Tokyo Street Styles I Spotted — Starting at $5

The versatile looks will go with everything in your closet.

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Travel + Leisure / Daisy Rodriguez

As a travel content creator, I’ve had the privilege of visiting many beautiful countries over the past few years. One that’s always been high on my bucket list is Japan, and I was finally able to visit the amazing country this past March. During my week-long journey through Tokyo and Kyoto, I became quite inspired by the culture, food, and most markedly the styles I observed in the two cities. 

Before I traveled there, I knew that Japanese fashion at its core was known for balancing classic minimalism and contemporary street style. But the moment I got on the JR line from Haneda airport, I began to notice just how effortlessly cool people in Tokyo dressed. It’s no wonder, since Japan’s vibrant fashion designers, including the likes of Onitsuka Tiger, Issey Miyake, and Comme des Garçons, inspire with their blending of basic monochrome and yet experimental pieces.

I couldn’t help but think the looks I saw on my trip would make for the perfect capsule wardrobe (you know, a minimalist wardrobe parsed down to a few select, basic pieces you can wear with anything, usually neutral and of high quality, so they last a long time). As a traveler, I’ve found that this kind of wardrobe is essential, because having pieces you can mix and match means you pack fewer items of clothing — and I’ve always found it more strategic to travel with a carry-on only

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to be inspired by Japanese style to build your very own capsule wardrobe, too. From your classic cool girl sneakers to the perfect oversized blazer and crossbody, I’ve rounded up my favorite versatile, classic looks inspired by my observations traveling throughout Japan — starting at just $5. Whether you’re strolling through the vintage shops in Harajuku, admiring cherry blossoms in Kyoto, or getting lost in the Shibuya crossing shuffle, here are 16 essential items you need to build the perfect capsule wardrobe for Japan, or wherever your travels may take you.

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Travel + Leisure / Riana Singh

Poplin Oversized Shirt

The Signature Poplin Oversized Shirt


I observed the trend time and again in Japan: an oversized shirt paired with a blazer, trench coat, or even simply by itself depending on weather conditions. And of course, a lightweight oversized button-up shirt is arguably one of the most versatile base pieces you can have in your capsule wardrobe. Whether you add layers to this piece or wear it with a pair of shorts, you’ll find that this item will add a level of comfort yet sophistication to your look. I love that this Madewell poplin shirt is crisp and strong, yet also delicate, which really embodies the fluidity that is present in Japanese style. When going for a more relaxed timeless vibe, I love adding a pop of color in my bag or sneakers to tie everything together.

To buy: madewell.com, $68 (originally $85)

Cole Haan Hooded Trench Coat



Can you really build a capsule wardrobe without having a trench coat? I’d argue that the answer is no. I was absolutely blown away to see that what felt like every third person in Tokyo was wearing a trench coat, and the styles and colors really did run the gamut. While I am biased to a classic khaki trench coat, I did notice a wide variety of colors in Japan. Having visited in March, I loved that I could wear my trench coat from day to night, but it’s so genius because it’s great for any season. A classic nude, or even black, trench coat is perfect to dress up or dress down any look depending on weather (major key that it’s waterproof!) and what’s on your itinerary. This classic, versatile Cole Haan style is a particularly good choice, since it’s now 57 percent off at Nordstrom.

To buy: nordstrom.com, from $135 (originally $375)

New Balance 2002R Sneaker

NEW BALANCE 2002R Sneaker


Does anyone else remember the scene from Crazy, Stupid, Love when Ryan Gosling’s character threw Steve Carell’s character’s New Balance sneakers away and then proceeded to take him shopping? Well, clearly Steve Carell’s character was actually ahead of the time, because everyone was rocking dad sneakers in Japan. I personally love the 2002R, and they are super walkable shoes, which make for a perfect addition when traveling abroad. The impact-resistant cushioning will keep your feet supported all day as you're on the go in Japan, making them the perfect accompaniment for your capsule wardrobe. 

To buy: newbalance.com and nordstrom.com, from $140

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Travel + Leisure / Riana Singh

Uniqlo Round Mini Shoulder Bag

Round Mini Shoulder Bag


If you have this bag, then you totally get the hype. As someone who has this bag in three colors, I can’t emphasize enough how perfect this shoulder bag is for traveling. I found it was very common in Japan to see a variety of shoulder bags/fanny packs, and this one is especially popular given how prevalent Uniqlo is throughout Japan — it is its birthplace, after all! The bag has convenient inner pockets with plenty of storage, and its water-repellent finish will ensure that all of your items inside stay safe during those one-off rainstorms. Given the affordability of this product, I highly recommend getting creative with a few colors that you can mix and match to your outfits while traveling.

To buy: uniqlo.com, $20

Boyfriend Blazer

Nordstrom Boyfriend Blazer


Can we all agree that a solid oversized blazer has to be the M.V.P. of a capsule wardrobe? Whether you’re wearing it in the office, or strolling through Shibuya City, this boxy yet structured blazer is perfect for dressing up any casual jeans and sneakers outfit combo. Once you get a blazer you love, you’ll be sure to have this piece included weekly in your outfit rotation! Plus, it nails that slightly businessy look that is so prevalent in Tokyo street style.

To buy: nordstrom.com, from $78 (originally $129)

Linen Workwear Dress

The Linen Workwear Dress


When I think of my favorite iconic Japanese looks, I instantly think of linen oversized dresses. Add a cute pair of sneakers or kitten heels, and you can basically wear a version of this look all spring and summer, making this shirtdress a perfect capsule wardrobe staple. I’d opt for a shirtdress with no prints to ensure that your linen investment pieces stand the test of time, and can carry you through season after season.

To buy: everlane.com, $98

Satin Bomber Jacket

& OTHER STORIES Ruched Satin Bomber Jacket


If you want to build a chic and versatile capsule wardrobe, with hints of inspiration from Japanese street style, a classic bomber jacket will enable you to embody that edgy Tokyo Drift vibe. I love how lightweight this &Other Stories version is, so it won’t feel overwhelmingly bulky when you’re packing it in your suitcase. The combo of a classic khaki green with the satin finish makes for a perfect pop of color and texture for a more sporty streetwear look. For an even more affordable yet still classic look, this best-selling Amazon version achieves a similar style for just $36. (If you’re partial to prints, get inspired by the cherry blossoms while maintaining a neutral palette that’ll go with everything in your closet.)

To buy: nordstrom.com, $149; amazon.com, $36

Onitsuka Tiger Shoes 

Onitsuka Tiger New York


Onitsuka Tiger is a Japanese fashion brand that started in 1949, and since then has become known to blend Japanese heritage with a modern feel. My favorite silhouette has to be Mexico 66 (but good luck finding this hot style in stock!) followed closely by the style New York, which is a more contemporary lifestyle running shoe. This shoe is perfect for adding a touch of Japanese style to any look. I loved observing locals rocking a wide variety of colorways, but I find the classic black and white to be the perfect addition to your shoe rotation. 

To buy: zappos.com, $75 (originally $85)

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Travel + Leisure / Riana Singh

Black Rectangular Sunglasses

Dollger Rectangle Sunglasses


I’ve tried to adopt the ethos of balancing simplicity with practicality, which is a common theme I picked up from Japanese style. One piece in a capsule wardrobe in particular that I believe should follow this same spirit is a really solid pair of sunglasses. One that balances a unique vibe, with good UV protection. I love Ganni, the Danish contemporary ready-to-wear fashion brand, but you can get this solid lookalike for a more affordable price at Amazon. Overall, I love the boldness of this shape, and given its strong rectangular base, these sunglasses are the only pair you’ll need.

To buy: amazon.com, $12 (originally $20)

Uniqlo Ribbed Knit Socks

Colorful 50 Socks


It wasn’t until I was sitting on the Tokyo metro and I snapped a picture of a guy wearing really cool New Balance shoes with ribbed socks that I realized how important it is to have a great pair of socks to elevate any shoefie (a shoe selfie). I found this pair from Uniqlo and I have now purchased them in so many colors because they truly are the perfect pair of socks. The fit is comfortable without being too tight, ensuring that they don’t slip, while also providing a nice length for cropped pants where you don’t want your leg visible during colder months. I’d recommend bulk buying in a few different colors to coordinate with any outfit.

To buy: uniqlo.com, $5

Comme des Garçons Striped Long Sleeve T-Shirt

COMME DES GARÇONS PLAY Stripe Long Sleeve T-Shirt


A basic T-shirt is the foundational building block of every travel wardrobe, and this coveted street-ready style is from Japanese brand Comme des Garçons. The black and white stripes ensure you can layer this your other capsule wardrobe classics, and the red heart gives a hint of personality. Plus, I’d argue that stripes are a neutral — they can be paired with almost anything. If you like the brand, you’ll definitely want to check out their Comme des Garçons Converse, too.

To buy: nordstrom.com, $166

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Travel + Leisure / Riana Singh

JW PEI Mini Flap Crossbody

JW PEI Women's Mini Flap Crossbody


I purchased my first JW PEI bag last summer and I was pleasantly surprised at how great the quality is, especially for the price point. While the goal of building a capsule wardrobe is to ensure you’re buying less products that last a really long time, my experience with JW PEI is that it’s totally worth the price point and the bag serves as a durable piece to add to your rotation. I love a classic vegan leather black crossbody, and the fact that you can wear this during the day and night is perfect when traveling and ensuring that one product gets as much use as possible.

To buy: amazon.com, $68 (originally $80)

Madewell Polo Sweater Tank

Owen Polo Sweater Tank


I loved spotting locals in Japan wearing both fitted and oversized vests with their looks for a touch of a preppy vibe in an otherwise more minimal, masculine look. To achieve that look, make sure your capsule wardrobe has a solid, multifunctional layer like the Everlane Cashmere Vest that can be worn on top of a cute boxy T-shirt, and also by itself. A classic vest like this is a perfect quality piece because it adds a touch of sophistication that can make the most basic outfit look put together. Other shoppers have caught on though and it’s quickly selling out, so I’d recommend shopping a similar style that can be worn alone or over shirts like this Madewell Polo Sweater Tank that’s good in any season. 

To buy: madewell.com, $68

Everlane Cinch Back Utility Jean

The Cinch Back Utility Jean


When traveling to Japan, I convinced myself that there was a need for only one pair of jeans, and this style from Everlane was that perfect pair. These jeans have a relaxed fit and are mid-rise, which is perfect for my gals who want something to sit right in the middle waist. I also love the darker color, because it can be dressed up for nighttime occasions with a black blazer and chic blouse. I noticed a common theme in Japan is to embrace darker colors and baggier silhouettes, and I’m a huge fan of the quality, cut, and color of these Everlane jeans.

To buy: everlane.com, $118

Cotton Box-Cut Tee

The Organic Cotton Box-Cut Tee


You can’t go wrong with investing in a classic box-cut tee. I love that this silhouette sits right around the hip, making it perfect for both tucking in and wearing solo. The classic crewneck and pocket detail of this 100 percent organic cotton tee from Everlane is a great lightweight basic to include as a wardrobe staple. I personally love how Japanese style can really dress up something as simple as a white tee, and by throwing on top any of the jackets or layers mentioned above, you can take this basic staple into a stylish and effortless Japanese-inspired look. 

To buy: everlane.com, $30

Sam Edelman Slingback Pump

Sam Edelman Bianka Sling


During my morning commute to get coffee, I noticed many women (of all ages) on their way to work rocking a variety of kitten heels. When you’re bopping around a city as busy as Tokyo, you have to ensure that your heels will keep you on the go all day. I am obsessed with a cute, but functional, slingback pump, and this heel comes in at just under 2.5 inches, making for a perfect accessory. When packing light and sticking with a capsule wardrobe, you want to ensure that you get as much use as possible from your items, and I love that these Sam Edelman Bianka Slingback Pumps can be dressed down or dressed up depending on your vibe. 

To buy: samedelman.com and zappos.com, $140

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Travel + Leisure / Riana Singh

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