Swimwear Shopping in Tokyo
A Savvy Guide
Shopping for a new swimsuit is probably one of the most universally dreaded activities for women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Add to that a country where most brands seem to only sell swimwear in one size (or two, if you're lucky) and where the styles are bafflingly both extremely padded and offer zero support, and we have our work cut out for us in Japan. But don't give up hope just yet—if you know where to look, there are actually some pretty cute and practical options to be found right here in Tokyo.
From about April through November, I spend a good amount of my time in or around the water doing various activities and sports. Because of this, I need to have a decent-sized collection of swimwear, and I need to know I won’t encounter any embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions when I move. I used to do most of my shopping abroad, but not having traveled internationally in a while, I was recently forced to stock up in Tokyo. After lots of research, trial and error, these are the places that I found to offer the best variety, fit and quality:
American Eagle’s lingerie and swimwear brand got tons of positive press and even a large boost in sales after it started its #aeriereal campaign and announced that it would no longer Photoshop its models. It was a smart, media-savvy move that has paid off, but it wouldn’t be enough if the brand didn’t also offer some great products. Bikini tops and bottoms are sold separately, with many underwire styles made in bra sizes ranging from A to D cups, which are perfect for ladies who are looking for a little extra support. There are also tops inspired by sports bras with strappy backs, which promise to stay put even on the waves or in downward dog. Prices range from about ¥3,000 to ¥5,000 per piece, but sales are frequent. Aerie can be found at American Eagle stores or online.
After much shopping around this spring, I was surprised to realize that all of my favorite new swimsuits had come from Forever 21, a store where I rarely buy actual clothes. But the fast-fashion mecca’s prices can’t be beat (around ¥1,500 per piece for bikinis, and between ¥2,000 and ¥3,000 for a one-piece suit), and the quality is unexpectedly good. But what really stands out about Forever 21’s swimwear offering is just how extensive it is, ranging from trendy high-waisted bottoms and lace-up or cut-out styles to simple basics and neoprene sports suits. The sizing seems to be consistent as well: I ordered four different bikini sets in vastly different styles, and didn’t end up wanting to return any of them. Find the right suit for you at a Forever 21 store or online (note that only swim tops bought online can be returned; bottoms are yours to keep).
This Italian legwear and beachwear brand is relatively new to Tokyo, but it’s one you’ll probably want to watch. There’s no online shopping available in Japan at this time and the Shinjuku and Omotesando stores don’t carry the brand’s entire vast range, but there are likely enough options that you’ll be able to find something to suit you. Many styles are designed specifically for buxom babes, and there is also a fitness-inspired surf collection that is perfect for when you want to do more than just lounge on the beach. The beautiful, brightly colored beach cover-ups are another bonus that will help you get to and from the water in style. Prices start at about ¥2,500 for a simple bikini bottom to ¥11,000 for an elaborately printed one-piece.
In recent years, the lines between athletic swimwear and fashion swimwear have become increasingly blurred, with many of the big surf brands now creating options for women that are high on both style and performance. One of my personal favorites is Patagonia, which offers a range of styles—many of which are reversible—in bright colors and fun prints. Prices range from about ¥5,000 to ¥13,000 per piece, but this is quality that lasts. Find them at some Patagonia stores or online. Another reliable women’s surf brand is Roxy, which carries a wide variety of swimwear (priced from about ¥6,000 to ¥14,000) in addition to rashguards and wetsuits. Also worth checking out are Ripcurl and Billabong.
My final recommendation may not be one that is immediately obvious, but it’s still not one to overlook. This London-based brand doesn’t have a particularly large swimwear collection, but the quality and fit of the styles it does offer are top notch. Slimming one pieces and high-waisted bikini bottoms complemented by long-line underwire tops are perfect for when we’re feeling a bit conservative but still want to look great. Even the string bikinis offer the perfect amount of coverage and stay in place so you’re not constantly tugging at them, and the prints are nothing short of gorgeous. There’s no online shopping in Japan at the moment, but you can find a small selection of swimwear at Ted Baker’s Tokyo stores.
What are your favorite stores for swimwear in Tokyo? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!