I brought a lot of clothing from America to Japan. But I very quickly realized that the clothes I carried across the ocean wouldn't suit me for a full year.
Most people living in Japan don't have dryers, and the washing machines certainly aren't as effective as the ones back in the States - many of them only use cold water. While my clothes are clean enough, drying is certainly an issue. My simple standard-weight t-shirts from Old Navy, etc take nearly a full day to dry. Staples such as pants, dress shirts, and cottom boxers take quite some time too. Jeans can be even worse! Right now is the rainy season, so I can't leave my clothes out all day. I did laundry this morning, and I need those clothes dry in about an hour.
My other problem is with the clothes I brought over. I didn't bring a summer work wardrobe. Just wearing a standard cotton t-shirt under a dress shirt was stifling! And most of my dress shirts are heavyweight - great for the cooler months but certainly no fun once the weather turns warm.
So this past month I've been trying to build a collection of clothing to be my summer wardrobe.
Those of you who know me in person know I'm not exactly fit. I've lost a good bit of weight since I arrived but I still have work to be done. Plus, at 5'9"-5'10", I'm a little taller than most Japanese men. I knew finding clothes would be difficult, so for those of you who might have to go through the same, here's my story.
In US sizes, I'm somewhere between a large and an XL - more like a large now. Japanese sizes are smaller than US sizes, though, and XL in America translates to 3L here. Luckily, I found a great store in the Koshigaya Laketown mall called Shirts Code. They carry dress shirts in sizes up to 3L that look pretty nice. They come in a range of prices - I picked up six nice bargain cool-biz shirts for 8000 yen. This way I won't have to worry about laundry too often!
As for underwear, Don Quijote (the Japanese version of K-Mart) carries a broad selection. I found packs of four cool-biz undershirts for about 700 yen each, plus some comfortable summer boxer-briefs. (Note: I would stay away from the long-john looking things. Unless you like wearing long-johns in the summer.) The undershirts are up to size 2L (but I usually wear a size smaller on undershirts so they fit better). The bottoms I bought were about 500 yen each but they're designed for athletics, so I can wear them on my active days at work or on the weekends when I'm running about. Don Quijote isn't too great a place for shirts and pants for larger people, though their sizes could run large.
UNIQLO is an inexpensive clothing chain, but they don't really carry larger sizes in most stores. You might have better luck in Tokyo. The Gap can be found around Japan, and their sizes are larger - I would probably fit in a Gap size XL shirt. But those clothes are expensive!
For those living in Saitama or willing to make the trip, the Daiei in Shin-Koshigaya/Minami-Koshigaya carries plus-size guys clothing.
100-yen shops like Daiso will carry cheap undershirts, socks, ties, belts, even dress shirts. The undershirts are good in a pinch, though the one I bought as a "tester" is unraveling at an armpit seam after only the second wash. I've had better luck with a pair of socks and several ties I've picked up.
I still need to buy a pair of dress pants (thanks to weight loss, I can only wear two pairs of dress pants that I brought), some casual shorts and a couple casual shirts. I'll let you know how that goes... I'm planning on visiting a couple Tokyo-area flea markets this weekend and next and I'll be keeping my eye out for casual clothing. Though I may be buying all the rest of my clothes from Daiei!