One of my missions while in Japan was to find (and purchase) a pair of high heeled strappy black shoes. I wanted something fancy to wear to my SIL's wedding that would match my bridesmaid's dress. I never found the right shoes, but the experience of shopping for shoes in Japan is worth telling.
I had no idea what I was in for.
First of all, I was warned that gaijin feet are way too big to fit into shoes sold in Japan, so perhaps shopping seriously would be a lost cause. I wasn't concerned with size issues because I have tiny hands and feet for my size.
Most of the shoes sold in Japan are labeled S, M, L and LL. There's no messing around with half sizes.
Naturally, I saw plenty of women walking around in shoes that didn't fit.
In some cases, they really didn't fit - as in toes hanging way out of the shoes or an inch of slip at the heel.
As it turns out, my feet are a perfect size L. This may have been the only occasion I would ever require a size large.
I was really determined to find the right shoe.
After looking in several different stores of varying price point, I learned that I was really looking for the wrong shoe. See, there is an absolutely bewildering variety of heeled shoes available in Japan.
Here are some representative examples of shoes you can easily find in Japan > > >
As I found out, if you only want a plain black strappy heel you must have a serious lack of imagination.
Women don't do basic black in Japan, and, they don't do pantsuits either. So what you end up with is a fantastic place to shop for beautiful skirts and shoes. What you see here in terms of shoes is equally matched in skirts. Had I had a suitcase full of money to spend in Japan, I would have loved to trade it for a suitcase full of skirts and shoes.
Aside from fatigue, the other things you have to watch out for while shopping for shoes in Japan are price and quality. It is actually quite difficult to find a shoe priced at less than $100 that doesn't look gaudy or cheap, and believe me these photos mask the cheap materials used in most of the shoes. If you want quality shoes, you can find them in Japan, but it will cost you a pretty penny which is to say about 25,000 of them. I won't buy shoes that cost more than $100. In fact, the most I'd pay for shoes is probably closer to $75 and if I'm only going to wear the shoes once as I would have with the elusive black strappy heels, I'd prefer to pay about $25-30 at the most. It is possible to find shoes at that price in Japan, but they are invariably made not from leather but rather that terrible vinyl plastic that looks dreadful.
If you want to spend the big bucks to get the great shoes, you've got to bring cash. Visa, MC, Discover, AmEx - they are no good in Japan. Hardly any retailer accepts non-Japanese credit cards. When I say I could trade a suitcase full of money for shoes and skirts in Japan, I mean it literally!