It’s no news that I’m a HUGE fan of Japan and its culture, so when I first visited this amazing country last April of this year, I wanted to bring home a unique souvenir. For sure I can just buy myself the typical kimono, some sweets, packs of weird anime collectibles, or maybe even a huge samurai sword — however, I really wanted something that was ‘fresh’ and out of the norm. (Sukajan Jacket)
It proved to be a bit of a difficult task though… until one day, I saw a striking photo online of a friend and she was wearing a stylish bomber jacket that had bold but intricate oriental designs. At that instant, I was unable to take my eyes away, and I started to have the strong urge to get my hands on one!
I immediately messaged her and asked what it was, where I could get it, etc… and that’s when she introduced me to the wonderful world of Japanese souvenir jackets called sukajan.
» What is a sukajan jacket?
A “sukajan” is a ‘souvenir jacket’ from Japan and it is usually made of silk or satin that combines the typical bomber jacket / Letterman jacket / varsity jacket style with bold yet classic embroidered Japanese motifs such as tigers, eagles, koi fishes, sakura (cherry blossom), and more.
If you’ve watched the 2011 film titled ‘Drive‘, you would probably recognize this kind of jacket being worn by Ryan Gosling.
Lately, there are a also growing number of celebrities (Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, etc), clothing brands, and fashion icons who have started to promote, sell and wear sukajan jackets — and it’s no surprise as to why!
TRIVIA: There are a lot of theories as to where the term ‘sukajan’ came from; some say that it is an amalgamation of the phrase ‘Sky Dragon Jumper’ in Japanese, or that it is a shorter term for the Japanese words: ‘Yokosuka Jumper’ / ‘Yokosuka Kanagawa’ (which is supposedly the place where this kind of jacket was first made).
The sukajan is said to be ‘born’ around post-World War II in Japan when American soldiers started to ask for Japanese designs to be hand-stitched on the back of their jackets as a way of remembering their time in the country — hence the reason why a sukajan is called a ‘souvenir jacket’.
Most of the designs showed eagles (as a way to represent the USA) mixed with Japanese elements such as dragons, tigers, cherry blossoms, trees, traditional maps, geisha, etc. At times, however, the art would look more Chinese than Japanese and that’s because, during those times, the Americans wanted more “Asian” designs on their jackets; therefore, the Japanese tailors would occasionally refer to Chinese silk pillows for inspiration.
By the 1960s, the Japanese’s obsession with the American style rose (called “Ametora” in Japanese) wherein a lot of people started to wear American clothing like jeans and button-downs. But there are those who wanted to rebel against that kind of trend, so some Japanese people started to wear a sukajan jacket as a statement piece of that defiance.
Over time, the sukajan jacket evolved into a symbol for those in the yakuza, those involved in gangs, or those who are simply delinquents. Nowadays though, the jacket has predominantly become a fashionable yet edgy piece, treated as a medium for self-expression and/or storytelling.
» My Sukajan Jacket
Since my first visit to Japan was during sakura season, I opted to go for a jacket that shows exactly that. And since I’m a sucker for anything dark (especially when it comes to my clothing), I naturally sought something in black.
My friend told me that they are selling these jackets on their ‘Japan Lover Me‘ store, so I immediately headed to their platform to pick a design that I wanted.
…I swear to you, I had a hard time picking because there were just SO many cool designs to choose from! Eventually, I found the perfect sukajan for me (pictured above): koi fish and cherry blossom prints on one side, and a silver patterned design of dragons on the other.
Clearly, the photo above shows 2 designs and that’s because most sukajan jackets are reversible; mine was like that and it totally felt like I purchased 2 jackets for the price of one. The value for this was around $200 — pricey BUT… with the quality, design, and reversible characteristic of this item, I absolutely felt that I got more than what it’s worth.
That being said, I absolutely love my sukajan jacket!
NOTE: Rest assured, there are cheaper sukajan jackets up in ‘Japan Lover Me‘ store, and some could start as low as $40!!!
• • •
The sukajan jacket is truly more than just a bold and fashionable clothing since it can either be a piece that expresses your personality or a piece that retells your experience when you were in Japan.
Other than that, it can surely make for one unique gift or souvenir. So what are you waiting for? There are over hundreds of designs that are up for grabs!
To start, just go to the online store of ‘Japan Lover Me‘ to pick the jacket design(s) that you like. Upon checkout, you can choose to have it shipped to your address or you can also simply pick it up from them when you’re in Tokyo.
I love everything about Japan. I lived there for two years back in 199-2001, and it was just such an amazing experience. I would definitely go back if I had the chance! That jacket is so neat!
If you go back then you definitely should grab these jackets! They’re so perf for Japan :D
Wow, that is such a cool jacket! I am going back to Japan this spring and will have to get one! I loved the one Ryan Gosling had in Drive!
Same for me too! Let me know when you get one :D
A sukajan looks like a great souvenir to bring back from a memorable trip to Japan. I love all of the different styles and colors that are available. Meaningful souvenirs are so much better than something from a random trinket shop!
I totally agree with you on that!
The jackets are a great souvenir idea that goes beyond the typical items people pick up when traveling. I can definitely see getting far more use out of the jacket than a different type of souvenir, plus this is practical (everyone needs a jacket) and beautifully designed as well. My sister-in-law visited Japan last year and brought me back a tea towel with a cherry blossom design on it — I use it almost every day; I love it.
Thank you for sharing the information about the jacket, and also for helping one think outside of the souvenir box — on mynext vacation, I’ll be reminded of your jacket souvenir, and think beyond the usual postcard or magnet for my family’s souvenir choices.
I’m glad you see it the way I see it! :D These kinds of unique souvenirs are those that I really want to find and grab hold of. All in all, I’m happy to have introduced the sukajan to you!
I have seen vloggers wearing sukajan and I think these pieces look very colorful and trendy. I like the material and how unique the designs are and it’s great to know a bit of history and its evolution.
I believe this style started to get popular around the earlier part of this year :D I’m glad you fancy these too!