How does the Japanese newborn clothing system work?

When I was pregnant with my son, I was very confused about newborn clothing here in Japan. It wasn’t anything like what we have in the UK. Since becoming pregnant with our second child, I started to look through my son’s old clothing and thought I’d try explain how the system works here.

First of all, the system works on the principle of layering. There are many combinations of layers that can use the same products to make it suitable for summer, winter or the seasons in between. 

The design has been well thought through and there is no need to put anything over the baby’s head when getting them dressed. All of the Japanese clothing items for newborns, you just lay the baby in them and fasten them up. You can also set it up so that you can put all clothing on at once, then fasten them all one after each other negating having to pick baby up several times. 

Typically for Spring and Autumn you would pair the short underwear with the combination underwear to make an outfit. If it’s a bit chilly you could pair either the short underwear or the combination underwear with the coverall. 

For Summer, here in Japan it gets much much hotter than what I was used to in the UK. All is needed is one layer. If we were staying at home it would be the short underwear and if we went out, it was the combination underwear. 

For Winter depending on the temperature if is recommended to pair the short or combination underwear with a thick coverall. The coveralls often come in different weights suitable for warmer or cooler weather. If it’s very cold outside you can layer all three of the above for extra warmth. 

My son was born in Summer and this baby will be a Winter baby however I can use the exact same clothing, just in a different way. This has saved me buying more clothes. 

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What’s on my newborn baby essentials list?

In this post I’d like to talk about the very basic needs of the baby and what I’ll need postpartum. Here is a list of what I feel are baby/post partum essentials. I’ll go into further details about what else we have purchased (new and second hand), been given or already had in a separate post.

  1. Cloth nappies.  We didn’t use cloth nappies with our son for very long. I was a first time mum and for some reason they caused me anxiety. I decided at the time to focus on breastfeeding as I was a little bit anxious about that too if I’m honest. We’ve chosen close pop in for the newborn stage and bought second hand flip system for afterwards. We also have cloth wipes.
  2. Organic baby clothing
  3. Nursing bra x 2
  4. Baby carrier. Oscha organic cotton ring sling is pictured.
  5. Reusable postpartum pads
  6. Reusable breast pads
  7. Topponcino
  8. Sleep sac from Ergopouch (not a swaddle)
  9. Floor bed (Japanese futon and sunoko) + organic cotton sheets. We chosen to also use a baby box for the first few weeks/months. More on that later.
  10. Baby soap

Most of the list is self explanatory but I wanted to go into a little more detail about the Topponcino. This is a Montessori material. I don’t believe she designed it herself, but rather observed mothers using similar flat cushions with a round edge at the top during her time in India. The purpose of the Topponcino is to provide a familiar, comfortable space for the newborn. It is usually used until 8 weeks (but can be longer depending on the baby!). The baby will spend most of his or her time on top of the Topponcino. Whilst breastfeeding, being held by family members, in their movement area and when being or down to sleep.

I bought our Topponcino from an individual in Japan. It’s made from organic cotton (the batting as well as the covers) grown, processed and woven here in Japan. This ticks a lot of boxes with regards to being ethical and eco friendly. This was bought for my son and we’ll be using it again this time for our new arrival.

If you’d like to learn a little more about Topponcino’s I’d recommend these blog articles:


As you can see, I haven’t included a crib, a stroller, a bouncer or any other large purchases. For us, these things aren’t necessary, especially at the newborn stage. We do have a stroller now for our son since he is too heavy to carry regularly, but sometimes needs to take a nap whilst we are outside. He’s also unable to walk for very long distances without getting tired. I would say we probably didn’t need one up until about a year old.

In the future I’m also going to be writing about the Montessori environment we are creating for our baby and a little more about why we like to “Montessori from the start”.

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How we organise our toddler’s clothes so they are accessible

Since we follow Montessori in our home, we like to allow or son to do as many things as he is willing and able to do independently. This includes having a choice in what he wears and getting dressed himself. Before we moved, his closet set up looked like the picture below.

Since moving, not much has changed, however we have changed the basket on the third shelf and no longer have  the hairbrush and tissue on the top shelf. Those have been moved into the bathroom alongside everyone else’s care of self items.

In one of the baskets, neatly folded Kon Mari style, are my son’s 3 pairs of trousers and his two sets of pyjamas. This allows him to see all the choices available and pick out what he wants to wear without having to move any of the other items.

The other basket contains socks, vests and underwear, all folded in a similar manner.

Hung up are the t-shirts (usually one is in the wash and two are available to choose from), cardigans and coat.

We have a small basket on the top shelf now containing his winter items (scarf, mittens and hat). Our son likes to practice putting these on even if we aren’t going outside. Having them accessible allows him to repeat this dressing process over and over.

When I chose my son’s clothes I purposefully made sure everything was suitable for the weather and that everything matched. This means he can chose whatever he likes every single day and it will always be appropriate.

As for shoes, they are all stored in a closet in what we call the “genkan”. That’s the Japanese word for entrance hall. We also have a small chair in the hall for our son to sit on whilst putting on his shoes.

His shoes are located on the bottom shelf of the closet so he can reach them easily.

How do you organise your toddlers clothes? Do you have a capsule wardrobe?

If you need some more detailed information and inspiration, I’d recommend reading the following:

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