What to Pack for Japan: 21 Necessities for Travelers

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While deciding what to bring to Japan can be a headache, I find actually packing for Japan to be super exciting – something about getting ready for that next trip or adventure helps reduce the stress associated with the “did I pack everything” mentality.  This list is comprised of numerous items that I’ve found useful (or wished I had) on my trips to Japan as well as ones recommended by my friends who have taught there.

Happy packing!

SIM Card

Japan is actually great with giving their visitors the ability to buy a SIM card at the airport – there are stores and vending machines everywhere and it’s usually as simple as showing them your phone and letting them find the right SIM for you.  The only issue with this is that it’s expensive to wait until you arrive – prices are expensive and if you’re into planning ahead you can save money by getting a SIM card before the trip.

Universal Travel Adaptor

One of the most common things to overlook when packing for Japan (or anywhere, really), is that their power and sockets are likely different than yours at home (Japan uses 100 volts by the way).  Save yourself the hassle of trying to find an adapter when you arrive and pick up a compact one – they are cheap, compact, and can usually be used in multiple countries – this one even has ports for your USB cords.

Anker Portable Charger/Power Bank

No matter if you’re living in or just visiting Japan – a power bank (pretty much just a big battery) is a necessity when traversing the country on their awesome rail or bus system.  I didn’t have one of these before moving abroad and the amount of time and stress it’s saved me from having to search for a plug is worth every penny.

Travel Towel

Numerous people have complained that the towels in Japan are a bit lacking so if that’s important to you it’s best if you plan on bringing your own.  My suggestion is to opt for a compact or designated travel towel so as to save space and ensure that it can dry quickly and be stuffed back into your bag without risk of getting everything wet.

Rolling Luggage

Due to Japan’s brilliant rail system, there is less of a need to use a backpack or something that is easier to maneuver (though this rollie certainly does that, too).  Having a solid rolling bag not only gives you more space than a backpack, but the hard shell ensures nothing get’s crushed after taking so much care packing for Japan.

Quecha Backpack

Don’t worry if rolling luggage isn’t your style – I’ve got a bag for you as well.  I have absolutely fallen in love with Quecha products (discovered while in China but a UK company) and cannot recommend their packs enough.  If you’re going to be doing any hiking, rough travel, or simply want more flexibility moving through the city, opt for one of these.

Quecha Day Pack

Having a bag that’s smaller and compact will be a benefit as well – no surprise here but I love the Quecha day packs to help you carry your stuff around while touring.  This one is water resistant and better for your shoulders and a purse or messenger bag.

Lonely Planet Guide Book

How can you pack for Japan without including the most iconic guidebook ever?  Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t argue with the detail that Lonely Planet goes into with its publications – I love taking notes in the margins, tagging pages, and then trading it or giving it away after the trip.

Deodorant

Deodorant is surprisingly hard to find in Japan.  Given that it can get quite hot in the summer and also crowded on all forms of public transportation, it’s probably a good idea to stock up before your trip.

Tampons

My female friends have reported that tampons in Japan aren’t’ as widely available as at home and run on the small size.  Their advice is to bring enough for your trip if you’re traveling or bring enough to last at least a month if you’re going to living or teaching here.  This will allow enough time to find a source for your future needs.

Vitamins

Japan is an incredibly active and healthy country, but finding vitamins is often a frustrating exercise due to their lack of adoption and the necessity to read Japanese.  Obviously including a large supply when packing for Japan isn’t realistic, so my advice is just to bring a few bottles and get help when you arrive or empty the bottles into a bag so they take up less space and you can carry more!

Shaving Cream

Western men are typically much hairier than their Japanese counterparts and have reported issues both finding shaving cream and finding it at a reasonable price.  Given that shaving cream can last quite a while, I’d suggest bringing a can or two and removing the issue of having to find it once you arrive.

Sanitizer

Sanitizer is always a good idea and this goes double when packing for Japan.  Though public restrooms are pretty easy to find, soap is not – couple this with the lack of public wastebaskets and having some sanitizer at your disposal will make your time in Japan a lot cleaner.

Condoms

Condoms are very much available in Japan and while the quality is good, the fit of the local brands can be a bit lacking.  Bringing some of your tried and tested favorites from home can not only save you time if you need to run out but also the stress of trying to find a brand that fits you.

Bras

Bras run small in Japan and if you plan on being there for an extended amount of time then it’s highly advisable you bring your own.  Yes, you can order them online if you know your size but why risk it?  Plan ahead and make sure you have enough to last until your next trip home.

Slip-on Shoes

Similarly to the aforementioned socks, having a pair of daily-use shoes that easily slip on and off can save you a lot of time.  Nobody thinks about how much time it takes to untie and tie shoes until it’s too late!

Travel Fleece

Yes, you should still bring a raincoat depending on the season, but a fleece is also a great idea when packing for Japan.  Parts of the country can get downright chilly (and windy) and might require a bit more warmth than a light jacket can provide – or you can layer and have the best of both worlds.

Ready to Pack for Japan?

Japan is an incredible country and you’re going to have a great time regardless of if you’re working or traveling.  When wondering what to pack, my last piece of advice is to not overdo it – outside of the items listed above almost anything can be procured in-country.  I’ve had more than my share of over-packed suitcases and now do my best to stick to the necessities and hard to find items.  Remember – how much you bring to Japan is less important than how much you do while there – happy traveling!

If I’ve missed anything you think is useful, please contact us so we can include it!