What to pack for Japan?

Working out what to pack can be difficult, particularly if you’re heading somewhere unfamiliar. Many visitors expect great cultural differences in Japan and worry about what they should wear, and what to take, just in case. The good news is that it’s not as difficult to pack for Japan as many people fear.

What clothes do you need?

Some visitors are worried about having appropriate clothes. This may be related to wanting to fit in and not look like a tourist, or wondering whether they need any special clothes. The good news is that standard western clothes are perfectly acceptable in Japan, including jeans and shorts. It’s best that whatever you wear is clean and tidy, not scruffy. In cities clothing is a bit more formal, with many office workers wearing dark suits, so very casual clothing will stand out more.

Maybe the weather is hotter or colder than you are used to. Checking the weather for the destinations you are going to will help. A week before you leave, do a final check to fine tune your packing.

It’s worth taking shoes that are easy to remove, eg slip-on or zip-up, rather than lace-up, as you will need to remove shoes at temples, some restaurants and accommodation, and various other places. Also make sure your socks don’t have any holes.

What else do you need to pack?

If you are going to Japan in the rainy season (June/July), an umbrella is useful but these are readily available in convenience stores at a very cheap price (around 500 yen).

Do make sure you take any medications you need, and complete the necessary paperwork to bring these into Japan.

Toiletries and cosmetics are readily available in Japan, and most hotels provide shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and other items. If you have favourite brands though, you may want to bring enough to cover your whole trip. Deodorant is the one item I recommend having enough of, as Japanese formulations are somewhat weaker and less effective.

There are a wide range of gadgets and specialist equipment aimed at tourists and travellers. I find most of these items not particularly useful.

Japanese hotel rooms are well equipped with tea-making facilities, hairdryers, and plugs for the bath and handbasin. Business hotels have good laundry facilities and there are coin laundries available if you are staying somewhere without a laundry.

If you have electronics that need charging, you may need an adaptor, depending on which country you are coming from. Check here.

What about luggage size?

The recent announcement that reservations will be required for oversize luggage on the Tokaido shinkansen (the train between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka) from May 2020 has concerned some visitors. They worry that they will be restricted to cabin bag size luggage. This isn’t true – medium size luggage up to 160cm in total measurement will be permitted without reservation. If you follow the link above, you can see a medium sized bag fitting easily into the overhead luggage rack.

It’s worth bearing in mind that you still need to be able to handle the bag yourself. As well as putting it in overhead racks, you may need to carry it up and down stairs, either at stations or at your accommodation. Overpacking is best avoided.

The Hokkaido shinkansen has racks for large luggage in some cars.

For large luggage, there is also the option of using a luggage forwarding service. Most hotels will arrange this for you.

Aside from the difficulties of moving around with large luggage, also consider the size of hotel rooms. Some hotel rooms are very compact and a large clamshell opening case will be very awkward.

Enjoy your trip!

Putting some thought into what to pack and what luggage to use will make your trip more enjoyable. You’ll have all you need to get around, without being weighed down by excessive luggage.

Do you have any questions about travelling around Japan? Please feel free to contact me.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.