Japan Travel Essentials: What to pack for your trip to Japan
As a general rule, it’s best to take only the bare essentials to Japan (and this is coming from someone who always over-prepares for a trip!)
My first reason is completely self-indulgent in that I think you need the most amount of space possible for all of the beautiful souvenirs that you will purchase so you can take your magnificent, 36-kilo suitcase home with every token and trinket your heart desires. And yes, this is 100% what I did. I am still impressed that I was able to safely bring home a sake set, 6 cup tea set, an absolutely STUNNING hand mirror, and countless other delicate items all by just wrapping them in my clothes. (Let’s just take a minute to thank the true hero here, which is JAL. THANK YOU, JAL!! <3)
The second reason is that lugging a heavy suitcase around Japan is NOT fun. As brilliant as their transport services are, not all train stations have elevators or escalators, which will leave you dragging your suitcase up and down large flights of stairs. Not good. If you are better prepared for your trip than I was, then you will probably use a luggage transfer service, which I will talk about in detail at another time.
So with that in mind, what are the bare essentials when travelling to Japan?
1. An unlocked smartphone.
I definitely recommend getting a Japanese Sim card over a WIFI dongle for your travels. WIFI dongles are more expensive and aren’t worth it, even if you split the cost with a group.
2. A portable phone charger.
Your phone will be working hard for you in Japan, running Google maps for most of the day. It’s not fun getting lost in a country where you don’t speak the language, so don’t tempt fate here. Make sure you have enough battery to comfortably last you a whole day.
3. Comfortable walking shoes that are easy to take off.
When you are visiting temples, you will be required to take off your shoes in order to enter the main sections. This will also apply to some restaurants, ryokans, and if you are visiting a Japanese home. As a side note, also take care of the kinds of socks you bring. You don’t want to arrive at a temple and realise you have worn mismatched socks!
4. A power adapter.
Unless you are from the US or Canada, you will need a power adapter to be able to charge your appliances in Japan. Japan uses a simple vertical 2-pin, ungrounded plug.
5. Prescription medication.
To avoid headaches with overseas doctors, always bring enough medication to last your trip. Japan is quite strict with what medications you can and can’t bring, as well as how much of it is allowed to be brought, so make sure to double check before you go. You can find more information about this here.
6. A smaller luggage/overnight bag.
If you are going on mini trips or travelling to more secluded areas of Japan, you might find it worth your while to lock up most of your luggage at a train station locker while you travel around. If you do this, you will need a smaller bag to be able to take all the items you will need for your trip. I have the cutest duffel bag that does me well when I’m in Japan. It would be nice if it had wheels, but I like how compact it is when I pack it in my suitcase.
7. Hand soap/hand sanitiser/wet wipes, a hand towel and plastic bags.
This will probably improve in time for the 2020 Olympics, but on average, most Japanese public toilets do not have soap or a sufficient way to dry your hands. There are also almost no public bins, so bring some plastic bags to keep your rubbish in until you find one.
8. Conservative and/or fashionable clothing.
Japanese people tend to be very fashionable, especially in the larger cities. If you’re in a panic because you don’t consider yourself a fashion queen, don’t stress! It will be obvious from the way you look that you are a tourist, so Japanese people will be forgiving of your attire. Just don’t wear anything too revealing. Japanese people value modesty in how people (especially women) dress, so if you want to keep people from staring, stay away from low cut tops and short shorts.
9. A coin purse/cash friendly wallet.
Japan is a cash-based country, so you will need a wallet that is easy to store notes and coins in. I bought this beautiful Sailor Moon coin purse that I use whenever I am in Japan and it works perfectly. If you are worried about holding a large amount of cash, I would bring a second wallet to hide and lock in your luggage or use the safe’s found in hotel rooms.
10. Printouts with your accommodation details, including the name and address written in Japanese.
This is super helpful for getting around and trying to find your accommodation. It is much easier to get out a piece of paper and point than to try and figure out how to say it with minimal knowledge of Japanese. If you are travelling to any obscure or out of the way places, I recommend you do this for that too, just in case.
Do you agree with my list? What are your travel essentials when visiting Japan? Make sure to let me know in the comments below!
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