Do you know what to pack for your first trip to Japan? If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered! There are few places we love more than Japan. The food, the history, the people — we just can’t get enough. We’d move there if we could!
If you’ve never been, though, you may not realize how different it is from North America. In fact, you should spend a little time learning about Japanese culture ahead of your trip. You don’t want to be recovering from a long-haul flight, overwhelmed and under-prepared. To get ready for your amazing journey, here’s a short Japan packing list!
Cash (Japanese Yen)
The Japanese largely prefer to use cash pretty much everywhere. Whether you’re buying snacks from 7-Eleven (which you should — you really, really should!) or dining at a sit-down curry restaurant, your life will be so much easier if you’re carrying cash. Pro tip – try to use the coins as much as possible because you don’t want heavy pockets or a full change purse!
Although there are machines that accept cards and you can find ATMs, cash is definitely preferred in Japan. There are a lot of reasons for this, and maybe we’ll go into it sometime, but for now, we’re simply suggesting you have some Yen on you when you land in Japan. Sites like Travelex allow you to order it online so that you have it before you leave home!
You’ll be doing a lot of sightseeing in Japan, which means you might not have access to an electrical outlet for long periods of time. In fact, depending on your country of residence, your cell phone charger may not even work in public places without an adapter (be sure to pick up one of those too!).
A good option is to have a power bank with you at all times. Even if you aren’t planning to use your device much, anything can happen. It would be pretty brutal to need your phone in an emergency, for example, but the battery is low. Better safe than sorry!
If there’s one thing people complain about when they visit Japan, it’s that they struggled to connect to WiFi. In fact, this happens often when we travel! Depending on your mobile carrier, international roaming fees can be very expensive. So, if you’re wondering what to pack for your trip to Japan, consider bringing your own portable WiFi!
We personally have the Skyroam SOLIS Global WiFi Hotspot, which includes a power bank, but you can rent one from many places including this Japan Rail Pass site. The details about renting a WiFi hotspot can be confusing, so it’s worth exploring ahead of your planned departure date!
A Current Map
Remember what we said about internet access and WiFi difficulties? This also means that navigation apps such as Google Maps may struggle to keep up with your adventures in Japan. As a result, you could find yourself completely lost in the middle of downtown Tokyo (if this happens, please reward yourself with some sort of matcha-flavored snack and then ask for help)!
Before your trip, order some helpful maps from Lonely Planet of the areas where you will be traveling so that you have a backup in case modern technology fails you (because it probably will). Even if you only have maps of the local train stations, it can give you some sense of direction.
While there are many great translation apps you can download, they may not work if your internet connection is poor. That why we highly recommend having a Japanese-English Dictionary in your backpack!
You will absolutely feel like a tourist pulling out that bad boy, but you’ll also be more likely to get the help or direction you need. The Japanese tend to be exceedingly kind and helpful, so when they see you making an effort to communicate, most will happily oblige!
Owning or renting a car in Japan is insanity and most people get around on foot, by bike or by using the incredible train systems. There are buses and taxis, but the majority of your sightseeing will be powered by your own two feet. As such, you’ll want to be wearing your most comfortable walking shoes.
If you’re worried about taking Instagram-worthy pictures, you can always put a nicer pair in your backpack (we won’t because I can’t stand the idea of germy shoes in with my snacks!). Keep in mind, though, that many of the more traditional restaurants require you to leave your footwear at the door. Just wear whatever won’t give you blisters and worry less about fashion! Tip – if you’re planning to hike up Mt Fuji, we recommend the Altra Superior 4 trail runner!
Are we back in the Stone Age (or the 90s), you ask? No, but having photocopies of important documents can be a lifesaver if anything goes wrong. Always, always, always have a photocopy of your passport, hotel reservations, travel confirmation numbers, emergency contact information and itinerary when you’re traveling abroad.
This can really help if you’ve lost your passport or you’re asked to produce identification in public. Japan is a pretty chill place, but if you’re asked for ID, you don’t want to be caught without it. Plus, the area is prone to earthquakes meaning you could need identification for any number of reasons. It’s best to just be prepared.
The Japanese work very hard, but they also love to have fun. It’s not unusual to see people walking around wearing Hello Kitty ears or Pokémon shirts. This is especially true if you’re planning to visit a theme park like Universal Studios Japan or Tokyo Disneyland.
On a long-haul flight, you’ve got to pack your suitcase tightly, but try to save room for something fun. This is a great opportunity to let your inner Harry Potter nerd shine, but you might need to leave your Nimbus 2000 at home!
This isn’t just about to Japan — you should have activated charcoal with you whenever you travel. Whether it’s adjusting to cooking styles (Japan has a LOT of uncooked fish) or cuisines, you may end up with a very unhappy belly. One way to deal with that is to pack activated charcoal.
The thought is that this product absorbs and carries out toxins and gas from the digestive system, which may help if you’ve come down with food poisoning. Be sure to also read Stay Healthy While Traveling with These Natural Remedies for additional tips on how to stave off illness.
We carry hand sanitizer with us wherever we go, but on our last trip to Japan, we were unprepared. Because the Japanese are so hygienic, we assumed we’d have no problem finding some. As such, we traveled just with the small amounts that we bring in our carry-on luggage since TSA is so picky about liquids. For your Japan trip, be sure to put your hand sanitizer in your checked bags!
Well, lemme tell you that we *think* we found some, but it was tough to find. And it was completely different from anything we have here in North America. Fortunately, Japan has other ways of keeping hands clean. It’s common to find hand-washing stations/sinks in restaurants (even McDonald’s!) and their convenience store food is packaged in a way that allows you to eat without touching it. Sigh, just some of the many reasons why Japan is so good for my anxiety.
You absolutely will not find Advil, Tylenol, or anything like that in Japan. Whether you’re prone to headaches or not, it’s a smart idea to pack pain relievers in case you need them. The goal is for you to have the best trip ever, but anything can happen. You don’t want to be stuck with a headache or other pain and not have something to take.
Of course, you’ll find pain relievers in Japanese drug stores and convenience stores. You take a bit of a risk if you don’t speak the language. The last thing you want is to take the wrong product or dosage and end up in an even worse situation. Play it safe and bring your own.
Feminine Hygiene Products
I’m very, very particular about which pads I use, and I’ve noticed that the Japanese brands don’t seem to have the size and absorbency I’m used to. For my next trip, I’m going to make sure I’ve got the ones I like to use. That way, I don’t have to stress while I’m sightseeing.
Hopefully, you won’t get your period while you’re traveling, but if you do, it’s best to be prepared. This is especially important if you’re planning to go swimming or be away from your hotel for long periods of time (no pun intended).
What NOT to Pack for Japan
While many things will be different in Japan, you can find a lot of things you need once you get there. We like to pack as light as we can so that we can bring things home, so removing clutter from our suitcase is a priority. If we’re not sure we’re going to use it, we don’t bring it with us. It’s that simple.
That’s why we leave these items at home and shop for them in Japan (if needed):
- Umbrellas and ponchos — it doesn’t have to be the rainy season for you to see a torrential downpour in Japan. Instead of packing anything, buy the umbrellas and ponchos at Japanese convenience stores. Not only are they study and cool looking, but they are super cheap.
- Meat products — most meats (even jerky!) is banned, so don’t pack these. If you brought some on your flight, be sure to finish eating it before you land in Japan. If you’ve recently visited a farm, you may need to report this and be quarantined at customs.
- Plants & Fruits — there is a list of plants and fruits that you can’t bring into Japan, but to err on the side of caution, just leave all this at home.
- Firearms — this should go without saying, but it’s not a good idea to bring guns or firearms to a foreign country. Japan has very strict gun laws, so don’t bring any weapons on your trip.
We absolutely love Japan and packing for a trip is always so much fun, as long as you’re prepared! We know there are many articles out there on how to get ready, so we hope you enjoyed our tips. Safe travels!
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- 12 Time-Saving Tips for Universal Studios Japan
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