What to Pack for Japan: The Ultimate Japan Packing List
What to Pack for Japan: The Ultimate Japan Packing List
Japan’s kaleidoscope of attractions – its ultra-modern cities, ancient temples, and natural wonders among them – can cause problems for those looking to visit this tech-savvy yet ultimately conservative and traditional nation on the Pacific rim of fire. Many first-timers to the glories of the country end up scratching their heads and struggling to decide what to pack for Japan. But have no fear, below we outline the only Japan travel checklist you’ll ever need!
When you’re raiding your wardrobes trying to decide what to pack for Japan, don’t forget about the basics, such as passport and money – which should be kept in a secure pocket rather than packed away in your luggage. If you hail from western nations – Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand – getting into Japan is pretty easy. All you’ll need, as a tourist at least (different rules apply for those looking to work in the country) is a passport with at least six months of validity, and a couple of blank pages for the relevant permits, which are given free of charge at ports of entry and entitle you to stay in Japan for up to 90 days.
When it comes to money, arriving into a new country with some local currency already in hand is pretty useful, for reasons of keeping stress levels down if nothing else. That said, you can pay for almost everything in Japan with a credit or debit card, and should you be after some more cash, there are ATMs in post offices and 7-Eleven stores throughout the country.
Must pack items for Japan
Whether you opt for an e-guide or a good old fashioned printed guide book, having a guide to Japan to hand is essential given how busy and crowded the cities can be. There’s also a new language and alphabet to contend with, meaning you might also like to carry a small Japanese phrasebook with you, although more and more Japanese – especially in younger generations – now speak good levels of English. Likewise, city maps are really useful, with smartphone map apps such as Google Maps having the benefit of real-time navigation.
If you’ve got a smartphone with you, you’re also going to need to pack a power adapter. Japan uses ‘type A’ plug sockets (the same as North America), which have two flattened prong-like pins. Sockets are supplied with 100V, compared to the 120V in the United States. Japanese current is one of the most stable in the world, but you may still also like to pack a surge protector as an extra defense for expensive pieces of technology such as smartphones, tablet computers, and laptops.
Knowing what to pack for Japan when it comes to clothes can be particularly tricky. The country experiences a four-season climate like Europe and North America, and like in these regions the weather can differ dramatically even during the same season between the northern reaches and sub-tropical southern islands that make up Japan.
So, what should you do as a visitor to Japan? The best advice, if you’re going to be travelling throughout the country checking out its most impressive sights, is to pack with layers in mind. Wearing layers of clothing that can be easily added to or removed means you’ll never be caught out by the weather. Finish your travel wardrobe off with a waterproof jacket, and a good pair of walking shoes or sneakers that you’ll be comfortable in all day. Wearing sandals will mark you out as a tourist.
It’s worth noting that Japan remains relatively conservative in a number of matters, including fashion – keep this in mind when deciding what to pack for Japan, and don’t take anything that might be considered risky or controversial. Stick to shirts or sleeved tops, shorts or long trousers or skirts (so long as they’re not too short). Choose chinos over jeans, and sweaters over hooded tops. Certain parts of Japan, particularly Kyoto, can get humid, so natural fibres such as cotton are recommended, while lighter neutral colours will keep the sun off better than darker colours that absorb the heat.
Should you have any visible tattoos, such as on your arms, its best to opt for clothing that covers them over. In Japan, skin ink is still associated with organised crime syndicates, and can cause some concern, particularly with older generations (although some leeway is given to foreign visitors). You might also want to avoid experiencing traditional public bathhouses if you’re tattooed for the same reason.
What to pack for Japan in each season
If you’re heading to Japan in spring for the famous cherry blossom, you’ll want to ensure you’ve packed a good number of sweaters, as it can be chilly right through to April, when temperatures begin to pick up.
The summer can get very hot, especially the further south in Japan you head, and for most a light T-shirt or buttoned shirt will be sufficient long into the evening hours. You might want to bring a thin sweater to counter the worst of the air conditioning in shopping malls and museums.
Fall or autumn has conditions largely comparable to those experienced in spring, so like with earlier in the year, you’ll want some thicker sweaters. As fall turns towards winter, you might also want to layer up with some thermal underwear.
In the full depths of winter, when some parts of Japan see significant amounts of snowfall, you’ll want to ensure you’ve got thick waterproof jackets and good footwear as well as a stock of sweaters and other layers.
Last thoughts on what to pack for Japan
The key to successfully packing for a trip to Japan is a little knowledge of the overall weather conditions in the destinations you’ll be travelling to, together with a versatile wardrobe that can be used to create functional layers when needed. But don’t forget to bring along those must have items such as a power adapter for your electronics, and above all, don’t get to the airport unless you’re absolutely sure you’ve got your passport with you!