What to Really Pack for Japan: The Complete Travel Checklist


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Traveling to Japan for the first time?

There are two simple rules to follow when packing for your trip to Japan:

  1. Don’t panic! I get that it’s your first time to Japan and you’re excited as hell. But don’t allow yourself to become too swept-up in the moment. You’ll end up trying to prepare for every situation and leave yourself lugging around way too much extra luggage, which brings us to rule #2…
  2. Pack light. Bring what you only need.

Our Japan packing list is simple but offers a complete itemization of all essentials you’ll need to make your trip hassle-free — the exact packing list I wish I’d had when I first traveled to Japan.

RELATED READ: The Best of Japan in 10 Days: The “ideal” itinerary for first-timers

FREE PRINTABLE!

Download our printable version (.PDF) to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.

Our Japan Travel Essential Checklist

There are specific problems that are somewhat unique to Japan that you’ll certainly encounter. Pay attention.

1. The best luggage for Japan travel

The best luggage bags for Japan travel are the ones that convert into a backpack or easily carried. Here are a few reasons:

  • Elevators in Japan are mainly reserved for the elderly, disabled, pregnant, and families with strollers. As a tourist, and if you’re none of those, you are expected to take the stairs. Politeness is very important in Japan.
  • Trains in Japan don’t really have space for large luggage. It’s also VERY bothersome to local commuters — especially during rush hour.
  • Large luggage will also take up a lot of precious space in your hotel room. Rooms in Japan are rather small.

Click here to view our recommended bags and packs for Japan travel

2. Proper footwear

The best shoes for Japan travel are ones that are slip-ons (no shoelaces) and comfortable, preferably ones with memory foam. In Japan, many places REQUIRE you to take your shoes off, such as genkans (the entrance of a home), some izakayas (Japanese bars), some restaurants, ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), and temples.

Slip-on shoes or shoes without shoelaces are most convenient in these situations. Make sure your socks don’t have holes in them to avoid embarrassing situations!

For comfort, opt for any pair with a good cushion as you’re going to walk A LOT in Japan. And if you are traveling during the spring and summer seasons, when the chances of rain are quite HIGH, it’s best to wear waterproof slip-on shoes.

Our favorite shoes for Japan travel are from the Skechers GOwalk series— they’re slip-on and with memory foam. I own similar GOwalk shoes to this one while my husband owns a pair similar to this one. Many tourists who traveled from Japan swore by the Skechers brand as well:

3. A foldable duffel bag for Japanese souvenirs

Souvenirs, instant noodles, milk tea, and chuhai — if you fall in love with the flavors or culture of Japan, you need extra storage space! To avoid the cost of buying additional luggage while in Japan, make sure to pack an extra duffel bag that is foldable.

This was a mistake my mother made when she first traveled to Japan. She didn’t have any extra bags so she had to buy one for all the souvenirs she bought!

Click here to view our recommended collapsible duffel bag

4. Hand towel or handkerchief

Bringing a towel in Japan

A towel is an indispensable item in Japan. Many public toilets in Japan don’t have paper towels and restaurants don’t give out napkins.

5. Reserved pocket WiFi rental or Data SIM Card.

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a reliable internet connection while traveling in Japan. If you haven’t reserved, do it now! If you’re traveling solo and short-term, it’s cheaper to get a data SIM Card.

Japan Travel Documents Checklist

1. A valid passport and visa

Before you buy a ticket, check your passport if it’s VALID for at least 6-months and has a blank page. You should check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website if your nationality requires a Japan visa.

2. Flight tickets

Some people like to print it out, but personally, paper clutter just bugs me. If you’re planning on showing your flight tickets through your mobile, make sure you have downloaded a copy on your phone.

Here are our recommended airfare search engines for finding cheap flights to Japan:

3. Hotel or Airbnb reservations.

Whether you have it on your phone or have it printed out, you will be asked to fill in your hotel’s address on your disembarkation card. If you’re riding a taxi, it’s also good to have your hotel’s address in Japanese.

It’s also important to remember the NEAREST train station to your hotel so you’ll know where to go upon landing. Lastly, depending on where you’re coming from, having proof of a hotel could help make your time in immigration a bit smoother.

Here are our recommended booking sites for hotels in Japan:

4. Pre-booked tours confirmation in Japan

If you book tours or activities, make sure to save the confirmation email on your phone or have it printed out if required by the travel agency. For tour activities and tickets, our favorite online travel agencies are Voyagin and Veltra.

Most Japanese travel agencies don’t really provide English support for visitors overseas so they partner with Voyagin and Veltra. As a result of that partnership, they often have discounted deals much cheaper than the original source, and it’s legit.

Click here for our first-timers guide to Universal Studios Japan

5. JR Pass eVoucher confirmation

If you are traveling EXTENSIVELY in Japan for a minimum of 7 days, you should consider buying a JR Pass online as it will be absolutely worth it.

JR Pass can only be bought outside Japan and through an authorized online distributor. To activate and use it, you need to exchange your eVoucher at a JR Office which can be found at the airport or main train stations.

Click here to learn more about JR Pass and whether it’s for you or not.

6. Airport Transfer reservation

Now, if you don’t have the JR Pass, it’s wise to make an advance reservation for your transfer from the airport. Not only will it save you time and money, but it’ll make your arrival EASY and hassle-free.

Based on our experience, it’s easier and more CONVENIENT to take a shuttle transfer from the airport rather than taking the train. These shuttles will drop you off either directly at your hotel or to a major station near your hotel.

Transfer services from Narita Airport to Central Tokyo:

Transfer services from Haneda Airport to Central Tokyo:

Transfer services from Itami Airport and Kansai International Airport to your hotel in Osaka or Kyoto:

  1. Shared or private shuttle transfer from Itami Airport to Osaka City.
  2. Private shuttle transfer from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto, Osaka or Kobe.

7. International Drivers Permit

If you plan on renting a car or go-karting, then you need an IDP or a Japanese driver’s license to drive in Japan.

8. Travel insurance

Although Japan is one of the safest countries in the world and it is very unlikely that you will run into any danger, it doesn’t hurt to be on the safe side.

My friends have used World Nomads because it’s affordable and provide good medical coverage. RoamRight is great for U.S. and Canada citizens.

And if you’re an Australian, World Nomads is a better option for you. Make sure to visit both websites to compare quotes.

9. Bank cards and credit cards

Exchanging your currency to Japanese yen cash in your home country is absolutely not necessary. That’s because withdrawing Japanese yen from ATM machines upon your arrival in Japan gives you a better rate.

You can withdraw cash from Japan Post ATMs and ATMs in convenience stores such as Lawson, 7-11 and Family Mart. To save money, bring a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. And a bank card that reimburses international ATM fees.

REMINDER: Make sure to contact your bank about your travel plans to avoid disruptions with your card.

10. Photocopy of your passport and credit cards

In case of emergencies like losing your passport or credit cards, it’s good to have copies of your passports and credit cards in your email or on your phone. All you have to do is take a picture of your passport’s bio page and your credit card’s front and back photos using your phone. Do this for your entire family traveling as well.

What to Wear in Japan (By Season)

1. Clothes to pack for Japan in December, January, February (winter)

Japan travel checklist
My winter outfit in Japan: beanie from Walmart (similar), cowl neck wool knit sweater from Columbia (similar), gloves from Columbia, coat from Uniqlo Japan, and waterproof snow boots from Columbia.

Winter essentials:

  • heavyweight base layers, preferably merino wool
  • sweaters or pullovers
  • insulated coat or jacket
  • travel pants or jeans
  • gloves
  • beanie
  • scarf
  • socks and underwear
  • The average temperature: 2-11 °C (36-52 °F).
  • Less rain and clearer skies.
  • Best season to see Mt. Fuji in its perfect state.
HEALTH WARNING: Winter in Japan is extremely DRY. Most hotels in Japan have humidifiers. However, if you’re staying at an Airbnb, most don’t or will charge extra for it per day! We stayed at an Airbnb place one winter and they didn’t have a humidifier. We all woke up with painful throats and were tired because we didn’t get a good night’s sleep due to dryness. Make sure to bring your own portable humidifier designed for travel such as this or this as they are trusted brands.

2. Clothes to pack for Japan in March, April, May (spring)

My usual spring outfit in Japan
My usual spring outfit in Japan: Wool blend trench coat from Walmart, scarf, and my memory foam boots (now retired and replaced by the comfiest GOwalk).

Spring essentials:

  • lightweight or midweight base layers preferably merino wool
  • sweaters or pullovers
  • spring coat, trench coat, or spring jacket (see sample spring coat for men and women)
  • travel pants or jeans
  • socks and underwear
  • folding umbrella
  • waterproof slip-on shoes
  • The average temperature: 5-21 °C (41-70 °F).
  • March can be tricky because it still feels like winter, still pack your base layers.
  • Slightly humid and rainy.
  • Expensive season to travel due to cherry blossoms.

3. Clothes to pack for Japan in June, July, August (summer)

My summer outfit in Japan
My summer outfit in Japan: cardigan, summer dress, and my GOwalk shoes from Skechers (similar to this). Summer mornings and evenings in Japan can be cold, so I always make sure to bring a cardigan.

Summer essentials:

  • shirts
  • travel pants or jeans
  • sweater jacket or cardigan
  • socks and underwear
  • folding umbrella
  • waterproof slip-on shoes

4. Clothes to pack for Japan in September, October, November (autumn)

My autumn outfit in Japan
My autumn outfit in Japan: warm cardigan and fleece-lined jeggings. This was in October and it was still kinda warm!

Fall essentials:

  • lightweight or midweight base layers preferably merino wool
  • sweaters or pullovers
  • fleece jacket
  • travel pants or jeans
  • socks and underwear
  • The average temperature: 9-26 °C (48-79 °F).
  • Best time to travel to Japan (in our opinion).
  • Not too dry, not too cold, less rain.

The average temperature in Japan during autumn is between 9-26 °C (48-79 °F). Like spring, the temperature is a bit tricky so always check the temperature of that day and be sure to pack what we recommended on the list above!

Oh, our most favorite time of the year in Japan! In our opinion, these months are the best time to travel to Japan — not too dry, not too cold, and less rain.

JAPANESE FASHION EXPECTATIONS: Japanese women prefer to wear skirts and heels far more than their western counterparts (regardless of weather) but are more conservative when it comes to tops. So they wear more revealing bottoms in the form of shorts and high skirts.

As for men, you’re unlikely to see many Japanese men walking around in shorts outside of the beach here. It’s also not too out of the ordinary to see people walking around in kimonos here; particularly older women.

Electronics for Japan Travel

1. Mobile phones, laptops, or tablets

A mobile phone, connected to the internet, is necessary to find train routes and schedules to navigate Japan. A tablet isn’t essential, but it can keep kids entertained during train rides and such.

Click here to download important apps for your trip to Japan

2. Camera

As the slightly immature saying goes, “Pics or it didn’t happen!” Can you really say you’ve visited Japan without some evidence? Japan is a beautiful country, and a camera allows you to capture those rare moments that you can revisit anytime you want to.

We use an older version of this Nikon DSLR, it still takes good pictures. Photography is actually a favorite hobby in Japan, particularly for the recently retired. So don’t be surprised when you see an elderly Japanese person lugging around large telescoping lenses and tripods.

They are usually stock photographers shooting beautiful scenery as a hobby. It’s always a sight to see them carrying all that gear around!

3. Chargers or spare batteries

You might run into some trouble if your electronic gadgets, such as your phone, runs out of battery in the middle of nowhere. You also wouldn’t want to miss out on all the Instagram moments.

4. Power bank

A power bank will provide extra power to your devices when the battery runs down. Trust me, using the internet CONSTANTLY will drain your battery quickly. A power bank with a high mAh or a battery capacity that’s good for 2-3 full charges should be carried along with you at all times.

Power banks in Japan are VERY pricey and with LITTLE battery capacity. We suggest that you buy one from your home country. Amazon sells a wide range of power banks but we recommend the RAVPower brand because of its higher battery capacity or mAh.

5. Universal power adapter

Japan uses Type A and Type B plugs and sockets just like in the U.S. and Canada. f you’re not from North America, then get a universal power adapter preferably with Type A & B sockets.

Click to view our recommended travel adapter for Japan (well-designed, compact, and made from well-constructed materials)

6. Kindle E-reader or Japan Guidebook

Carrying books will only increase the weight of your luggage. A portable E-reader such as a Kindle would allow you to read your favorite books, that’s if you find the time too!

Check out our favorite Japan guidebooks here

Carry-on Essentials

You’re in for a LONG-HAUL flight to Japan! Here are our best items about flying to Japan stress-free:

1. A carry-on handbag or backpack

Pack ALL the items from our document checklist in your carry-on handbag or backpack. DO NOT check-in your electronic devices in your check-in luggage to avoid any damage during the flight. We recommend getting a carry-on bag that is big enough for your electronics but still within the carry-on requirement of your airline.

Check out a list of flight-approved backpacks here.

2. Packable travel pillow

The journey is bound to be a long one, and you’re definitely going to want to sleep for most of the flight.

Check out this BEST-SELLING packable travel pillow

3. Noise-canceling headphones

You’re in for a LONG flight to Japan! You can get a pair of noise-canceling headphones like this. This way, your sleep can go uninterrupted.

Miscellaneous

1. Packing cubes

We love packing all our clothes in packing cubes! They keep your clothes compact and tidy which allows for more luggage space.

We purchased ours from Amazon, but the brand we use is no longer being sold. For quality, go for eBags and BAGAIL for affordability.

2. Personal items and toiletries

Toiletries quick list:

  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Body soap
  • Facial cleansers
  • Deodorant
  • Lotions or moisturizers (especially during the winter!)
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Shaving items
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Alcohol or hand sanitizers
  • Sunscreen
  • Contact lenses, solution (if you wear one)

If you have a preferred choice of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, etc., it is best to bring it along with you. It is not likely that you would find the same brand in Japan. It may also be difficult to find similar products since the ingredients would be written in Japanese.

For ease of use, you can pack them into a squeezable leak-proof silicone travel container. It is also best to consider bringing a bar soap instead of liquid soap to save up some space.

3. Prescription medications

Medications quick list:

  • Multivitamins and other supplements
  • Medications
  • Pain relievers
  • Other first-aid ointments (if you use one)

Jet lag relief pills are very useful if you’re coming from a different time zone.

You should confirm if the drug is legal in Japan before the trip. You can also buy common drugs from drug stores in Japan if you’re confident in your Japanese abilities.

That’s it folks, the ultimate packing list for your trip to Nippon! Enjoy exploring the traditions of Japan.

FREE PRINTABLE!

Download our printable version (.PDF) to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.

WHAT TO READ NEXT: My 41 Advice and things to know before going to Japan

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