What to Pack for Japan: The Full List of Japan Travel Essentials

     
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Whether your backpacking or on a family vacation, our packing list for Japan is simple but offers a complete list of all you’ll need to make your trip to Japan hassle-free. We’ll cover everything from travel essentials to what type of luggage to bring, we’re here to help take the hassle out of planning your Japan holiday!

Lastly, if you follow our essential clothing guide, you’ll be much happier for it. We don’t want you regretting that you didn’t bring ‘this’ or ‘that’ for your trip to Japan.

No time to read?

No worries. We can send you a simple checklist in .PDF copy so you can print it anytime and use it as your guide while packing for your Japan trip.

Here’s our essential packing list for your trip to Japan:

1. Valid passport and visa.

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how much of a hassle this can be for people. Before you buy a ticket, check your passport if it’s valid for at least 6-months and has a blank page. You should with Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website 1 if your nationality requires a Japan visa.

Passport and 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 flights tickets through your mobile, make sure you have downloaded the copy from online just in case WiFi becomes unreliable at the airport.

When it comes to checking for cheap flight tickets to Japan, OneTravel is great for travelers from North America. And if you’re from Europe, Expedia is great.

3. Hotel or Airbnb reservations.

We never really printed out our hotel reservation unless it is instructed by the hotel, but it can still be handy at the airport. 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.

If you haven’t booked your accommodation yet, our favorite booking sites for Japan hotels are Booking.com and Expedia.com. We used to love Agoda for booking our hotels, but we find that Booking.com and Expedia.com always have better availability and a more extensive list of accommodation options in Japan.

4. Pre-booked tours confirmation in Japan.

If you booked 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.

5. Reserved portable WiFi rental or Data SIM Card.

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a reliable internet connection while traveling in Japan. We even wrote a dedicated article about it and laid out reliable internet providers to help you choose the best portable WiFi in Japan for you. If you haven’t reserved for a portable WiFi, do it now!

6. JR Pass eVoucher confirmation.

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. It’s up to you to decide on the starting date you’d like to use your JR Pass. Most travelers arriving in Tokyo would activate and use it as soon as they arrive in Japan to use it on an express train to go to the nearest station in their hotel.

There was a point where eligible travelers could buy it in Japan, but it was actually more expensive than buying it online. So if you are traveling extensively around Japan for a minimum of 7 days, you should consider buying a JR Pass online as it will be absolutely worth it.

7. 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. Otherwise, you’ll need to figure out which train to take to your hotel and risk getting lost and even missing the train.

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:

8. International Drivers Permit.

Go-Kart Rental in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto)
Image courtesy of Voyagin.

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. Go-karting is one of the most thrilling experiences you can have during your stay in Japan! Most visitors never miss out on the opportunity, so don’t forget to put that driver’s licenses in your wallet.

9. Travel insurance.

Best travel insurance for Japan trip
Sightsee & Sushi recommends RoamRight and World Nomads travel insurance for Japan travel.

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. With insurance, you don’t have to worry about paying extra fees for missing baggage, canceled flights, or unexpected medical emergencies.

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.

10. Bank cards or 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. Visa and Mastercard are the most common type of cards and are widely accepted in Japan.

REMINDER: To avoid any sudden card declines, contact your bank before leaving and inform them about your travel dates.
MONEY TIP: It is best to withdraw Japanese Yen upon arriving at the airport. The exchange rate is much better than getting the Japanese Yen from your home country. There are many ATMs inside the airport, and we recommend that you withdraw cash before leaving the airport. You can also get the ever rare ¥2,000 bill from airport ATMs, which is similar to how rare a $2 is in America, and just as frowned upon when used!

11. 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.

12. Proper clothing for Japan.

Japanese women like to wear skirts even in winter.
Japanese women like to wear skirts even in winter.

Best Footwear for Japan travel. In Japan, you’re going to walk a lot, so any pair with a good cushion with memory foam technology will do great as they’re really comfortable.

A lot of the time you will be required to take off your shoes at genkans (the entrance of a home), traditional restaurants, or temples. So shoes without shoelaces are convenient in these situations. During spring or summer, however, waterproof slip-on shoes will come in handy because it is guaranteed to rain a great deal during those seasons.

Dress code. 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, instead choosing 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. Though nowadays, even the Japanese tend to do it more as an experience than an actual fashion choice.

12.1. What to pack for Japan in winter (December, January, February)

Winter essentials to pack for Japan
To give you an idea of what winter essentials look like, you can check out this link.
  • heavyweight base layers, preferably merino wool.
  • sweaters or pullovers.
  • insulated coat or jacket.
  • travel pants or jeans.
  • underwear.
  • socks, preferably wool.
  • gloves.
  • beanie.
  • scarf.
  • comfortable walking shoes or boots.

The average temperature in Japan during winter is between 2-11 °C (36-52 °F), and the temperature can drop to negative depending on the region. Despite being a cold dry season, winter is our second favorite season because of less rain and clearer skies. And we’re Mt. Fuji lovers. If you wish to see Mt. Fuji in its perfect state; unobstructed, then you are going to love traveling to Japan in the winter.

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 it 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. Although cheap humidifiers can be purchased once you arrive in Japan from electronic stores or other discount stores, the quality isn’t great and the resulting function is very minimal. So we recommend you buy one before arriving. Amazon offers a wide range, but we recommend travel humidifiers from Crane and Pure Enrichment as they are trusted US brands.

12.2. What to pack for Japan in spring (March, April, May)

  • 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.
  • underwear.
  • socks, preferably wool.
  • folding umbrella.
  • waterproof walking boots or shoes.

The average temperature in Japan during spring is between 5-21 °C (41-70 °F). Spring in Japan can get pretty chilly at night and in the morning, so we recommend that you bring a base layer or two. March can be a bit tricky because it still feels like winter. So make sure to still pack your base layers or thermal underwear if traveling in March. In April and May, this is where humidity starts with occasional rains.

Spring in Japan is a time for cherry blossoms. Since spring is a transition period from the cold winter months, you’ll still see many Japanese surprisingly wearing pretty heavy coats even as temperatures reach in the teens and twenties (°C)!

The Japanese, I have found, like to stay warm and will often dress warmer than the temperatures seem to require. But as the winter coats are shed, there is one staple piece that I believe every Japanese person has in their wardrobe—a trench coat. The trench coat reigns supreme in spring!

12.3. What to pack for Japan in summer (June, July, August)

  • shirts.
  • travel pants or jeans.
  • sweater jacket or cardigan.
  • rain jacket or a folding umbrella.
  • underwear.
  • socks, preferably wool.
  • comfortable walking shoes.

The average temperature in Japan during summer is between 18-29 °C (64-84 °F). One thing to remember when traveling Japan during summers is that it’s an incredibly humid season and it also rains a lot due to being typhoon season.

Flights will often be canceled or delayed, and some amusement parks will also close if they’re affected by the weather too much. Personally, I avoid traveling around Japan during the summer for these reasons.

12.4. What to pack for Japan in autumn (September, October, November)

  • lightweight or midweight base layers preferably merino wool.
  • sweaters or pullovers.
  • travel pants or jeans.
  • fall coat or jacket (see sample fall coat for men and women).
  • underwear and bra for women.
  • socks, preferably wool.
  • comfortable walking shoes or boots.

The average temperature in Japan during autumn is between 9-26 °C (48-79 °F). We’re a bit biased here because autumn is our favorite time of the year. So, in our opinion, it’s the best time to travel to Japan — not too dry, not too cold, and less rain.

13. A sturdy travel backpack.

Osprey Sojourn series functions as both rolling luggage and backpack. Available in 45L, 60L, and 80L.

It can’t be overstated how critical important packing light in Japan really is. When you’re not walking you’re probably going to use trains to get around. Taking heavy luggage with you will just slow you down and add a lot of frustration for you (and those around you). Making matters worse, many subway stations don’t have elevators or escalators, so stairs are the only option.

If you’re staying in Japan for a week, a city travel backpack will suffice. However, if you’re planning on staying for more than 2 weeks, it would be best to use a wheeled suitcase that also functions as a backpack or duffel bag. The trains in Japan have small storage spaces where a large suitcase just won’t fit.

We recommend this. Their sizes are perfect for Japanese public transportation. They’re relatively light and slimmer than most suitcases, and they also have a lot of space for all your items. For a budget version of a rolling backpack or duffel bag, we recommend this.

14. A foldable and packable travel bag for souvenirs.

Canway Foldable Duffel Bag
We recommend Canway Foldable Duffel Bag. They’re sturdy, high-capacity, and made from well-constructed materials. Also available in 5 colors.

If you plan on shopping in Japan, then you’ll end up needing extra storage space. 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.

To avoid the extra cost of buying a piece of additional luggage while in Japan, make sure to pack an extra travel bag that is lightweight and foldable.

Tuck it inside your main luggage bag!

15. Packing cubes.

Here’s what packing cubes look like if you’ve never seen one. They’re from Bagail.

We love packing all our clothes in packing cubes! While it may seem like it’s just adding a step in the packing process, the organization they provide makes the extra step worth it. They keep your clothes compact and tidy which allows for either more stuff or less luggage.

We never travel without them now, and they allow us to keep our luggage down to two backpacks for the weekend and holiday trips around Japan.

We purchased our packing cubes from Amazon, but the brand we use is no longer being sold. For quality, go for eBags. However, if you’re looking for affordable packing cube set, BAGAIL brand is trusted by many travelers.

16. Personal items and toiletries.

  • 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)

For ladies, don’t forget:

  • Makeup kit and makeup remover
  • Feminine hygienic products
For liquid, it is best to pack them into TSA-approved squeezable leak-proof silicone bottles.

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.

Most hotel rooms provide basic toiletries for you to use, but you and I both know that hotel shampoo and conditioner are generally low quality.

17. Prescription medications.

  • Medicine, vitamins, and other supplements
  • Pain relievers
  • Other first-aid ointments (if you use one)

Medicine such as Tylenol or jet lag relief pills can come in handy especially because the flight to Japan can be very long.

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.

18. Hand Towel or handkerchief.

Bringing towel in Japan

A towel is an indispensable item in Japan. In fact, we have covered the importance of a towel in a previous article, and you can read it here. We recommend a quick-drying microfiber towel as it’s lightweight, super-absorbent and very packable.

If you’re staying at a hostel or will be using an onsen (Japanese public bath), it’s better to bring your own towel because they usually charge you extra for renting their towels.

19. Mobile phones, laptops, or tablets.

Best pocket WiFi rental in Japan
Checking the speed of my portable WiFi.

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. Using your home countries SIM data could rack up insane roaming fees. So it’s best to rent a portable pocket WiFi as mentioned earlier. Don’t forget to install these must-have apps before you leave for Japan.

20. Camera.

Strolling around Kawaguchiko
Strolling around Mt. Fuji with my 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, yet 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!

21. 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. Therefore, I don’t forget to carry a charger or spare battery with you when sightseeing in Japan.

22. Power bank.

RavPower
RavPower with 26800 mAh. Good for 4-5 full charges for iPhone and Android phones.

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. Therefore, 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, so 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.

23. Universal power adapter.

Japanese style plug sockets differ from most countries (two-prong plugs). Japan uses Type A and Type B plugs and sockets just like in the U.S. and Canada.

In this case, get a universal power adapter preferably with Type A & B sockets. We recommend these travel adapters as it’s well-designed, compact, and made from well-constructed materials.

24. 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! You can also download our recommended Japan guidebooks on your Kindle device.

25. A carry-on handbag or backpack.

Hynes Eagle 38L carry-on bag.

A side bag or carry-on handbag or backpack is necessary to put in things that you would often use in the airport and during your visit.

It is essential that you DO NOT check-in your electronic devices in with your large luggage to avoid any damage during the long flight and to avoid losing your most important assets in case of lost or misrouted luggage. So we recommend getting a carry-on bag that is big enough for your electronics but still within the carry-on requirement of your airline.

Amazon has a wide range of flight approved carry-on travel backpacks. But we recommend Hynes Eagle as it’s spacious, stylish, and made from durable materials.

26. 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. We love this packable travel pillow as it doesn’t take too much space when kept in your bag.

27. Noise-canceling headphones.

To cancel out the noise of the airplane engines and your fellow passengers, you can get a pair of noise-canceling headphones. This way, your sleep can go uninterrupted.

That’s it folks, the ultimate packing list for your trip to Nippon! Enjoy exploring the traditions of Japan. Download our printable version too and stick on your luggage bag to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.

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References:
  1. Exemption of Visa (Short-Term Stay). (n.d.). Retrieved August 11, 2019, from https://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/short/novisa.html[]


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