Japan embodies the exquisite. There are few places in the world which feel more exotic to the Western traveler whether you are exploring a temple, the megacities, or the rural areas.
If you are planning your trip to Japan, then I'm excited for you, I have no doubt the experience will not disappoint! Packing of course, whenever you travel isn't always so exquisite. Even when you go to Japan, you need to carefully consider your Japan packing list.
We thought of everything so you don't have to
There are a number of different activities and environments across the country which calls for different items. To save you oodles of time I've prepared the ultimate Japan packing list.
Furthermore, I've organized the list into easy to navigate sections which mean you can save even more time and get on with the fun bit (getting there and exploring.)
Yup some people have been known to forget this essential item. Not me, of course, I would never make such an epic fail (ah-hem.) Don't forget to check you have more than 6 months left before expiry and at least one empty page.
I mentioned this topic in : The Complete Peru Packing List for Newbie's or Seasoned Travelers
Residents of most Western countries can get a 90-day VISA on arrival. A few countries can extend from inside Japan, but not all…
You should also make sure you have an onward ticket booked which is a requirement for the VISA. Ninety days should suit most travelers, but if you need longer or want to know if you can extend while you are there have a look at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan detailed VISA guide.
Print off a copy of your ticket and keep this with your passport. You don't always need this these days but it doesn't hurt just in case!
Try our tool Flightscanner if you didn't get your flights yet.
You will find credit and debit cards are accepted in most scenarios in Japan, and this is the best way to access your money securely.
Either way, you can never be too cautious, make a copy of all your cards (and your passport) and keep the copies in a couple of locations in your luggage.
Make sure you check what charges the bank will make when you use the card abroad. If the charges are very high, consider applying to a different bank with lower fees.
Keep a paper print out of your Hotel reservation with your passport and flight tickets, at least for the first night. Keep a copy of the directions to the Hotel as well.
While I always enjoy going with the flow when I travel, the first day and night are not for those moments. Make sure you plan when you will stay that first night and research before you land how to get to your hotel.
Needless to say, it is important to arrange insurance before you travel. If relevant, make sure you are covered for any specialized activities you plan to do such as snowboarding, skiing, hiking Mount Fuji, or diving.
Make sure you keep your house and car keys in a safe place in your bag. Don't forget to leave a spare set with someone trusted close to home. You don't want to get locked out when you do get home. And this never happened to me either (ah-hem, ah-hem.)
Japanese plugs are not the same as European or American plugs. If you are traveling with electrical equipment then make sure you buy an adaptor.
The last thing you want to do when you are there is to find you can't charge anything, and then waste precious time looking around for somewhere to buy an adaptor.
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If you have any special medications which you need on the trip, then make sure to pack enough for the whole time with some extras just in case.
Some medicines which are legal in the West are illegal in Japan.
This means if you have special medications you must take with you check their status in Japan before you travel.
You can do this with your local Japanese embassy. Then you may need to get a Doctor's note to keep with your medicines if your particular product is illegal.
To find out more have a read of the Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare information page.
You don't need any hardcore vaccinations to visit Japan.
However, you should make sure you are up to date with routine vaccinations.
Furthermore, you may want to get some extra vaccinations. You should talk to your Doctor before your trip to decide what's best for you.
Some extra vaccinations travelers may need:
For more information about the vaccinations you may need for your trip to Japan, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Having maps of the areas you plan to visit, particularly for cities and hiking areas will make finding your way around much, much easier.
You can also then more easily navigate your way around without having to rely too much on asking other people.
A guidebook is not essential but always helpful if you want to make sure you visit the sights which interest you most.
Japan has such a range of beautiful landscapes, cityscapes, historical monuments, and temples you will have no shortage of opportunities to take photos. Don't forget your camera if you have one, or at least your phone.
However, I think the destination is well-worth a more concerted photography effort. If you agree then why not treat yourself to some professional equipment, and take your photography to the next level.
If you do, then consider this pro starter pack with a Canon DSLR, two lens, a telephoto lens, filters, a 64GB memory card, tripod, macro close-up kit, battery pack, bag and many more accessories to get you started taking professional level photographs.
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Want more suggestion? Then jump to our review on the top 7 cameras for backpacking.
In Japan, people don't generally tip but they will often give a small gift to people who have hosted them, or given them a tour, or some kind of service they appreciated.
Gift giving in Japan is very much a ritual built into every aspect of life. Good gifts can be sweets typical of your home country, or other food items should usually go down well. Make sure you wrap them beautifully!
You may also find someone gives you a gift along the way, and if you want to reciprocate you will be happy you already brought something with you.
Gifts are always given and received with two hands.
Wherever you are in Japan there is a strong chance you will do a lot of walking. Even, if you only plan a visit to urban areas, the cities have good transport, and inevitably you usually end up walking a bit between stops and destinations.
You can also rent a bike in many places and this can make a fun change from walking. Either way, you will feel grateful for having a good pair of shoes.
Don't forget in Japan you often need to take off your shoes when going into temples, or houses, or other buildings.
This means don't get a pair of shoes with an intricate laces set up. You'll find yourself cursing every time they come on and off again.
Save some irritation and choose a shoe which you can take on and off relatively easily.
Check out our suggestion below
In most areas of Japan, you will at some point encounter a rainstorm. In particular, there is a lot of rain storms over the summer until autumn kicks in. After autumn the weather is much drier.
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Unless you specifically plan to go to some fancy events, or high-class restaurants/ hotels, then you don't need to pack any fancy clothes.
In any case, if the need does arise you can always treat yourself to an outfit while you are there which will make a nice souvenir at the same time!
Go for clothes which are smart but casual.
Many restrooms in Japan don't provide paper towels, driers or cloth towels. This is because most people keep a little personal hand towel with them for drying their hands.
If you have one with you as well, you won't find yourself drying your hands on your pants every time you use the bathroom!
This is particularly needed in summer. The warm weather and plentiful water mean mosquitoes can go on a rampage while you sleep. Avoid the discomfort of being eaten alive and go prepared with repellant.
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If you will head to the mountains for some winter sports then you will need appropriate clothing and equipment.
You could also consider:
We've all experienced those moments when you take a fall or make a jump and fall, and your back takes the impact. Very, very painful. A back protector can help absorb the impact and reduce the chances of injury… which means more fun, fun, fun.
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There is nothing worse than rental goggles. If you are going to buy anything for your trip to Japan, and you are going to head to the mountains, then it is well worth investing in your own goggles. They don't take up much space in your luggage, and they will be much better than loose fitting rental goggles.
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You can hire equipment such as ski's, snowboards, helmets, and boots when you are in the mountains in Japan. But if you prefer, and have your own, you can take all those things on most flights.
The mountain ranges located on the Island of Hokkaido are famous for some of the best powder in the world… sooo if you're a powder junkie like me, and you take your own snowboard or ski's make sure they are for powder!
Choose clothing which dries quickly… there is a good chance you will get rained on.
What you will need does depend a little on the time of year and where you will hike.
But in general you should make sure you bring:
Any serious hiking requires a decent backpack, and hiking in Japan is no exception. Bear in mind there is a good chance you will encounter rain, so get a waterproof or at least a water-resistant bag.
If you will do full day or multiple day hikes then make sure you have a bag which is comfortable too. Look for backpacks with wide straps, a chest buckle as well as a waist buckle, and good padding.
If you plan to do some proper hiking while in Japan, then rather than just light hiking shoes which are suitable for most trips, you should invest in a decent pair of hiking boots.
Choose something which supports your ankle, feels comfortable, has a good grip and has a waterproofing or water-resistant coating.
Make sure you wear them in before you travel!
Sometimes the businesses who work with travelers guiding them up Mount Fuji will also rent out equipment. If you book a tour to climb Mount Fuji check what is possible before you fly. You may want to plan on renting some items to keep your luggage light.
Hiking poles are not essential, but they can really help when hiking, especially on uneven terrain. You can potentially rent them, but if you have your own and like to use them, they are worth bringing.
Most people don't think of the beach when they think of Japan. However, don't forget Japan consists of 6,852 islands! Only 430 of those islands have residents. I bet you didn't realize there were so many!
And where there are islands there are beaches… Furthermore, Japan is relatively unknown as a beach destination among international travelers which means you have a good chance of finding unspoiled and quiet Japanese beaches to enjoy.
Now, I've convinced you not to miss out on visiting the beaches in Japan, consider packing some or all of the following things:
The UV rays are strong in Japan which means it's important to use sun cream to protect your skin from getting burned.
If you have a pale complexion start with a strong factor 40 or 50, then gradually reduce it (if you really must), and you plan on spending more than a week enjoying the beaches.
Yes, I said it before and I'll say it again. The UV is strong in Japan, so don't forget your sun hat!
Take a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the UV light.
While you could buy something in Japan if you are not a petite woman you may have a challenge to find something which fits… Therefore, if you plan to head to the beaches (or Hotel swimming pools,) then don't forget to bring your swimwear.
A waterproof dry bag is exceedingly useful at the beach, and this applies to any beach you visit anywhere in the world. You can put your money, cards, passport, camera, and phone inside knowing they are safe and dry. Win and more win!
Many beaches in Japan do have facilities with lockers to put your things in, but this is not available at every beach. When the facilities aren't available the dry bag is an essential item.
Don't forget to take a towel to dry off after your swim. You can sometimes rent towels, but this can cost too much for what it is, and they can also run out.
Aqua socks are one of my favorite things to take to the beach. Then you can frolic without fear of impalement on a sea urchin or sharp coral. I witnessed someone with more than 50 sea urchin spines in their foot after swimming without Aqua socks, and since then I never leave them behind when I visit the beach.
Japan has a special ceremony (Umi-biraki) at the beginning of each season when they open the beaches.
The opening dates vary from beach to beach, from area to area and from year to year. You are prohibited from swimming before the official ceremony takes place. They make most announcements about the opening date in Japanese.
Check with the tourism centers if the beaches have opened or not before going. In general, visiting the beaches in August is a safe bet, but some beaches located on the South end of the Japanese archipelago will often open much earlier.
Crammed into small spaces the cities of Japan feature vast contrasts between historical buildings, ultra-modern skyscrapers replete with light shows, and tech madness. What then do you need to pack in particular for your trip to Japanese urban areas?
If you will spend most or your entire trip in the urban areas of Japan then you may not need a raincoat. In this case, a folding umbrella may well do better. You can get some really good small folding products which are perfect for traveling light, and keeping with you in your day bag.
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The cities are often humid and hot, and this means in many places you will find the air-conditioning on full blast. This means you can go from hot to cold in a few minutes. Having a light warm top with you means you can put the extra layer on if you need to, rather than shivering under the air-con.
Of course, you can find toiletries all over Japan. However, you might not always find the brands you like best. If you are particular about your shampoo, toothpaste, or other items make sure you bring enough with you for your trip.
This does apply to all types of trip to Japan, but you will certainly end up eating raw fish when you do an urban trip. And raw fish does mean your stomach ay protest. Activated charcoal can stop (and prevent) an upset stomach in its tracks.
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Now, all you need to do is get any items you don't already have, pack and get on with the best part of your trip….
I hope this Japan packing list was helpful to you, and I am sure you will have a wonderful time.
Have you been to Japan? Is there anything you wished you had taken which you didn't? Did anyone give you any nice/funny little gifts? Let us know in the comments…
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