What *Not* to Pack for Japan
This packing guide is about everything I brought to Japan that I should’ve left at home, and some recommended items you may not think about.
How much did I bring?
large suitcase (checked bag)
smaller suitcase (carry on)
backpack (personal item)
My checked bag was overweight, so I had to remove one bag of Costco candy, shampoo, and conditioner. Then it was 49lbs, right under the limit.
Things I SHOULD’ve left at home:
½ of my clothes (more details below)
travel mug for hot coffee/tea
the Costco bags of candy for students
Me standing out as a foreigner with my shorts in Tokyo.
Clothes to unpack: I could’ve left my sweatshirt, short shorts, low neck shirts, thin strapped dresses, ripped jeans, and leggings at home. Also, don’t bring crop tops. (You may feel like an exhibit at the zoo.) This, of course, is only if you care about not standing out.
Don’t bring a thermos. I never wished for a hot beverage the whole summer. Just a waste of space.
Flip flops are considered ダサい (unfashionable). Consider bringing another waterproof sandal to the beach. Flip flops are not popular, but surprisingly crocs are, especially with dad-age men. Also, avoid shoes that resemble slippers. People will make fun of you for wearing slippers in public.
As for candy, bring a small bag. My students said that American candy was too sweet. Go for nuts or chocolate instead.
Here is a picture of me, July 13, 2018:
Ignorant traveler with an overweight suitcase at the airport.
THEN WHAT SHOULD I UNPACK?
Japan is hot and humid. I would compare a Japanese summer to stepping into a sauna. There is a word for this in Japanese, 蒸し暑い (mushi atsui). I am from Michigan, where summers are also hot, but not as humid, so I was not prepared. Also, the temperature doesn’t drop when the sun sets during summer! Which means jacket-appropriate evenings are typically not a thing.
There are many differences between Japanese fashion and western fashion. Compared to America, all genders tend to put more effort into their daily outfits. You won’t see many jeans, t-shirt, sneaker types. Women especially tend to dress more conservatively. You will often see people wearing full-length pants and long sleeve shirts when it is 95F outside.
“Feels like 116.”
SO What clothes should I pack?
Research typical Japanese fashion and bring those clothes. Mix and match pants, skirts, and different tops. (If you’re teaching, check your dress code.) You can make different outfit combinations with only a few pieces. Leave dresses and rompers at home, since these take up space and allow only one outfit option.
What’s the problem? So what if you brought EXTRRA stuff?
Answer: There are stairs all over the place. In train stations. At crosswalks. In houses. Unless you are hulk and can easily hoist your suitcase up and down several flights of stairs, then you need to pack as light as possible. There are elevators, but they can be troublesome to find. It is easier to bring less.
MY Recommended items you should buy in Japan instead:
sheets, pillow, towels
shampoo and conditioner/soap
sunscreen, anti-itch cream (ムヒ muhi is excellent), bug repellant
clothes ( you could just buy everything there if you wanted to!)
small whiteboard for class (very useful, some smaller venues might provide you with one for the week)
folding fan / 扇子 / sensu (these are really useful and everyone uses them)
MY RECOMMENDED Items you should bring from home:
rechargeable battery such as a Mycharge
The ideal luggage situation would probably be one medium suitcase and a backpack. Of course, you will probably buy souvenirs and be in need of another bag when you return home. Not to worry, just pick one up at your local Don Quijote while you are in Japan!
Gabrielle was a Global English Camp intern in 2018 and is returning as a Leader for their second summer in 2019. They look forward to seeing you all in Japan this summer and will try to follow their own advice to pack light!