Heading to Japan soon but not sure what to bring with you? Not sure what things can be left at home? Check out my Japan packing list to make sure you’ve got everything you need!
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- What to Pack for Japan
- What Not to Pack for Japan
What to Pack for Japan
Documents & Money
First and foremost, you’ll want to pack everything that you’ll need to actually get into the country. This means that #1 on your Japan packing list should be your passport. Your passport must be valid for the entire duration of your stay and must have at least one blank page.
I also recommend including your driver’s license on your Japan packing list, if only as a second form of identification. If you plan on renting a car (or doing the street Mario kart racing), you’ll also need an international driving permit.
Flight & Hotel Confirmations
You should also bring physical copies of your flight and hotel information. It’s just a good practice in case something happens to your phone or computer (it’s dead, got lost in transit, was stolen, etc). You’d hate to arrive in Japan and have no idea the name of your hotel or where it’s located.
I personally think you should exchange at least some cash into yen in advance to bring with you. This way, you’ll have some cash to pay for any initial expenses without having to stress about finding a place to exchange money the second you step off the plane.
Credit & Debit Card
Honestly, you probably won’t really need a credit card in Japan, since cash is still king. However, I prefer to always have at least one with me in case of emergencies. You should keep it separate from the rest of your money (for example keep it in your luggage in the hotel) that way if your regular money gets stolen (a pickpocket steals your wallet or something), you’ll still have another means of paying for things.
You’ll definitely want to have a debit card with you so that you can withdraw money from the ATMs during your time in Japan. ATMs found in most post offices and almost all 7-Eleven convenience stores will accept international debit cards. Just be aware that you may be charged a service fee depending on your card issuer.
Lastly, I recommend including a little coin purse on your Japan packing list (yes, even guys should have one). In Japan, even the 100 yen (roughly $1 USD) and ¥500 yen (roughly $5 USD) are coins.
Most Americans are used to just throwing coins in a jar and forgetting about them. Personally, I hate change. I never know what to do with it, because I almost never use it. However, after being in Japan for a few weeks, I realized that I had collected a significant amount of coins that added up to a surprising amount of money.
Get a coin purse to keep your change and learn to start looking through it first when paying for things.
JR Pass Voucher
If you ordered a Japan Rail Pass voucher and are having it shipped to you before your trip, make sure not to forget it! You typically cannot buy another one once you arrive in Japan.
Not sure whether to order one? Find out if the Japan Rail Pass is worth it.
IC Card Confirmation
If you’re not familiar with IC Cards, they’re used for the public transit system in Japan. Instead of having to worry about it after you arrive, you can reserve one in advance so it’s ready to go when you arrive at the airport. It isn’t absolutely necessary to do in advance, but most people find that it takes a bit of stress away knowing that one has been reserved and ready to go. If you decide to reserve one in advance, just make sure to bring a copy of the confirmation so you don’t have any hassles.
SIM Card or Portable Wi-Fi Confirmation
Similar to the IC Card, you can pick up a SIM Card or Portable Wi-Fi pack after you arrive in Japan, or you can reserve them in advance so they’re ready to go when you arrive at the airport. If you choose to reserve one in advance, remember to bring the confirmation. Plain and simple.
Travel Size Personal Care Products
Instead of purchasing travel size shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, I suggest getting small empty bottles. This way, you can just pour some of your shampoo from home into the travel size bottle instead of actually buying the travel size portion of your traditional shampoo. Much cheaper this way. Alternatively, you can buy bar soap and even bar shampoo to avoid dealing with airline restrictions on liquids.
Lotions, Moisturizers, and Lip Balm
Depending on where you are from and what time you visit Japan, you may find Japan’s climate either more dry or more humid than you are used to. If you happen to visit Japan during the more dry months and you aren’t used to dry climates, you might want to add lotions and/or moisturizers to your Japan packing list. When I first arrived in Japan in early April a few years ago, I had a nose bleed every single morning for the first week I was there.
Deodorant is always a good idea, no matter the time of year, no matter the season. However, it becomes especially important if you are visiting Japan during the summer. It can get quite humid, and with the trains being super cramped, I’m sure everybody will appreciate it if you remember to put on deodorant.
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Does this need an explanation? Please bush your teeth.
Hairbrush or Comb
Again, I don’t think this needs an explanation. If you’re not bald, you’ll probably want to include a hairbrush or comb on your Japan packing list.
If you are going to be in Japan during the summer, you’ll probably want to bring the outdoor essentials such as sunscreen and sunglasses, and maybe even a hat. You’ll actually see a lot of Japanese women use umbrellas to block themselves from the sun during the summer.
Glasses & Contact Solution
If you wear glasses or contacts on a regular basis, you’ll definitely want to bring them with you, along with anything you might need to take care of them.
Bringing medications to Japan can get a bit tricky. In general, you can bring up to one-month’s supply of prescription medication and two-month’s supply of over-the-counter medication without issue. More information about this can be found on the U.S. Embassy in Japan’s website.
Thankfully, feminine hygiene products in Japan are quite similar to the ones you would find in the United States or United Kingdom. If you know you will need them, I suggest bringing them with you just for convenience. However, you shouldn’t have any issue finding them if you need them unexpectedly.
Of course, pack the clothes you’ll need. Honestly, most people recommend packing the clothes you think you’ll need, and then removing about half of them. Countless travelers come back from Japan with the realization that they over-packed clothing. Trust me, you’ll want that extra space in your luggage for other things such as souvenirs. For more information about what type of clothing to pack, check out my guide on what to wear in Japan.
Kind of a given. Who is going to go to Japan without their phone? Just remember to bring the charger with you!
In my opinion, this is a must on a Japan packing list. You’ll likely be quite busy while in Japan (it’s not exactly a hang-out-at-the-beach-all-day type of destination). For that reason, you’ll want to make sure your phone charge lasts the entire day, as you’ll likely be using your phone to navigate and communicate. A good portable battery will make sure your phone stays charged throughout your adventures.
Depending on where you are from, you may or may not need an outlet adapter. Check out this article for more about electricity in Japan and then decide whether or not you need one.
Whether you choose bring a point-shoot-camera, a fancy DSLR camera, or just our smart phone, you’ll definitely want to have something to take pictures with during your time in Japan. Just don’t forget to bring extra batteries or a charger. Plus, you’ll want to make sure you have a decent sized memory card or multiple small memory cards.
Whether or not you bring a laptop is personal preference. I prefer to bring mine just because I like to copy my pictures from my camera to my laptop at the end of each day. This ensures that even if something happens to my camera while I’m out and about, I won’t have lost all of my pictures from the trip. It’s worth investing in a good travel laptop that’s durable but lightweight and easy to take with you.
Depending on where you are coming from, the flight to Japan is likely a long one. Chances are, you’ll likely end up sleeping for most of the flight. In that case, you’ll want to make sure to bring a travel pillow and maybe even a sleep mask (depending on the airline, blankets may be provided for you).
On the off chance that you can’t sleep during the flight, or it just makes more sense for you to stay awake during the flight due to time change differences, you’ll always want to make sure you bring something for entertainment — books, movies, music, games, etc.
Day Bag / Purse
You’ll likely be doing a lot of adventuring while in Japan. I typically use a book bag as my “personal item” on flights, which will also double as a day bag while I’m actually in Japan. It’s just to have throughout the day to put my camera and water in, as well as any souvenirs I happened to buy throughout the day.
Surprisingly, many restrooms in Japan don’t have paper towels or hand dryers, so most people carry a small hand towel with them to dry their hands off after washing their hands.
Chances are, you’ll ride the local train and bus systems quite a bit. For this reason, it’s nice to have easy access to you IC Card and/or JR Pass. Many people will buy a sleeve to hold their IC Card on and attach it to the outside of their bag so they don’t have to dig around in their bag for it when it’s time to get on or off the train.
Itineraries may change, new and interesting things will likely be discovered, and questions will undoubtedly arise during your time in Japan. For this reason, it’s nice to have a quick reference guide to all things Japan with you.
What Not to Pack for Japan
Anything Not Necessary
This is an obvious one, but it’s worth mentioning that you should take a hard look at what’s in your suitcase and ask yourself, will I REALLY need this? Japan is one of those destinations that offers lots of options for souvenirs. Most people acquire quite a few souvenirs while you’re in Japan – so much so that many returning travelers wished that they had brought and empty, collapsible bag to use for bringing back souvenirs!
Japan in general is crowded, and you don’t really want to be dragging oversized luggage with you on the trains and buses. As mentioned in the past section, take a hard look at what you are bringing with you. Do you really need to bring a suitcase that’s more than half your size?
At the end of the day, it just takes up space on your luggage. If it rains during your time in Japan, pretty much EVERY convenience store will be selling clear, cheap umbrellas because you weren’t the only one who walked out without an umbrella.
Regular Sized Personal Care Products
I wouldn’t bring more than a day or two’s worth of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Unless you have a special type of shampoo or conditioner or something that you use, you’re better off just picking up these items from a local convenience store or supermarket. Japan has some fantastic personal care products that are relatively inexpensive.
Most lodging will have hair dryers included in the room. Plus, the voltage in Japan is lower than most countries, so your hair dryer from home may not even work.