The Ultimate Packing Checklist: 9 Essentials to Bring for Your Japan Trip
Now that you've built up your travel itinerary, it's time to start packing your suitcase. But do you know what to bring for your Japan trip? While you'll naturally pack essential items like your wallet and passport, other must-haves depend on the destination's weather, culture, and infrastructure. Of course, this means your packing list will change depending on where you're going. Keep reading to discover what items are absolutely necessary for an amazing sightseeing journey to Japan!
Jul 30 2019 (Oct 06 2021)
1. Japan Is a Cash-Based Society, So Bring Some Cash!
Barring convenience stores and large commercial facilities, stores and restaurants in Japan typically do not accept any other form of payment except for cash, so it is essential that you carry some when travelling in the country. It might seem risky in your home country to carry lots of cash with you, but rest assured that Japan is a rather safe country to travel in.
Places that do accept credit card payments will normally only accept JCB, Visa, and Mastercard, but recently more places are starting to accept other kinds of credit cards, as well as other forms of electronic payment such as PayPay and LINE Pay.
If you need to withdraw Japanese yen from your overseas bank account while in Japan, use the ATM at a post office or Seven-Eleven. You can also exchange 12 different currencies into Japanese yen using Smart Exchange, a currency exchange machine that's installed in approximately 400 locations all across Japan. All of these spots are registered in Google Maps, so it is easy to find out where your nearest one is.
▼Japan Post Bank
▼Japan Post Bank ATM Finder
2. Japan Rail Pass Is a Must-Have If You Plan to Travel All Around Japan
The Japan Rail Pass is an extremely useful item that allows international tourists to explore as much of Japan as they want at a set price. It is offered by the country's biggest railway company Japan Rail (JR), which has train lines all the way from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south, as well as shinkansen (bullet train) lines, buses, and even ferries.
To attain this pass, you have to meet one of the following conditions:
・If you are a foreign national, you must show proof that you are entering Japan as a "temporary visitor" for short-term sightseeing purposes.
・If you are a Japanese national living overseas, you must show your Japanese passport and proof that you have lived overseas for 10 consecutive years or more. This proof needs to come from the Japanese embassy in the foreign country where you live.
Here's how much it costs:
・7-Day Pass: Adults 29,110 yen / Children (6-11 years old) 14,550 yen
・14-Day Pass: Adults 46,390 yen / Children (6-11 years old) 23,190 yen
・21-Day Pass: Adults 59,350 yen / Children (6-11 years old) 29,670 yen
For more information on the JR Pass, check out our guide and the official website below.
3. Consider Purchasing or Renting a Portable Wi-Fi Router or SIM Card
There are many public places in Japan that offer free Wi-Fi, including train stations, airports, convenience stores, fast food chains, and cafes. However, Japan is still lagging behind other countries when it comes to this, leading to complaints about how inconvenient it is.
For this reason, we recommend tourists purchase portable Wi-Fi routers or SIM cards. With either of these options, you are limited by how much data you decide to purchase, so there is no worry about the possibility of overspending on data roaming. You'll still be able to enjoy using the Internet whenever you want, without having the option limited to whether free Wi-Fi is available or not!
All this said, upcoming events like the 2019 Rugby World Cup, 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and Osaka's Expo 2025 are pushing Japan to make great strides towards improving its free Wi-Fi infrastructure so that it can accommodate the expected growth in foreign tourists over the next few years.
Companies are also releasing new services to help the country cope with the influx of tourists. One such example is Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi, a smartphone app that helps you easily discover and connect to free Wi-Fi spots all across Japan. It is free and available in 16 different languages, including English and Chinese, so why not test out just how useful it is by installing it for your next Japan trip?
4. Stay Connected by Always Carrying a Portable Charger or Two
You'll almost definitely need to use your phone often when travelling in order to look up information, figure out how to get somewhere, and so on. However, even in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, there aren't that many places where you can charge your devices. Look over your travel plans one more time and make sure to carry a portable power bank (or two) if you plan to be out for the whole day!
5. Avoid Ruining Your Electronics by Bringing Along the Right Power Adapter
Voltages can differ depending on the country, so you absolutely can't forget to bring a power adapter to power your mobile phones, portable chargers, and other electronics! Specifically, make sure you get the A type adapter, which is set at 100V and has two straight prongs. If you happen to forget to bring an adapter, you might be able to find one at a local electronics store, but it can be a hassle when you're not used to shopping in a foreign country.
6. Bad Weather Won't Ruin Your Plans as Long as You Carry a Travel Umbrella
Japan's unique geographic location means that it has a rainy season (June to July, depending on the region) and a typhoon season (July to October), resulting in a yearly average precipitation level of 1,718mm. This is two times the world average of 880mm! The rain can get especially bad during typhoon season, with torrential rainstorms and unexpected pours. This is where having a travel umbrella can come in really handy!
Forget your umbrella? Japanese umbrellas have incredible function and design, so they are often purchased by foreign tourists for their own use or as a souvenir. You can find them sold everywhere, from your nearest convenience store to large shops like Tokyu Hands.
7. Let Your Smartphone Save the Day with These Useful Apps
Don't let your travel plans get ruined by bad weather or a natural disaster! Since Japan is a country that often gets torrential rains, typhoons, and other bad disasters, you'll want to arrive with smartphone apps installed for all kinds of situations. Pick up "Weather Japan" for weather info and "Safety Tips" for alerts on natural disasters. They both support multiple languages, including English!
▼Weather Forecast App "Weather Japan"
▼Natural Disaster Info App "Safety Tips"
8. The Surprisingly Useful Handkerchief/Towel
Japanese washrooms come equipped with soap, but there are plenty of places that don't offer paper towels, so you should make sure to bring a handkerchief or towel with you. You'll also need it when you wash your hands at the temizuya (Shinto ablution pavilion) of shrines and temples to cleanse your body before making a prayer. Most tourist spots will sell handkerchiefs in unique local designs, so why not purchase one as a souvenir as well?
9. Last but Not Least, Let's Talk About Clothes!
There's a lot to think about when it comes to clothing choices for your Japan trip.
For starters, most regions of Japan have four distinct seasons. That might sound easy to prepare for, but thanks to the archipalego stretching a long distance from north to south, there can be a 20-30°C (68-86°F) temperature gap between regions, as they fall under different climate groups. For example, Hokkaido in the northernmost corner of Japan is known for its subarctic climate, while Okinawa to the very south is a part of the subtropics. This means that in the winter, Hokkaido can reach below freezing point, while regions like Okinawa only ever get down to a breezy spring temperature of 15°C (59°F)!
On top of all this, daytime and nighttime temperatures can wildly vary during the spring and summer seasons in Japan. To accommodate for this, you will want to bring something with long sleeves such as a flannel shirt, cardigan, or jacket. As for the summer, bring along a thin shawl or cardigan to help you make it through the cold of the air conditioning in places like department stores and train carriages. Finally, when it comes to winter in Japan, you should not forget to bring along a coat, muffler, mittens, and knitted cap if you are travelling anywhere apart from Okinawa, as oftentimes it will stay near or under 0°C (32°F) for several days in a row.
While you can certainly show up to Japan without having prepared anything in advance, you'll run into far fewer problems just by bringing the items mentioned above. We hope you found this short guide useful and that you'll have a wonderful time sightseeing around Japan!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.