In this post, I am going to focus on what to consider packing for you trip to Japan. I am not going to talk about
obvious things, such as clothing or sunscreen, because that should be obvious to anyone with common sense. Just make sure you research the climate/weather of the area you will be visiting. Each area is different, much like the US. The things I will be listing are in no particular order. You also don't have to take my advice, I am just someone who has traveled a bit and can offer some advice. Without further adieu, here is a list of items I feel are important for you to consider packing on your trip to Japan. The first tip I have for you is when packing,
pack light. You will be wanting to buy things while abroad, so make sure you leave space. Also, Japan is small. If you are from anywhere in the US, Japan is tiny. You need all the space you can get, and lugging around huge suitcases is a real pain in the behind. Plus, some tour buses or transport buses have a size limit. So try to pack as small and lightly as possible.
This may sound like an unnecessary thing, especially since I just got finished saying to pack light, but hear me out. You want to make sure you have enough clothing to last you a few days in your carry on in case your luggage gets lost. Japan is usually really good about returning lost luggage but your luggage isn't originating in Japan. It first has to get to Japan. If you haven't already purchased your tickets it is best to read reviews of the airline to see how often customers get their bags lost. I have had my luggage missing before. Thankfully, it was returned to me the same day but I know people who lose their bags for days and even weeks. There is nothing worse than arriving to your destination and having no belongings except the ones you are wearing. (#0_o)
I will first discuss prescription medications. If you have a prescription, as long as it meets the laws then you are ok to bring it in up to a 30-day supply. The same goes for contacts and contact solution. Be sure you have the original prescription (not the bottle, the written prescription) from your doctor in case they ask for it at customs. Chances are, they won't even acknowledge you have luggage and just let you move on through, but just in case be prepared. You can find information on medications in Japan here. (This says it is from the US but it applies to everybody). Right off the bat, I can tell you than any mood suppressant or mood-altering drug is illegal even if you have a prescription. Also, narcotics are off the table.
Aside from prescriptions, you are going to want to bring some meds to Japan. You can find prohibited ones in the link above. You will want to bring anti-histamines. Not just your everyday allergy pill, specifically anti-histamines. There are a ton of bugs and mosquitos in Japan. Bug spray does not work. Bugs are attracted to the histamines in your blood. Mosquitos can smell you from yards away and hone in on you. If you take anti-histamines, this blocks the bugs from being attracted to you. When I first came to Japan, I was eaten alive by bugs. It didn't matter if I wore long sleeves or not, they still got me. It wasn't until after I started taking anti-histamines that the bugs left me alone. It really does work. You may still get bitten by other bugs such as worms or spiders, but the flying ones won't touch you.
On top of anti-histamines, you will want to bring another allergy medicine like Benadryl in case of an emergency. Benadryl is fast acting so if you discover you have an allergy to something from Japan, you want to make sure you have this on hand to help relieve you. Unless of course you have a severe allergy, then call 119 (the emergency number).
You will feel very happy if you have anti-diuretics on hand. Japanese food lacks chemicals and other processing (for the most part) which means the food is very cleansing. That being said, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised to visiting the bathroom over and over for the first couple of weeks. To help alleviate this,
it is best to bring anti-diuretics with you.
Last on this medications list is cold meds. Tylenol cold and Sudafed are illegal in Japan. Any other cold medicine is acceptable. If you are not sure, please check the link above. Japanese over the counter cold medicine is very strong, yet it is very expensive. 3 doses of cough syrup will cost you at least $15. You will finish those doses in one day. Should you suddenly catch cold, it is best that you have medications you are familiar with on hand rather than spending upwards of $50 for OTC drugs.
If you are staying at a hotel for the entirety of your stay, you will have all your toiletries supplied to you daily.
So this means, things like soap, shampoo, conditioner, razors, facewash, etc. will all be available to you no matter what hotel you stay at. This is not true for hostels, Air BnB and some pod hotels. I still recommend bringing your own razor, but this info still gives you piece of mind knowing that you don't have to make sure you remember everything. If you have a shampoo that you absolutely cannot part with, then go ahead and bring it.
Knock yourself out. There are 3 things I do suggest you pack even if you are staying at a hotel. 2 things if you are a guy.
First thing is toothpaste. The toothpaste in Japan does not have fluoride because they believe there is enough fluoride in toothpaste to cause cancer, yet they have horrible teeth. It is better to bring your own otherwise you
may as well just be brushing with water.
Second thing is deodorant. They have this in Japan, but I don't know if people don't use it or if it doesn't work. In the summer, the trains and buses smell so bad of BO. Whoever said that Japanese don't sweat or have BO clearly only visited Japan from the comfort of their own home while watching "Memoirs of a Geisha." Do Japan a favor and don't stink. BYOD.
Lastly, if you are a girl, and don't mind using maxi pads, then you are in luck! Japan is the place for you. If you are a tampon kind of girl, then bring your own. Even if you think you won't have your period during your trip, bring a backup box just in case. Sometimes your body does weird things during international travel and you never want to be caught red pantsed. They have tampons here, but they suck. I hate them, my friends hate them, everybody hates them. Just bring your own. You will be much happier.
Unless you specifically pay extra for a breakfast coupon at a hotel in Japan, you will not be getting breakfast. The breakfast in Japan is not going to be something you are used to in your home country. I personally find the soy diet rather harsh for the morning, so I advise that you either buy some food beforehand at a convenience store near your hotel in Japan, or bring your own box of pop tarts (or something equivalent). Milk is rather rare but yogurt is EVERYWHERE. If you are a yogurt person then welcome to heaven. If you are a coffee person, your hotel should be equipped with coffee. I think pod hotels and hostels also include coffee or tea. Air BnB is
up to the individual. Also, if you have a food allergy, it is best that you bring plenty of snacks to last you until
you can get used to figuring out what you can and can't eat. Snacks are a must in my book.
Most, if not all, public bathrooms in Japan do not include any means in which to dry your hands. No paper towels, nor blow dryers. You will need to dry your own hands using a towel that you carry around with you. You can buy them in Japan, but the first thing I am usually thinking of when I land is finding the bathroom. It is not looking for a store, which sells hand towels. You best save yourself the wet shirt and put a hand towel in your purse. You will be using it frequently in Japan.
I am sure that you plan on bringing your camera or personal computer with you. Maybe even a cell phone, however, how exactly do you plan on plugging those in? Japan uses 2 prongs similar to the US without the ground plug but all computers and some cameras require that they be grounded when plugged in. You can't plug those in in Japan without either a surge converter or an adapter. You can find a rather good surge converter at Best Buy in the US or you could just order one from Amazon. The voltage is 100-110v in Japan. That means, if you are coming from the US, you can still use your curling iron or blow dryer (hotels include blow dryers btw) just fine. Some people say that it takes longer to heat up or charge something, but I have never noticed this.
Speaking of electronics, sometimes computers from the US have a hard time connecting to a foreign server so it is best if you wire your computer to the internet. Most hotels include an Ethernet cable but to be on the safe side, just bring your own. Especially if you have a newer Mac or Chromebook, you will need to buy a special adapter to connect via Ethernet. If you are staying via Air BnB or going to someone's house, you shouldn't
have a problem connecting to the internet. All our electronics work just fine with our internet. The only time I ever encountered a problem was in hotels.
As I mentioned before, sunscreen should be obvious so I will mention it again. Also, if your area sells it, I would bring a collapsible UV umbrella. That way, if it rains (it rains a ton during the summer) or if it is really sunny one day, you are prepared. I am from Arizona and thought I was used to the sun trying to murder me everyday, but the sun in Japan is different. It is much harsher here and I will burn within 15 minutes. If carrying an umbrella isn't your thing, then just make sure you have a wide brimmed hat and good sunscreen on hand. In the winter, this isn't so bad but come late spring to mid fall you will want protection.
As I wrote in my last post, have a phrasebook or pocket dictionary on hand at all times. You never know when you will encounter a problem, and the only people around are the ones who don't speak English. Phrase books are especially helpful in this instance. The phrases are already there and you can just look up what you want, and they can look up the answers. If you are more advanced or daring in Japanese, then the dictionary is better for you in case you need to look up just one or two words.
This concludes part 2 of advice for your trip to Japan! The next and final post will be about customs you may not be aware of in Japan. If I forgot something that you think should have been added, please let me know! You can leave a FB comment or visit the guestbook page.