Headed off to Japan? One problem that trips up first-time travellers more than anything is figuring out what to pack for Japan. From Japan’s unpredictable weather to its wholly unique culture, knowing what to bring along—and what to leave behind!—isn’t always so cut and dry.
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution.
Follow along with this Japan packing list, and you’ll be prepared to take on whatever the Land of the Rising Sun throws at you—in every season. I’ve got everything covered, from what to wear in Japan to essential travel accessories that will make your stay as comfortable as possible.
Let’s get started, shall we?
What to pack for Japan
Before I even think of hopping on a plane, I always purchase a travel insurance policy. Although insurance can seem like an unnecessary travel expense most of the time, if you ever need it, the small cost will pay for itself many times over.
When looking for travel insurance for Japan (or anywhere for that matter), be sure to get a policy that covers medical care, trip cancellation, lost or damaged luggage, and theft.
Getting a policy with medical coverage is particularly important for Japan. Although the cost of medical care in Japan is much less than in the United States, many hospitals in Japan require proof of medical insurance before they will treat you. And even when they accept you without insurance for serious illnesses or injuries requiring long-term hospitalization, the out-of-pocket costs can quickly mount.
Looking for coverage at an affordable price? Travel insurance from World Nomads is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage, and a range of adventure sports and activities.
By focusing on what you need and leaving out what you don’t, World Nomads prices are some of the most competitive online. Get a quote by clicking here.
Guidebooks & Phrasebooks
- Guidebooks: I’m undoubtedly old-school when it comes to this, but I rarely travel without a paper guidebook by my side. My favourite—and one of the most comprehensive—guides for the country is Lonely Planet Japan.
- Phrasebooks: Like in other countries in East Asia, you’ll likely encounter a fairly sizeable language barrier while travelling in Japan. In a pinch, I always love arming myself with something like the Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook. To get a little more in-depth and squeeze out an even better experience in Japan, I’d recommend picking up the Get Talking and Keep Talking Japanese Total Audio Course or Teach Yourself Complete Japanese. Both are excellent resources for learning the basics of Japanese!
Luggage & Accessories
- Backpack: Now’s probably not the time to face off with a backpack vs. suitcase debate. My personal choice is a backpack, particularly the Osprey Porter 46. It’s front-loading for quick access to your stuff and doubles as a travel duffle with its side handle to get moving in a hurry. If that doesn’t fit the bill, here’s a list of some more of the best men’s travel backpacks and best women’s travel backpacks out there.
- Daypack: It’s always great to keep a daypack handy to carry around some extra gear while you’re out and about in the city. I’m a big fan of the compact & well-built Osprey Daylite Plus, one of the best daypacks for travel.
- Packing Cubes: Looking to better organize your belongings? Nothing will transform your packing style like this delightfully simple accessory. No need to get complicated—a simple set of basic packing cubes will do the trick!
- Universal Power Adapter: Since most devices these days adjust for voltage automatically, there’s little need to carry much more than this simple universal power adapter to charge all your goodies. It’ll work, not just throughout Japan, but worldwide, and provides a universal socket and 4 USB ports to allow simultaneous charging of up to 5 devices.
- Portable Charger: If you’re planning to be out-and-about for a while, it’s a good idea to have a portable charger handy to make sure you don’t miss out on any of those perfect Instagrammable moments. The Anker Powercore 10000 is small, light, and compact with 10000mAh of juice to power up all your portable devices via USB.
- 4G Pocket WiFi: Stay connected wherever you go with this portable 4G WiFi Router for Japan.
- Headphones: For plane rides, nothing beats a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. The Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) Wireless Headphones offer amazing sound quality and adjustable noise-cancelling to maintain your peace. If you don’t need active noise-cancellation, the Sennheiser HD 4.40 Around Ear Wireless Headphones will do the trick. The sound quality is super crisp for the price, and even without noise-cancellation, these headphones cut out much of the ambient noise around you.
- E-reader: Since you likely don’t want to weigh down your luggage with books while travelling around Japan, picking up an e-reader is the perfect way to get your reading fix without the added bulk. My own personal favourite is the Kindle Paperwhite for its excellent battery life, easy-to-read screen, and light weight.
Virtual Private Network
Even if you’re using your own portable 4G WiFi Router for Japan, whenever you connect to the Internet, your data is vulnerable. That’s why it’s always a good idea to always connect through a virtual private network (VPN).
For travellers, there’s few better choices than NordVPN.
Although you won’t often run into blocked sites in Japan (can’t say the same for China!), NordVPN has servers all around the world, allowing you to access services that might otherwise be unavailable in the country. (So, yes, you can keep up your Netflix binge watching!)
Most of all, connecting through a VPN provides superb security for your data while you’re on the road. NordVPN uses double encryption technology to keep your most important private data safe from digital theft. They also don’t keep server logs, so your Internet browsing history is kept private.
For a limited time, get 72% off of a two-year NordVPN plan by clicking here.
- Rain Jacket: In case you didn’t know, even if you choose the best time to visit Japan, you’re likely going to encounter some rain. For summer in Japan, a lightweight rain jacket like the Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II or Outdoor Research Women’s Helium II will be your best bet. In spring & fall, something heavier like the Helly Hansen Men’s Seven J or Helly Hansen Women’s Seven J would work well.
- Fleece or Softshell Jacket: In the cooler months of spring and fall, bundling up with a warm fleece jacket will help keep you warm when the mercury drops. The Columbia Men’s Fuller Ridge and Columbia Women’s Fuller Ridge, built with Polartec 200 fleece, are perfect. If you want something a little more rain-resistant, the softshell The North Face Men’s Apex Bionic 2 and The North Face Women’s Apex Bionic 2 are excellent choices. )Get more ideas with these lists of the top softshell jackets for men, the top softshell jackets for women, the best fleece jackets for men and the best fleece jackets for women.)
- Hardshell Jacket: In the winter, Japan can sometimes get a little chilly, especially if you’re planning out a Hokkaido itinerary in the colder months. The Patagonia Men’s Nano-Air Hoody or Patagonia Women’s Nano-Air Hoody offers both warmth and breathability in Japan’s coldest winter temperatures.
- Scarf: In bundling up, you can stay extra warm throughout winter in Japan with the Patagonia Synchilla Fleece Scarf, stylishly designed for both men and women.
- Winter Hat: Call it a toque or a beanie, all I know is that you’re going to want one when the cooler days of fall & winter hit in Japan. The Sherpa Adventure Gear Renzing Hat is a cool choice, handcrafted in Nepal from lambswool and fitted with a Polarfleece lining that’s both soft and moisture-wicking for comfort.
- Gloves: You may think that winter is the best time to visit Hokkaido, but don’t even think about visiting without packing some gloves. The Outdoor Research Men’s Stormtracker Sensor Gloves or Women’s Stormtracker Sensor Gloves are warm and perfect for the cold winters of Japan’s north. In the rest of Japan, a pair like the Outdoor Research Men’s Flurry Sensor Gloves or Women’s Flurry Sensor Gloves should be more than adequate for taking on the tumbling temperatures.
- Hats: For the hot summer temperatures of Japan, bring along a hat to protect yourself from sunstroke and heat exhaustion. The UV-protected and moisture-wicking The North Face Men’s Breakaway Hat or the Columbia Women’s Bryce Canyon Hat will do the trick.
- Walking Shoes: When travelling in Japan, you’ll need to remove your shoes often. It’s a good idea to have shoes that are easy to slip on and off to make it less of a hassle. Sketchers Men’s Go Walk 3 Walking Shoes or Sketchers Women’s Go Walk 3 Walking Shoes are a good choice for Japan.
- Hiking Shoes: If you’re planning to do a little hiking in Japan, a good all-around hiking shoe is the Merrell Men’s Moab Edge and the Merrell Women’s Moab Edge. Both are also available in waterproof versions for the wetter months.
- Winter Boots: When a winter visit to Japan is in the books, particularly if your plans include the chilly island of Hokkaido, the Merrell Men’s Coldpack Ice+ Mid Polar Waterproof or Merrell Women’s Aurora 6 Ice+ Waterproof winter boots will keep your feet toasty.
- Socks: Not just awesome for travelling in Japan, Wanderlust Air Travel Compression Socks are the perfect choice for travellers. On top of preventing blood clots during air travel, they provide extra cushioning for comfort. For winter travel and winter sports, try out the warm, moisture-wicking Smartwool Men’s PhD Ski Medium Socks or the Smartwool Women’s PhD Ski Medium Pattern Socks.
- Travel Pants: When you’re serious about keeping your backpack light, there’s no easier way to squeeze out a few ounces than packing a few pairs of travel pants over your regular clothing. Travel pants are lighter and dry quicker, which is especially important when you’re always on the move. Two of the best all-around choices for men are Patagonia Quandary Travel Pants and prAna Brion Travel Pants. For more choices, check out these top-rated travel pants for men.
- Travel Shirts: In the sweltering heat of a Japanese summer, the lightweight & stylish KUHL Stealth Shirt or the ultra-casual REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirt are perfect for staying cool. In winter, pair the REI Co-op Men’s Midweight Base Layer Crew Top with your regular clothing for an extra layer of warmth.
- Sweaters: For keep warm at night in the spring & fall, keep a sweater like the The North Face Men’s Canyonlands Hoodie handy. For colder Japanese winters, the Patagonia Men’s Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece will warm you up nicely.
- Travel Shorts: Shorts aren’t considered super stylish in Japan, but as a foreigner, you can rest assured that you won’t necessarily get the same treatment as locals with your clothing choice. The hot & humid summer climate means that you’ll probably want to pack a pair of cool, quick-drying shorts to stay comfortable. The prAna Men’s Stretch Zion Shorts are a good choice for Japan. Longer shorts that hide the thighs are most acceptable and popular in Japan.
- Swimsuit: If you’re planning on hitting up the beach, don’t forget to pack a pair of swimming trunks. For conservative Japan, you’ll want to go with something longer like the O’Neill Men’s Santa Cruz Brisbane Board Shorts rather than the (obnoxiously) short speedo-style swimsuits you’ll see all over Europe that leave nothing to the imagination.
- Travel Pants: When you’re on the move, there are few better choices for women’s travel pants than the breathable & durable prAna Halle Travel Pants. Choose Anatomie Skyler Travel Pants for a little dash of style. For more choices, check out these top-rated travel pants for women.
- Travel Shirts: For summer in Japan, packing light and staying cool is infinitely easier with shirts like the Columbia PFG Tamami II Short-Sleeve Shirt or the REI Co-op Sahara Heather T-Shirt. In the cooler winter months, wearing an REI Co-op Women’s Midweight Base Layer Crew Top as a base layer will add extra warmth and comfort to your ensemble.
- Travel Shorts: Short shorts are definitely not the norm for women in Japan. Something modest like Royal Robbins Discovery Bermuda Shorts is far more acceptable, especially when travelling around the city.
- Travel Skirts/Dresses: In conservative Japan, modesty is greatly appreciated. Skirts like the Royal Robbins Discovery Travel Skirt are not only lightweight and breathable, but fit it perfectly with Japan’s less bombastic fashion style. There’s even a side-zip security pocket to keep your most precious belongings safe.
- Swimsuit: At the beach in Japan, the fashion police are a little less strict than in the city. In any case, if unsure err on the side of modesty with a one-piece swimsuit like the prAna Moorea.
- Hanging Toiletry Bag: Wasting time rooting around for toiletries? The convenient ProCase Hanging Toiletry Bag can help you save counter space in your hotel bathroom, stay organized, and get quick access to all your essentials.
- Travel Towel: Although most hotels dispense towels for use within the rooms, I always like to carry around travel towel to use in a pinch whether on a hike or on the beach. The lightweight, super-absorbent and quick-drying REI Co-op Multi Towel Deluxe is the perfect addition to your travel gear.
- Travel Umbrella: It’s not a matter if, but when, you’ll get caught in the rain in Japan. The compact and lightweight Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella is the perfect addition to your daypack for those all-to frequent rainfall emergencies.
- RFID Wallet: Ever since I had my debit card scanned and duplicated (in Montreal of all places!), I’ve been using a special wallet to protect my cards. Putting your RFID-enabled cards in the Travelambo RFID-Blocking Minimalist Wallet is a simple fix for travellers.
- RFID Passport Protector: Heeding my warning above, anyone travelling on a new biometric/electronic passport also needs to be wary of thieves with their magic RFID-swiping wands. The Zoppen RFID Travel Wallet & Organizer is perfect for solo & family travellers as it has extra room for the kids’ passports and all your travel cards and documents.
- Travel Pillow: Sleeping on your long-haul flight to Japan isn’t an option (unless you’re okay with wasting a whole day when you arrive). Give yourself a fighting chance to get some rest with a comfy travel pillow. The innovative BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow extends the classic design of the travel neck pillow to support the chin to keep your head from moving forward.
- Sleep Mask: Although I’ve only used a sleep mask a handful of times, many travellers swear by them. The ALASKA BEAR Natural Silk Sleep Mask ensures total darkness on planes or sleeper trains to help you get the rest you need.
- Ear Plugs: Simple foam ear plugs will drown out a loud hotel room, but you’ll want something a tad better for flying. Luiswell Travel Ear Plugs are made specifically for travelling by plane, offering pressure reduction with altitude changes.
- Travel Water Bottle: When you’re out and about, the Nomader Collapsible Water Bottle is a great addition to your travel gear for staying hydrated. Going off the beaten path? The GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier Bottle zaps bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals from your water in just 15 seconds.
- Hair Dryer & Straightener: Most mid-range & luxury hotels in Japan will include hair dryers. If you simply don’t want to chance it, I’d recommend getting a dual-voltage hair dryer like the Jinri 1875-Watt Travel Hair Dryer that’ll work around the world. For a dual-voltage hair straightener, the Jinri Professional Travel Flat Iron impresses, too.
- Oral Care: In a pinch, you won’t have problems finding what you need for your dental care routine in Japan. Bring along a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and travel mouthwash for good measure.
- Body Soap/Shampoo/Conditioner: Most decent hotels around Japan will provide basic body wash/soap, shampoo & conditioner. If you have any special brands that you like, you should definitely take them along.
- Hair Styling Products: You can buy a wide assortment of hairstyling products in Japan in pinch. Bring along your favourite hair gel/wax/mousse/hairspray and brushes & combs to avoid the hassle.
- Deodorant: Unlike destinations elsewhere in Asia, you won’t have much of a problem finding most major deodorant brands in Japan. You may want to pack your favourite just in case.
- Lip Balm: A nice lip balm like Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Moisturizing Lip Balm is always smart to have handy. In winter it can get quite dry in Japan, so it’s a good idea to step it up and carry along medicated lip balm like Blistex Lip Medex to soothe cracked lips. For the summer months, be sure to protect your lips from the harsh rays with a sunscreen lip balm like Sun Bum SPF30 Lip Balm.
- Sunscreen: It doesn’t seem to matter where you go—sunscreen in expensive. Don’t get caught having to buy at inflated prices. Buy a good sunscreen like Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion before you go.
- Hand Sanitizer: Not that Japan’s an overly unsanitary place, but everywhere I go I have a small bottle of Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer to use in a pinch (such as on airplanes or trains).
- First-Aid Kit: There’s no need to get super complicated as some travellers do. At minimum, you’ll want to bring along some bandages, antiseptic ointment, tweezers, and hydrocortizone cream along with anti-diarrheal, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory/fever reduction, and allergy medications. Don’t forget to take along any require prescriptions in their original bottles.
- Grooming Kit: A travel-sized grooming kit including nail clippers, tweezers and scissors is great to have for any destination. Try the budget-friendly 12-piece Tseoa Professional Grooming Kit on for size.
- Razors: Unless you want to chance it to travel razors that will hack up your skin or wait to find overpriced razors in Japan, it’s a good idea to pack your own from home. I simply can’t say enough good things about the Gilette Fusion 5. The Gilette Venus Swirl for women is excellent, too.