The Ultimate Japan Packing List: What to Pack for Every Season

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?

Getting ready for your trip? Here’s what to pack for Japan…

Travel Insurance

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 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.

Jigokudani (Hell Valley) in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido, Japan

Getting a policy with medical coverage is particularly important for Japan. Although the cost of medical care in Japan is much less than 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!

Electronics

  • 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.

Sakura in Kyoto, Japan

  • 4G Pocket WiFi: Stay connected wherever you go with this portable 4G WiFi Router for Japan. Package includes pickup at major airports in Japan and 7GB of data usage.
  • 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.

Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan

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.

Outerwear

Winter @ Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, Japan

Footwear

Kibune Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Clothing

Men

Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo, Japan

  • 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.

Women

Ankokuron-ji in Kamakura, Japan

  • 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.

Accessories

  • 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.

Lake Toya in Hokkaido, Japan

  • 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.

Shinkansen (Bullet Train) in Japan

  • 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.

Toiletries

  • 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.

All set with your Japan packing list? Here are some more packing tips for other destinations in East Asia…

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. Join Ryan as he explores the world two to three weeks at a time from his home base of Canada with Treksplorer's independent and unsponsored mid-range luxury travel guides including itineraries, things to do, where to stay, when to visit, and hiking & walking trails.

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