Japan is a great destination for business travelers, students, and tourists alike. There’s a lot to see and do, from amazing examples of natural beauty to man-made monuments, historical sites, and wonders you won’t see anywhere else. Bustling metropolises and a different way of life characterize the major cities of Japan, while outlying areas encapsulate a simpler lifestyle and a slower pace.
Like any trip, travel preparations can be a little bit stressful. Visiting a foreign country involves research and planning to ensure things go smoothly when you travel. We’ve compiled the ultimate Japan packing list – a one-stop-shop that covers the needs of anybody traveling to Japan.
We’ll touch on some key areas of consideration and planning for you to think about before you start packing, like appropriate clothing items, caution about restricted items, and guidance on medication.
With this Japan packing list, you’ll be all set and ready to go – without ever having to panic that you forgot something important at home!
Japan Climate and Weather
Choosing the right clothing for your Japan travel is a vital part of your packing experience. The weather and climate of Japan dictate the kind of clothing you’re going to need to bring.
There is great variability in weather and temperature throughout Japan, with the northern island of Hokkaido being cooler than the mainland and other islands. Even within a given island, mountainous areas tend to be cooler and receive more precipitation than lower elevations.
Looking at the main island of Honshu, home to the major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, the average temperature during winter (November-February) is slightly above freezing, while summers (June-September) can reach a humid and balmy 35° C (95° F).
Rainfall dominates in summer, and there is a risk of typhoons as summer turns to autumn. The best time to visit is in the spring or late autumn when temperatures are mild, and rainfall and other weather threats are less dominant.
Some Things to Consider Before You Pack
To narrow down your packing list, consider the type of trip you’re taking, your intended destinations, and other specific needs you may have in relation to your trip.
Type of Trip/Intended Destinations
Your destination and the type of trip you plan to take determine the kinds of clothes you’ll need to pack. Going up to the mountains to ski in winter means you’ll need heavy winter clothes, but a trip to the island of Okinawa, even in the winter, requires lighter clothing.
Check the weather forecast for your destination(s) the week before your trip so you can pack the right type of clothing.
Explore The City Guide for Your Destination:
Know what items you can’t bring, both on an airplane and through customs. Like most countries, there are several categories of items that are restricted or have pre-certification requirements. A full breakdown of Japanese customs procedures and information is worth a read, but highlights of restricted items are summarized as follows:
- Fruits and vegetables, soil, and many plant species
- Animals or animal products
- Items made from endangered species
- Illegal drugs
- Weapons and ammunition
- Uncensored pornography
- Counterfeit or stolen products, bootlegs, or knock-offs
Ensure you have the appropriate items, clothing, and equipment required for any special needs or disabilities you may have. Whether this is adaptive clothing, mobility aids, or oxygen, check to make sure it’s permitted. Most medically-required items are allowed, though you may need to pre-certify or register them prior to your arrival.
Most people buy souvenirs when they travel to a foreign country. Leave some extra space in your suitcase if you plan to purchase souvenirs, or lay an extra duffle bag flat in the bottom of your suitcase just in case.
The Ultimate Japan Packing List and Travel Checklist
Keeping the above considerations in mind, here’s a detailed Japan packing list:
Japan Travel Essentials
Remember all your basic everyday items, such as your travel documents, ID, wallet, and money.
- Passport (be sure it has 6 months or more left before it expires)
- Visa (if required – see Ministry of Foreign Affairs for more information)
- Proof of airline tickets/reservations/boarding passes
- Customs forms and documents
- Verification of hotel reservations
- Transportation information and tickets
- Credit cards, cash, traveler’s checks, and other currency
- Identification documents, such as your driver’s license
- Maps and guide books
- Translation guide and/or travel apps on your smartphone
- Travel medical insurance
Luggage and Bags
Bring a lightweight, portable bag to carry with you in addition to your checked and carry-on luggage for the trip. Between public transport and a lot of city walking, even a carry-on sized suitcase can be a hassle. A comfortable “day bag” like a backpack is ideal for quick trips.
- Checked suitcase (if needed)
- Smaller carry-on luggage
- Purse, backpack, or day bag
- Garment bag for nicer clothes
- Laptop bag or briefcase
- ID tags for all your bags, with your name, home address, and hotel address listed
Pack as sparingly as possible – about a week’s worth of clothes should suffice for trips lasting a week or more – and re-wear items of clothing when you can. Most of the populated areas and cities in Japan have laundry service in hotels or coin-operated laundry in town that tourists can use.
Bring layers so you can always add or subtract clothes to be comfortable if the weather shifts. Japanese style is modern, but there is an element of modesty in public life that is not always present in the U.S. or Europe. Avoid highly revealing clothing.
- Undergarments x 8
- Socks x 8
- Sturdy pair of walking shoes
- Dress shoes
- Jeans, khakis, or light pants x 2
- Shorts or a light dress or skirt x 2
- Long-sleeve and short-sleeve shirts x 7
- Pajamas or sleepwear
- Formal/business wear
- Mittens, scarf, hat (if visiting in winter or colder destinations)
- Jewelry as desired/required by the type of trip – avoid bringing if you can
- A hat or visor for when it’s sunny
Toiletries and Personal Care
Pack toiletries in your checked baggage to comply with airline regulations. Don’t sweat toiletries too much – they are easy to pick up at convenience stores or hotels.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Dental floss
- Eye drops
- Contact lens solution/contacts/glasses
- Nail clipper/file/tweezers kit
- Razor(s) and shaving needs
- Feminine care needs
- Creams and ointments you might need
- Hair ties, bobby pins, or headbands
Medical and First Aid
You can easily purchase key first-aid items at convenience stores in Japan. However, basic wound-care items are always good to have with you while you travel. Check to make sure your prescription and over-the-counter medications are permitted in Japan and carry them with you.
- Bandages, gauze, and wound-care items
- Over-the-counter medications like painkillers, cough medicine, motion sickness pills, and vitamins
- Prescription medications – you may have to pre-certify the medication a month or more before your travel
- Any medical equipment or devices you may require (g., hearing aids)
- Copy of your medical history and medication information, either on your smartphone app or on a sheet of paper in your wallet/purse in case of emergency
- Emergency contact information
Bring your smartphone and associated chargers, plugs, and gadgets for your trip to Japan, and keep in mind whether you’ll want to access them during the flight.
- Smartphone and charger
- Portable music player
- Portable power bank
- International adapter(s) for plug-in devices (Japan uses the 100V standard vs. the U.S. 120V standard, though the plugs look similar and many devices will work without issue)
- SIM card(s) to use your smartphone for calling and data while traveling (check with your wireless provider and plan)
- Camera and accessories
- Laptop/tablet/e-reader/other computer devices and associated cords, adapters, and accessories
Pack a few of these extra items to have with you “just in case.”
- Stain remover pen
- Wrinkle release spray for clothes
- Portable sewing kit
- Glasses repair kit
- Pens and paper/notebook
- Deck of playing cards
- Spare batteries for electronics
Travel Items for Plane/Other Transit
The flight to Japan from the U.S. and Europe can be long. Consider packing the following items to help with the plane ride and other long travel times once you land.
- Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones
- Sleep mask
- Antibacterial wipes and/or hand sanitizer
- Travel/neck pillow
- Sleeping pills or motion sickness pills
- Updated airline apps
- Updated media content on your devices
- Book(s)/magazines/reading material or e-reader and associated cords