How to Pack for a Trip to Japan

From adapters to rain jackets, our local insider Lisette breaks down what you do and don't need to take on your trip to Japan.

Backpacking in Japan Photo © Felipe Romero Beltran

Weather in Japan

The basic gear you’ll need for Japan can vary depending on where in the country you are visiting. The weather in Japan varies considerably from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south

Pack both warm and cold weather clothing for Japan, no matter what time of year you are traveling. If you’re traveling for a long period of time keep in mind the seasons will change, and winter is considerably cold – especially in northern Japan. Throughout the year, temperatures in Japan range from 30–40ºC during summer, to sub zero temperatures during winter.

If you are going to Okinawa, pack warm weather clothing and swimwear to enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving.

Pack a decent pair of hiking boots and comfortable clothing to go on long walks, as there are many great hiking trails in Japan.

Japan’s seasons are as follows:

  • Winter: December – March
  • Spring: March – June
  • Summer: June – September
  • Autumn: September – November

Adapters and Electronics

Travel adapters and electronics are available in Japan, but you’ll save money and time by bringing your own. Exceptions to this rule are small appliances like hairdryers and hair trimmers, which are sensitive to voltage changes and may get damaged regardless of adapter usage.

Language

Start learning the language before you leave home by downloading a language app or learning Japanese at a language class. If you don't have enough time, download the offline version of Japanese in Google Translate. This will make communicating in Japan much smoother, as Japanese people effectively avoid English – even in larger cities. 

Menus may be found in (broken) English, and you may be able to get by using funky body language and a lot of pointing in Tokyo. This does get progressively harder as you venture off the beaten path. 

If you’re using apps and don’t plan on getting a portable WiFi hotspot or a tourist SIM, then do download apps which can be utilised offline, as public WiFi coverage in Japan is still spotty.

Download Hyperdia for accurate route plotting and transportation options, Japanese dictionary apps and the official JapanTravel app (for Android) and of course, our Japanese Language App.

Clothing and Accessories

When it comes to packing clothes, Japan is typically a rainy country, especially from June and all throughout autumn. Therefore, it's important to pack a light rain jacket.

Lightweight clothing is generally a good idea for snow sports during winter too. Though, don’t forget to make sure your snow gear keeps you warm, despite winters being milder in southern parts of Japan, it can certainly get cold in the upper north. 

As it is customary to remove shoes upon entering a building in Japan, including traditional restaurants, I'd recommend a pair of shoes you can slip on and off easily. Laces certainly do become tiring after a few weeks traveling around Japan.

Japan has an extensive selection of station-based bag lockers in most cities, so a large backpack would be well suited for travelers planning to do a bit of off-grid exploration.

Takuhaibin

Takuhaibin is an über-convenient delivery service facilitating the sending of various packages to locations including hotels, airports or private homes. Packages can be sent from convenience stores (like Lawson and Family Mart, which are everywhere in Japan), or in the case of sending large suitcases to your accommodation you may talk directly to the companies at the airport. 

While companies deliver most types of luggage, do notify your hotel beforehand to guarantee acceptance of the parcel. Your parcel will often be delivered within a day or so, with prices varying with the size of the package.

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