Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of Japan’s mega-modern tech society and its culturally-rich ancient history that make the “Land of the Rising Sun” so alluring. Or maybe it’s the idyllic landscape that spans from rivers dotted with cherry blossom trees in Kyoto, to majestic snow-topped mountains in the Japan Alps, to gorgeous subtropical islands in Okinawa.
Whatever it is, Japan remains a truly beguiling travel dream destination.
If you are headed to Japan and wondering what to pack, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve put together this handy guide on what to pack for Japan – covering your essentials with a top-22 needs packing list, tips on what to wear in Japan, an overview of conditions by season and how to pack for each and what NOT to bother packing.
Ready? Let’s begin!
The Ultimate Japan Packing List
So what are the Japan packing essentials, what should you bring to Japan and what to wear in Japan? Read on to find out.
The Backpack and Luggage: Nomatic Travel Bag
If you’re packing for Japan, then you’re gonna need a bag right? Well for all types of travelers and destinations, our number one recommendation is the Nomatic Travel Bag.
The Nomatic travel bag covers every detail to make backpacking travel the best experience. Because of its smart design, it manages to provide loads of packing space in a convenient, carry-on size package! Its handy built-in pockets make plenty of room for all the necessities on your what to pack for Japan checklist – you’ll find separate compartments for important items like shoes, water bottle, electronics, underwear and socks. As an added bonus, there’s also an RFID-safe and cord management pocket.
You have a choice between backpack or duffel bag carry, and extra carrying comfort for your back thanks to its innovative strap system and detachable sternum strap. And its black, waterproof material is every bit sleek and modern as it is durable and tough. There is a reason why most Broke Backpacker staff swear by this backpack.
Alternative Luggage: AER Travel Pack 2
Our number two selection for an epic travel backpack is the AER Travel Pack 2. Like the Nomatic Travel Bag, this AER backpack is fully featured, big enough to hold an extended weekend of clothing, and tough enough to last years of travel abuse.
I have taken the AER Travel Pack 2 on multiple trips and since then it has risen has in the ranks of my go-to travel backpacks.
Check out our AER Travel Pack 2 review to learn more.
A Suitcase: Nomatic Carry-On Pro
Backpacks not your thing? That’s ok. Our friends at Nomatic are back again with a great alternative to their badass Travel Bag; the Nomatic Carry-On Pro. Traveling light is maybe a good idea when visiting Japan as a space is kind of at a premium!
This suitcase is ultra-durable, sleek, and comes with a handy tech compartment for transporting your laptop and other electronic bits. Nomatic has been an industry leader when it comes to travel gear and that reputation is reflected in the quality build design and functionality of the Carry-On Pro suitcase.
Check out our Nomatic Carry-On Pro review to learn more about this epic suitcase. It will do for you Japan trip and many a trip to come.
The Camera: GoPro Hero9 Black
For most of us, our smartphones now feature cameras with stunning photo capabilities.
But… if you are an aspiring photographer who wants to take next-level photos and video beyond iPhone selfies, I recommend going with an action camera like the GoPro Hero9 Black.
It does deliver pro-quality video and gives you a bunch of a different angle options and shooting speeds to work with for photos (including a selfie-mode).
Think of a camera purchase like this as a long term investment that will have you capturing epic shots well beyond your time exploring here.
If you are looking for something cheaper for video specifically, check out these epic GoPro Alternatives.
What To Pack For Japan: Personal Gear
The weather in Japan does vary a lot depending on season. You do need to do your research as the winters can be snowy and the summers hot so pay close attention to local, up to date, seasonal forcasts.
The Japanese also take fashion very seriously so backpacker chic is NOT recommended. That said, don’t exactly expect to “fit in” as some of the local styles are pretty far out!
Buying things in Japan is expensive so do your wallet a favour and pack whatever you need with you, before you go.
Good Shoes – Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero
Visitors to Jaan have a tendency to underestimate the amount of walking that is part of the day to day experience. Whether you are sightseeing, city slicking, or headed outdoors, expect a lot of walking in your trip.
I admit that most shoes that are also good for hiking are not the most attractive pieces of footwear. But they are some of the most comfortable and deliver good ankle support for a long day of walking about town. I mean, your body is already going to be suffering enough from all of that Sake and Karaoke!
Plus, the mountains Japanese countryside offer excellent day hiking opportunities, so packing a pair of hiking shoes gives you the option (and eliminates excuses) to go head for the hills when the city becomes too much. You could even do Mount Fuji in these.
Check out the women’s Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero.
Good Rain Jacket – Arcteryx Beta AR
Japan can be very wet and a little bit chilly. Bringing a decent jacket is therefore a sound investment.
There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wing gear for it. Don’t let a bit (of a lot) of rain ruin your trip and make sure you are ready with some top notch rain gear.
This is our pick of the many rain jackets we have tried. It’s reliable & stylish and looks good worn out in the mountains or in city bars.
Travel First Aid Kit
You don’t need to tote around half a pharmacy, but a well-stocked first aid kit should be in all our backpacks. Stuff happens on the road and it’s inconvenient and embarrassing when you can’t manage small situations like a cut finger or hangover migraine.
You can tuck this lifesaver away in a forgotten pocket – and it’ll be there when you need it.
Tip: Add a few bits and pieces to the first aid kit after you purchase it, like extra headache medicine, any personal meds you need (like allergy pills), whatever you take to calm your stomach and a few more plasters.
Travel Insurance From World Nomads
Good news – for a traveller Japan is one of the safest countries you can visit. Crime is very rare and my friend even had a lost phone returned to him. That said, Japan is also expensive and if something does go wrong, it could prove costly.
I admit I traveled for many years without having travel insurance. Because of it, I paid the price a few times in foreign hospitals. Especially in an expensive country like the Japan, you NEED to have insurance in order to avoid unimaginably high hospital bills.
We use either World Nomads or SafetyWing. You’ll be happy you did if the time comes to use it.
Sun God Sunglasses
A reliable pair of sunglasses is undoubtedly one of your Japan packing essentials. Our favorites are SunGod Sunglasses because they deliver on quality and style. The sun can be bright in Japan and you want to spend your whole time squinting! Besides that, if you wear these you can pretend your a Western celebrity and get mobbed!
They’re built tough with triple-layer scratch-resistant lenses and trademarked Adventure-proof Frame Material. You can also customize them with your choice of lense and frame colors to reflect your own style. Plus they’re covered by SunGod’s lifetime guarantee of free repair. Check our in-depth review here.
Another backpacker/traveler favorite for staying organized is a hanging toiletry bag. It’s extremely helpful to have all of your accessories neatly gathered in one bag that you can hang for easy accessibility, especially when counter space isn’t plentiful or even available. A well-organized bag is worth having whether you’re tree whilst camping or a hook in the wall – it helps to have quick access to all your stuff.
Historically, I have been the guy who has my stuff all over the bathroom, so getting one of these things really changed the toiletry game for me. Plus they are not too expensive either. A no-brainer essential.
Your Passport or Other Government ID
You are going to need a valid passport to enter Japan. Furthermore, you may be asked to show it when checking in to hostels or booking travel. It is unlikely you will ID’d when buying alcohol, but not unprecendented.
It may also be worth keeping a few photocopies handy as well.
Let’s face it; for the foreseeable future, COVID 19 panic is just going to be a part of travel. How do we do our best to mitigate the risk while still traveling and experience life’s pleasures? Pack the right PPE gear.
Japan’s cities are a dream environment for a pathogen like COVID to spread. Crowded spaces, packed trains hundreds of bars; you get the idea.
It is absolutely essential that you pack the following items for your trip to Japan to ensure you keep yourself and the people you will be coming into contact with safe from spreading COVID around like wildfire. Also go easy on the Karaoke mic’s…
Waterbottle – Hydroflask Vacuum Bottle 32 oz.
Packing a reusable water bottle is probably the best thing you can personally do to combat single-use plastic bottle use whilst traveling. There is simply zero need to buy plastic water bottles. Tap water in Japan is safe and delicious. Fill up your bottle each time and carry it with you when you go out in order to avoid buying water throughout your day.
We love the Hydroflask Vacum Bottle for its quality and because it keeps cold water cold for many hours and vice versa for hot beverages. This bottle is the ideal water bottle to get not just for your Japan trip but for daily use. Please don’t be that person buying plastic water bottles. We are all judging you…especially mother earth.
If you go with the Hydroflask, you’ll probably never need to buy another waterbottle again.
The Basic Stuff To Pack For Japan
On top of the essential items listed above, here is an additional suggested checklist of what to pack for a trip to Japan:
- A few pairs of comfortable pants/jeans
- 1-2 pairs of shorts (summer/late spring)
- A few pairs of socks
- (Sexy) underwear x 2/3
- Ladies: a few dresses, pants, outfits, or desired lady apparel for a night on the town. Whatever makes you comfy!
- Dudes: A few collard shirts or something half-way decent for a night on the town. Whatever makes you comfy!
- Smartphone with a good camera for photos if you are not bringing an actual camera
- Portable power bank for charging your phone on the go
- Phone charger
- Amazon Kindle for reading by the pool
- Copy of your passport just in case
- Cash (not too much, there are ATM machines everywhere)
- Packable Towel
Final Thoughts on What to Pack for Japan
You should be super excited about your Japanese adventure now that you’re equipped with all you need to know about what to pack for Japan – and we’re excited for you! If you feel overwhelmed – just breathe – and refer to our 22-needs packing checklist and our tips on what to wear and pack by the season you choose to travel.
Just keep the packing light and culturally appropriate, and you’re set. Add a touch of style wherever possible to fit in and integrate as much as possible into Japan’s rich and unique culture. Take advantage of all the country has to offer by taking time to get to know locals and blending in with their norms. And, surely, be prepared and stay safe for any situation.
And that’s it! The rest is a piece of cake. Now get out there and enjoy it!
Also – don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
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