If you are reading this article I expect that you have already completed booking your trip to Japan and are in the final stages of thinking about what you need to pack for your trip to Japan – some of you are looking at this article for the first time three months before you depart and for others you may be departing tomorrow and doing a last minute scramble! It is an exciting part of any trip as your departure date becomes imminent.
Check out my Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – you are welcome to join and it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!
We recently visited Japan for a family holiday and had a great time – and some of our packing decisions were good and others less so. I therefore wanted to share our experience and help you to plan what to pack for Japan.
This is a very large article, and I am confident that once you have read through it you will be very well placed to have confidence that you are ready for your trip to Japan. You will also be better prepared for some of the unique Japan ways of doing things which definitely caught us out.
Click here to download my Japan Packing List two page printable.
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
- What to Pack for Japan and Tokyo
- Japan and Tokyo Travel Essentials
- 1. Japan Travel Bag
- 2. Lightweight Folding Tote Bags for Japan
- 3. Passport and Visa for Japan
- 4. Trip Registration
- 5. Drivers Licence and International Drivers Permit (IDP) for Japan
- 6. Flights to, from and within Japan
- 7. Japan Accommodation
- 8. Arrival Airport Transfer to Hotel in Japan
- 9. Travel Insurance for Japan
- 10. Prescription Medicine and Toiletries for Japan
- 11. Japan Rail Pass
- 12. Japan Local Public Transport Card
- 13. Japan Guidebook and Maps
- 14. Money for Tokyo and Japan
- 15. Cell, Smart or Mobile Phone and Charger
- 16. Recommended Phone SIM Card and Pocket Wifi for Japan
- 17. Recommended Phone or Tablet Applications for Japan
- 18. Backup Cell Phone Battery for Japan
- 19. Japan Travel Adapter or Plug
- 20. Camera for Japan
- 21. What to Wear in Japan
- What Not to Wear in Japan
- Japan Weather
- Tokyo and Japan Weather and What to Wear in Spring – March, April and May
- Tokyo and Japan Weather and What to Wear in Summer – June, July and August
- Tokyo and Japan Weather and What to Wear in Autumn – September, October and November
- Tokyo and Japan Weather and What to Wear in Winter – December, January and February
- 22. Comfortable Footwear
- 23. Pre-purchased Tickets for Japan Tours and Activities
- 24. Japan Long Haul Flight Essentials
- Japan and Tokyo Packing List Printable
What to Pack for Japan and Tokyo
Japan and Tokyo Travel Essentials
Below is my recommended packing list of essential things to bring to Japan for any trip.
1. Japan Travel Bag
A good general principle when considering your travel bag for Japan and Tokyo is to pack as light as you can manage. Most visitors to Japan will utilise public transport during their visit, which requires lots of walking, climbing steps and getting around. The Japan and Tokyo public transport system can get quite crowded and you may only have limited space to store your luggage, and as a result you should plan to take only small and medium size wheeled or backpack style travel bag or luggage and a small hand held bag, satchel or backpack.
If you have managed to purchase a cheap carry on luggage only flight then you will also need to constrain your luggage to items which will fit into the aircraft overhead locker and meet airline size and weight requirements.
For longer distance Shinkansen or bullet train travel you usually have an overhead luggage rack which will fit either a small or medium travel bag, and sit your hand luggage at your feet.
Japan Travel Bag Sizing
Sizing for a small carry bag usually requires a maximum bag size of 22 inches (22 inches/56 cm x 14 inches/35 cm x 9 inches/23 cm), and the combined length + width + height (including handles and wheels) must not exceed 45 inches/115 cm.
Sizing for a medium size bag (which must be checked in the aircraft hold) are bags up to 25 inches/71 cm long.
Japan Travel Bag Recommendations
My recommended small to medium suitcase options are the brands Samsonite and American Tourister with 4 spinner wheels. Having four wheels make them easy to get around in Japan, especially if you will be taking them on the shinkansen or bullet trains. Our children each have a carry on size suitcase, and for our trip to Japan my husband and I shared a medium sized suitcase.
We have owned and used both brands for many years, and have been very happy with how well these suitcases wear. The latest versions are very light weight and durable, and they also offer a warranty in the event that your suitcase gets damaged.
If you prefer a hard shell suitcase, click on the below links to check out the latest color options and pricing on Amazon for:
- Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion HS Spinner 20 (carry on size)
- Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion HS Spinner 24 (medium size)
If you prefer a soft shell suitcase, click on the below links to check out the latest color options and pricing on Amazon for:
- Samsonite Aspire Xlite Expandable Spinner 20 (carry on size)
- Samsonite Aspire Xlite Expandable Spinner 25 (medium size)
- American Tourister Ilite Max Softside Spinner 21 (carry on size)
- American Tourister Ilite Max Softside Spinner 25 (medium size)
2. Lightweight Folding Tote Bags for Japan
If you are like us you will end up doing some shopping in Japan – we were not prepared for overflow so ended up having to waste time searching for shops to purchase additional luggage while we were on our trip. I therefore also recommend that it is worthwhile to purchase a couple of additional soft foldable tote bags so you have them ready to go if you also succumb to purchasing additional items.
Essential features for these foldable tote bags is to have a loop which will go over the handle of your suitcase, and that they are durable enough to be checked into the aircraft hold. Click on the below links to check out the color options and pricing:
- Wandf Foldable Travel Duffel Bag (carry on size, luggage loop)
- Hoperay Travel Duffel Bag (carry on size, luggage loop)
For a larger check in size foldable tote bag click on the link to check out the colors and pricing:
- Bago Travel Duffel Bag (check in size – shoulder carry handle)
3. Passport and Visa for Japan
Ensure you have a valid passport with at least six months remaining before it expires, otherwise you risk not being allowed to enter Japan on arrival.
Check on this link to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan to see which nationalities require a visa. Note that for 67 countries and regions (including USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom) have Visa Exemption Arrangements, which means that if you are a national of any of those countries you do not need to apply for a visa in advance of your visit and you can stay for up to 90 days with the exception of Brunei, Indonesia, and Thailand which are able to stay for up to 15 days.
If you do require a visa ensure you take action early to obtain this document. Note that a variety of visas are available which are detailed in the above link which include:
- Short Term Stay up to 90 days for tourism, business, visiting friends and family
- Work or Long Term Stay
4. Trip Registration
Take action to register your trip details with your government registration service, with the major options detailed below. This action is important to ensure that if an incident occurs while you are overseas that they know which of their nationals are travelling in that country and can follow up to ensure you are ok.
While you are looking at your government website, also check if there are any travel advisories you should be aware of for Japan.
Travel Registration Links
- Department of State – Travel Registration This is a free service for US citizens, and includes travel bulletin updates.
- Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada – Registration This is a free service for Canadian nationals.
- The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) no longer offers a travel registration service. The FCO has published the How to Deal With a Crisis Overseas advisory for UK nationals.
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Registration This is a free service for Australian citizens.
- Safe Travel – Registration This is a free service for New Zealand citizens.
5. Drivers Licence and International Drivers Permit (IDP) for Japan
If you are planning to hire or drive a vehicle in Japan you will also need to carry both your Drivers Licence and an International Drivers Permit (IDP). Be aware that in Japan you drive on the left hand side of the road, and while most road signage does have an English translation option you should also ensure that your vehicle has an English language GPS to help you get around. Our hire car company assisted us to set up the GPS which was fabulous. Also ensure that you pre-book your vehicle and ensure that you can get to the vehicle pick up and drop off location easily.
On our recent visit to Japan we hired a vehicle for a few days and we received advance notice that an IDP was essential. You can purchase an IDP through your local motoring association with some options detailed below.
What is an International Drivers Permit?
An International Drivers Licence is a United Nations sanctioned document which allows people to drive overseas without having to take any additional tests, provided they have a valid driver’s licence. An International Drivers Permit is valid in over 150 countries. An International Drivers Permit is normally valid for one year from the date of issue, providing your driver’s licence also remains valid.
- AAA provides the details for applications for an International Drivers Permit for citizens of the USA.
- CAA provides the details for applications for an International Drivers Permit for citizens of Canada.
- AA – United Kingdom provides the details for applications for an International Drivers Permit for citizens of the UK.
- SmartTraveller provides links to each of the Australian State and Territory Automobile Associations where you can purchase your International Drivers Permit for citizens of Australia.
- AA – New Zealand provides the details for applications for an International Drivers Permit for citizens of New Zealand.
6. Flights to, from and within Japan
You should ensure that you have confirmed your flight details to and from and within Japan and have a printout of your flight arrangements with you. I recommend re-checking these details in the week prior to your trip to ensure that your flights have not changed since you made your booking. We have experienced many times over the years where flight times and routes can change significantly so double check it before you lock in your airport transfer arrangements for both home and on arrival in Japan.
Also work out how you are planning to get to your departure airport and ensure that you leave enough time (at least 2 hours is normal in most countries) to go through check in, security and customs. If you are departing in a peak time such as school holidays make plans to avoid the traffic and allow extra time for check in.
7. Japan Accommodation
If you have not already made accommodation arrangements in Japan, I suggest that do some research before you depart to ensure that you will have options on arrival. Ensure that you have the specific address details for each accommodation available. Japanese street names and numbers are very difficult to navigate, so also ensure that you have the address available in your phone GPS map tool.
My recommended accommodation booking sites for Japan include Booking.com and AirBnB. Pre-load the accommodation apps from your accommodation sites with your account and booking details on your smart phone – they will usually have a map option to help you find your accommodation.
8. Arrival Airport Transfer to Hotel in Japan
I also recommend that you pre-book an airport transfer direct to your accommodation on arrival – after a long haul flight it can be very difficult to learn how to use the Japanese public transport system (as we found out!) when you are tired so give yourself the option to ease into the train system when you are well rested and through the initial culture shock.
Depending on where in Japan you arrive there a few different options.
- For Tokyo you will arrive at either Haneda (HND) or Narita (NRT) Airport. Be aware that while Haneda Airport is only a short distance from the centre of Tokyo, Narita Airport is a good distance east of Tokyo. A range of airport transfer options are available including the Limousine Bus or private transfers which you can pre-book.
- For Osaka you will arrive in Kansai International Airport (KIX). A range of airport transfer options are available including Limousine Bus or private transfers which you can pre-book.
9. Travel Insurance for Japan
If you have not already made arrangements to purchase travel insurance, pre-departure is the best time as most insurance policies will not enable you to purchase a policy post departure. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions you will need to take action early to obtain a policy – sometimes before you book your flights to ensure that you can get coverage.
We had to call our travel insurance provider to obtain medical assistance for my son shortly after we arrived in Japan when he developed chicken pox. Our travel insurance provider was quickly able to advise us where to find English speaking medical support in Tokyo, and were also able to make arrangements on our behalf. In a country where many locals speak poor English you will thank yourself for having this option. Of course, the travel insurance also helped pay for the $A450 bill for the service (which consisted of a checkup by a doctor and to purchase some medication)… and medical bills for travellers can be significantly higher so the small cost of travel insurance is definitely worth it.
If you have not already purchased travel insurance I recommend that you get a quote from World Nomads travel insurance using the below quotation tool and then book your travel insurance. Ensure that you check the terms and conditions to ensure that this product is suitable for your needs. World Nomads provides travel insurance coverage for people from over 150 countries.
10. Prescription Medicine and Toiletries for Japan
If you require prescription medicine ensure that you have refilled your medication scripts prior to your departure. Be aware that Japan has strict controls on what medications and medical equipment can and cannot be brought into Japan. Check out this link for further information and ensure that you comply with the stated requirements.
Bring your standard toiletries with you to Japan, however be aware that toiletries are readily available in convenience stores and pharmacies which are very common.
11. Japan Rail Pass
Japan Rail Pass Options and Overview
When you first start planning your trip to Japan you will find that people talk about Japan Rail Passes as being a single option for all of Japan. This pass does exist and is very popular, however you may not be aware that there are actually another 15 regional Japan Rail Passes available. Depending on where you plan to visit in Japan you are likely to find that one of these regional passes is a better option for your trip.
You can also determine the individual fares for your planned trip using the Hyperdia website to determine whether the available passes are good value, or whether you just want to pay as you go.
Note that the Japan Rail pass also enables you to use JR local trains in Tokyo and other cities, however if you want to use a non JR train line you will still need to separately pay for tickets.
Below is a table which summarises the available pass options and methods to purchase online before you depart. I suggest it is worthwhile to look at the rail pass options before you finalise your itinerary, as there may be options to align particular passes with your planned itinerary so that you can get best value from your rail pass.
Key points for to purchase your JR pass are:
- You must order your JR pass at least 2-5 business days before you depart for Japan. You cannot purchase a JR Pass after you arrive. If you are running late you can request for your pass to be delivered direct to your hotel.
- After booking your JR pass through you will be couriered your voucher.
- After you arrive in Japan you need to exchange your voucher for your actual JR Pass. You will need both the voucher and your original passport you used to place the order to redeem the actual JR Pass. Every person must be present to pick up their JR Pass.
- JR Rail has many separate entities such as JR East, JR Central, JR Hokkaido etc. Depending on the pass you buy, you will have to go to that specific company’s office to redeem your pass. Each local train company should have a JR Office at your airport or major train station.
- Your booking date should be the date you plan to pick up your JR Pass in Japan. You must activate your JR Pass within 30 days of your nominated booking date.
Japan Rail Pass Options and How to Purchase Your Japan Rail Pass
My recommended option to purchase your National Japan Rail Pass is through the Japan Rail Pass website. the advantage of using this purchase option is that they ship your voucher direct to your door. You can purchase National Japan Rail Pass options include 7, 14 and 21 day passes, in either First Class (Green) or Second Class seats.
For regional Japan Rail Passes see the below table for options. Click through on the links to see further information and pricing for each Regional JR Pass option. For these JR Passes I am recommending that you use the Japan Rail Pass by Japan Experience website. They offer the full range of JR Regional Passes, and include easy to use maps to assist you to work out which pass option is the best one for your trip.
|No.||Pass Name||Rail Pass Inclusions||Pass Options|
|1||JR Kansai Pass||Includes Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji, Nara, surroundings towns and also includes access to Kansai International Airport||1, 2, 3 or 4 consecutive days|
|2||JR Kansai Wide Area Pass||Includes Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji, Nara, Okayama, Chugoku region and also includes access to Kansai International Airport and entire region from Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean. Includes Kinosaki-onsen, Toyooka, Himeji, Kurashiki and Tsuruga||5 consecutive days|
|3||JR West – JR Sanyo San’in Area Pass||Includes Kyoto, Osaka, Kansai Airport, Nara, Wakayama, Kobe, Himeji, Okayama, Kurashiki, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Tottori, Matsue, Hakata (Fukuoka).||7 consecutive days|
|4||JR West – Setouchi Area Pass||Includes Kansai Airport, Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka (Hakata), as well as buses, and the ferry to the Seto Inland Sea to get to Miyajima.||5 consecutive days|
|5||JR All Shikoku Pass||Includes JR Shikoku, Tosa Kuroshio Railway, Asa Kaigan Railway, Kotoden, Iyotetsu, Tosaden lines across Shikoku Island, and enables you to visit the 88 temple circuit||2, 3, 4 or 5 consecutive days|
|6||JR Central Pass – Takayama Hokuriku Pass||Includes JR trains and buses between Takayama, Shirakawa-go, and Kanazawa, includes access to Kansai International Airport, Osaka and Kyoto||5 consecutive days|
|7||JR Central Pass – Ise Kumano Tourist Pass||Includes unlimited access to JR trains between Nagoya, Ise, Toba, Shingu and Kii-katsura; as well as buses in the Ise, Toba and Kumano Kodo area, and access to Kansai International airport, and Osaka||5 consecutive days|
|8||JR Central Pass – Osaka-Tokyo Arch Pass||Travellers can travel between the cities of Tokyo and Osaka while making stops in the Japanese Alps, in cities such as Karuizawa, Nagano, Toyama, and Kanazawa.
Includes unlimited access to JR trains between Tokyo and Osaka, such as the Hokuriku Shinkansen which connect Tokyo and Kanazawa, to JR trains connecting Tokyo to Narita and Haneda Airports, and to JR trains from Osaka to Kansai International Airport, as well as certain non-JR lines in the Hokuriku Region.
Note this pass does not include direct trains between Osaka and Tokyo
|7 consecutive days|
|9||JR Central Pass – Mt Fuji – Shizuoka Pass||Explore the Mt Fuji area, which includes the train between Matsuda, Gotemba, Numazu, Shuzenji up to Toyohashi. Also includes use of Fujiyuko buses||3 consecutive days|
|10||JR Central Pass – Alpine Takayama Pass||Includes JR lines between Nagoya and Toyama, including Gero, Matsumoto, Shinano-Ōmachi and Takayama, and also includes trains and buses on the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, between Toyama, Tateyama, Murodō, Daikanbō, Kurobe Dam and Shinano-Ōmachi.||5 consecutive days|
|11||JR East Pass – Hakone Free Pass||Includes rail transfer between Shinjuku (in Tokyo) and Hakone-Yumoto.
Also includes 8 different types of transport in the area, including the Hakone Tozan Line, the Hakone Ropeway, the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise and buses
|2 consecutive days|
|12||JR Hokkaido Pass||Includes all JR trains as well as certain buses throughout the island of Hokkaido||3, 5 or 7 consecutive days, or 4 flexible days within a 10 day period|
|13||JR East – South Hokkaido Pass||Includes all JR East lines and shinkansen in the area between Tokyo and Sapporo.||6 flexible days within 14 days|
|14||JR East – Tohoku Pass||Includes JR East lines within the Tohoku Region, and Shinkansen from Tokyo that go to northern Honshu, as well as certain trains on private lines that go to Nikko and Izu.||5 flexible days within 14 days|
|15||JR East – Nagano Niigata Pass||Includes JR East lines between Tokyo and the cities of Nagano and Niigata, including access to Haneda and Narita Airports||5 flexible days within 14 days|
12. Japan Local Public Transport Card
Another very useful item to pre-purchase before you depart is a local ‘tap on tap off’ public transport card for Japan. These cards work for intra city travel on most trains, trams, buses and ferries. You can easily top up the funds on your card at every Japan train station. Most machines have an English language option and you can only use cash to top up your card. As you go through the tap on and off machines they display your remaining funds.
For intercity travel (eg. Tokyo to Kyoto) you need to buy a separate ticket or purchase a Japan Rail pass as described above. If you do purchase a JR pass it also includes intracity JR transport access. But not every train line is JR so you will restrict your options to only JR if you do not buy a separate intra city card.
The major options are a Suica Card, Pasmo Card and an ICOCA Card. Suica is the main card used in Tokyo and Icoca is the main card used in Kyoto/Osaka. You will pleased to know that you can purchase either card, as both cards can be used in a large range of towns across Japan.
We have tested this personally – we purchased Suica cards for our whole family after we arrived in Tokyo, however my son lost his in Kyoto – we purchased an ICOCA card to replace his and both types of cards worked fine in both regions.
If you arrive in Tokyo you can purchase a Suica Card at the train station on arrival, and also from other manned stations. Be aware that to purchase a card for a child you cannot purchase it from a machine, you need to go to the manned counter and show your child’s passport before they will issue a child Suica Card.
If you arive in Osaka you can purchase an ICOCA Card at the train station on arrival. You can pre-book an ICOCA card online, however this option is only for adults. You will receive a voucher which you need to exchange at the train station on arrival. You can also purchase an adult ICOCA Card from a machine or manned counter at the train station. Be aware that to purchase a card for a child you cannot purchase it from a machine, you need to go to the manned counter and show your child’s passport before they will issue a child ICOCA Card.
13. Japan Guidebook and Maps
A Japan guidebook is very handy to both plan your trip and to decide what to do each day of your trip. Click on this link to check out the latest Japan guide books – you can purchase either a hardcopy or an ebook, whichever suits you best.
14. Money for Tokyo and Japan
Japan is quite unique in terms of how you need to manage your money compared to any other country I have visited. They key thing to understand is that the only places you can draw cash using a credit or debit card from outside Japan are from an ‘International Automatic Teller Machine (ATM)’. International ATMs are only available inside 7-11 convenience stores or at post offices. Full stop. No other ATM machines will work.
Also, be aware that you can only draw cash using the credit card option – so ensure that your credit or debit card is set up to utilise this option, and that you have called your bank to advise them of your planned trip so they do not cancel your card…
Fortunately 7-11s are readily available and have easy to use English language options, but as a result of this issue we typically chose to carry more cash than we normally would on an international trip to a first world country. In Japan many places will only take cash (restaurants can be hit and miss depending on their size), however most conventional stores (eg. shops, grocery stores, convenience stores) will take a card payment. However you can only use cash to top up your Suica, Pasmo or ICOCA public transport card. You can readily use a credit or debit card to purchase inter city transport tickets.
To help you get off to a good start I would therefore recommend that you draw some starting Japanese yen before you depart your home country so that you have options available on arrival.
As we travelled our routine developed so that we would note the local 7-11 close to our accommodation and plan to top up our cash funds early every few days to ensure that we did not run out of cash. This was no major hardship as the local 7-11 was our go to place to buy breakfast and other meals – In Japan 7-11 and other convenience stores provide a fabulous range of fresh food options!
15. Cell, Smart or Mobile Phone and Charger
I would definitely recommend you take your cell, smart or mobile phone and charger with you to Japan. We used ours extensively to help us get around. A tablet would also be useful, however be aware that tablets are rarely seen in Japan – most of the locals only use smart phones.
If you plan to use your home SIM card check out the international calling and data costs before you depart – you may be lucky but more often than not you will be surprised at how much it can cost! To prevent bill shock ensure that you turn off mobile data on your phone as you depart on your flight to Japan. Also, contact your phone provider to ensure that you have international roaming activated, otherwise you will not be able to use your phone in Japan. Also check whether your phone is locked to your SIM, and clarify whether you have the option to install another SIM card in Japan.
In our case we used our home SIM cards, and hired a pocket wifi device to provide internet access. We kept our call costs down by only texting each other or using WhatsApp for messaging, and using the wifi for all data requirements. If you would prefer to hire a local SIM card and pocket wifi the recommended options are detailed in the next section below. Some accommodation options provide wifi, but you will want to have data access while you are out and about so a portable pocket wifi device is the best option, or a hire SIM card which includes data. If you plan to stay in a traditional Ryokan don’t expect there to be any wifi provided – so it is worthwhile to provide your own.
A key tip before you depart is to clean out the memory on your phone. Delete old and unused apps, transfer photos, videos etc to your computer and delete them from the phone. If you plan to use your phone for photos, check out whether you can purchase an additional memory card for your phone and buy the largest one you can afford.
16. Recommended Phone SIM Card and Pocket Wifi for Japan
If you do not have a permanent Japanese address you are not permitted to purchase a SIM card or pocket wifi device. As a result there are a large number of providers who provide this service with only one catch – you need to pre-book your devices. You cannot just go to a counter to hire them on arrival at the airport.
Most of the providers will enable you to pick them up at your Japan arrival airport (if pre-ordered) when you arrive or they will be delivered to your hotel. Some providers will also deliver the SIM or pocket wifi to be picked up at your departure airport – options include Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Kuala Lumpar and Bangkok. My recommended option to pre-order both the Sim and pocket Wifi devices is via the Klook website with options as follows:
- For arriving in Tokyo, click on this link to see the prices for the different Wifi and Sim hire options available for pickup from either Haneda (HND) or Narita (NRT) airport, plus a select range of alternative pick up points.
- For arriving in Osaka, click this link to see the prices for the different Wifi and Sim hire options available for pickup from Kansai International Airport (KIX), plus a select range of alternative pickup points.
The Wifi hire pack will include the device (usually already fully charged), a charger, instructions, a case and a pre-addressed and pre-paid mail satchel. At the end of your stay you put everything into the mail satchel and post it at your point of departure. We found this part of the process easy as there was a post box located in the airport departure hall – prior to entering the airport secure area.
The pocket wifi device we hired had a great battery which easily lasted for the full period for long days, and both my husband and I were connected to the one device during each day. The few times we split up we communicated via text message to keep our costs down.
The SIM hire pack will include a SIM card and a pre-addressed and pre-paid mail satchel which you can post at the airport as you depart.
17. Recommended Phone or Tablet Applications for Japan
The main applications which we used regularly through Japan are as follows – I suggest you check them out and download them before you depart.
- Google Maps – you may not realise that Japanese addresses are totally incomprehensible for non-Japanese to decipher. However, you will be happy to know that Google Maps is a great tool to help you get around. I did not trust it initially but each time I thought it must be wrong I was subsequently proved that it was correct.
- Your accommodation provider should have an app – load it up and log into your account and it should also be able to help you find your accommodation options via a mapping tool, and facilitate messaging between you and the accommodation provider. My recommended accommodation booking sites and apps for Japan include Booking.com and AirBnB.
- Japan Train – while Hyperdia is the best option online to get train information, the Hyperdia app only comes in Japanese… You should therefore use the Japan Train app to get the English information on routes (both intra and inter city), including which platform to use for each leg of your trip. We used this app extensively.
- XE Currency – use this app to convert prices in Japanese Yen into your home currency so that you better understand the real price of things.
- Tripit – I use Tripit extensively to manage and provide easy access to trip information and itineraries. The great thing about Tripit is that you link it to a Gmail account, and whenever a trip booking is sent to that email address it automatically loads that information into the app. There is a free version which is great, and if you purchase the Pro version it will also notify you of flight changes.
- Gmail – I have my main Gmail email account set up on my cell phone which I used to make all of our trip bookings. As a result I had easy access to all booking information and our providers were able to email me with any questions or changes.
- Whatsapp – is great for instant messaging and share photos with both your travel companions and also family and friends at home. You can set up separate groups for each to enable messaging to go to the right people.
- Your Preferred Social Media – my major social media is Facebook so as we travelled I periodically shared photos with my family and friends, and also used Facebook to stay in touch. Ensure that you have your preferred social media app loaded onto your smart phone.
- Camera – I use my cell phone extensively to take photos while I travel. As previously stated, ensure that you clear out your phone memory before you depart to ensure that you have space for your new photos.
- Dropbox – I don’t want to lose all of my photos and phone data so I have the Dropbox app on my cell phone, and it automatically uploads my photos to my account when there is wifi access and the phone is plugged into power. That means that if I lose or damage my phone that I won’t lose my precious photos.
- Chrome or Internet – I use the internet extensively to research information both before and while I am on any trip. I look up attractions information – including opening times, location, cost, etc. I also keep track of the news, weather etc.
- Disneyland or WaitTimes TDR – Tokyo Disney – if you are planning to visit either the Disneyland or Disneysea resorts then download these apps before you go to provide current wait time and Fast Pass information.
- Waiting Time for USJ – if you plan to visit Universal Studios Japan then I definitely recommend that you download this app to obtain waiting times etc.
- Entertainment – I also load my cell phone with entertainment – for me that means my Kindle account, videos, music and games to while away time as required. Ensure you have loaded your favorite entertainment before you depart.
18. Backup Cell Phone Battery for Japan
When you travel you are likely to be out and about most days, using your phone as a camera and to assist you to get around. The last thing you want is for your cell or smart phone to run out of charge. I therefore recommend that you purchase a backup battery to carry with you as you travel. Amazon has a good range of options available at the following link – click to see the backup battery for cell phone options available.
If you already own a backup battery I suggest that before you depart you check it is still functional and able to hold charge – I find that the typical life for my cell phone backup batteries is 12 months before I start to notice that they don’t hold their charge as long.
19. Japan Travel Adapter or Plug
A key item to purchase before you depart is a Japan travel adapter or plug. Options include a single plug to match your home country power plug type, however you can also purchase Japan plugs which can take on or more USB devices.
Be careful if buying cheap versions of these plugs – we purchased a couple of multi-USB plugs while we were in Japan and found that they got very hot and were unable to charge multiple devices at once, which could be a fire risk.
Amazon has a good range of devices – choose the one which suits you best, and based on how many devices you plan to carry with you as you travel. Another useful option is a small power board which can plug into a single Japan travel adaptor.
20. Camera for Japan
Smart or Cell Phone Add on Camera Lenses
A newer camera option are the add on camera lenses which can be added to your smart phone. These lenses enable you to better zoom in using an optical rather than a digital zoom, and also to take wider angle photos. So if you want to expand the range of photos you can take with your smart phone you should definitely check these options out on Amazon. Click here to see the current range and prices of phone lenses kits.
Compact Camera for Japan
Many people choose to take a separate camera when travelling to Japan. Some great compact camera options are available on Amazon. Most of the latest compact cameras include the ability to connect to wifi and upload your photos automatically. Also select a compact case to carry your device, a compact tripod and additional memory cards. Click here to see the current range and prices of compact cameras on Amazon.
Compact DSLR Camera
A great recent camera style is emerging which is a hybrid between a compact camera and a full DSLR which has compact interchangeable lenses and creates excellent quality images. Click on the below links to check out price and accessories for the following recommended options:
- The Olympus PEN E-PL8. For more information check out this review of the Olympus PEN E-PL8 which was written by Leah from The Kid bucket list travel blog.
- The Nikon 1 J5 Mirrorless Digital Camera
DSLR Camera for Japan
You may decide that your trip to Japan is a great time to also purchase a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. If it is your first DSLR camera be aware that there is a learning curve to learn how to use it, so I recommend that you purchase your new camera with enough time to learn how to set it up and use it before you depart. Entry level DSLR cameras include options from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc. If you decide to purchase a DSLR camera you will also need to purchase lenses to go with it.
Recommended DSLR camera lenses for Japan include the following:
- Medium Range – 24mm – 105 mm
- Wide Angle – 10-22mm
- Long Range – 75-300mm
Amazon offer a great range of starter DSLR Camera bundles – click here to see the prices and bundles available.
If you prefer to use a larger DSLR then it is worthwhile to review your camera and lenses to decide what camera equipment to take, and also whether there is any additional equipment you require for the trip. Make sure that you can actually carry your camera equipment! Japan is a very safe country to visit with minimal petty crime so you do not need to be exceptionally risk adverse.
My husband is a keen DSLR camera user, and before our trip to Japan purchased the following items which all worked well – click on the below links to see the range of options and pricing available for each item:
- A new DSLR camera backpack with rain cover
- Neoprene lens pouches for each of his lenses to prevent them from being damaged
- A compact travel tripod lightweight or monopod
- Additional camera memory cards
- Additional camera battery
21. What to Wear in Japan
What Not to Wear in Japan
The overall Japanese clothing fashion style is modern but modest – so avoid necklines which are too low and shorts and skirts which are too short. In addition, if you plan to visit temples during your visit be aware that they have a dress code so plan to be modest and respectful.
Japan weather is quite variable depending on what season you travel in and which parts of Japan you travel to.
Tokyo and Japan Weather and What to Wear in Spring – March, April and May
Spring in Japan is renowned as the cherry blossom viewing (Hanami) season – the time of the flowering cherry blossoms (sakura) – click this link to see the latest forecast for the Sakura Blooms across Japan. In Tokyo Hanami usually occurs in late March. Across Japan Hanami progresses south from Okinawa to Hokkaido in the north by early May.
At the end of April/early May is Golden Week, when there four national holidays in close proximity – and many Japanese people take the days in between off work. In 2018 Golden Week is scheduled to occur over the week of 28 April to 6 May 18. In 2019 Golden Week is scheduled to occur over the week of 27 April to 6 May 19.
Hanami and Golden Week usually cause a significant increase in pricing for accommodation and other travel related activities.
Typical Spring weather in March, April and May is shown in the below table. Overall the weather is progressively warming across the season. Clothes to wear in Spring include trans seasonal options, as the weather is changeable and may be cooler in the evening. If you are travelling in the mountain areas plan for the weather to be cooler.
Tokyo and Japan Weather and What to Wear in Summer – June, July and August
June is usually the start of Japan’s six week rainy season. July gets quite hot and humid, and school holidays start in mid July. August becomes more sunny and is very hot and humid however is more festive and is a real summer holiday month for most of Japan. August and September are the major typhoon months,with southern Japan more likely to be affected than northern Japan.
Typical Summer weather in June, July and August is shown in the below table. Clothes to wear in Summer include lightweight and cool clothes, with extra rain gear for the first half of Summer.
Tokyo and Japan Weather and What to Wear in Autumn – September, October and November
September and October are usually warm and very rainy with temperatures progressively cooling. September is one of the main months where typhoons can occur. November kicks off drier sunnier weather again and the beautiful autumn leaves.
Typical Autumn weather in September, October and November is shown in the below table. Clothes to wear in Autumn include trans seasonal clothes, with extra rain gear for the first half of Autumn.
Tokyo and Japan Weather and What to Wear in Winter – December, January and February
Early December has dry and cool autumn like weather. In December the Christmas celebration kicks in in earnest with many lovely Christmas lights. January and February are the coldest and sunniest months. In northern Japan and in the alps it is the skiing season.
Typical Winter weather in December, January and February is shown in the below table. Clothes to wear in winter include winter clothing with coats, boots, beanies, scarves and gloves. If you are planing to go skiing or snow boarding then you will also need to pack your ski clothing and apres ski gear.
22. Comfortable Footwear
Ensure that you pack well worn in and comfortable footwear for you visit to Japan. For mostly urban adventures a good pair of sports shoes or other walking shoes will suffice.
If you will be hiking along trails or in the snow then ensure that you have a better quality and waterproof hiking shoe option.
Be aware that in Japanese accommodation that you will be expected to remove your shoes before you enter and wear the provided slippers inside.
23. Pre-purchased Tickets for Japan Tours and Activities
You can pre-purchase tickets for most attractions in Japan before you depart. below is a summary of key activities you may be interested in visiting. My recommended website to purchase most tickets and short tours in Japan is the Klook website – they are a reputable travel agency who are an authorised seller of tickets, tours, transport and wifi.
- Some events such as sumo wrestling and baseball sell out a long time in advance, so if you are planning to attend these events check out the following articles: How to Purchase Sumo Wrestling Online Tickets and How to Buy Yomiuri Giants Baseball Tickets in the Tokyo Dome.
- If you are planning to visit Universal Studios Japan be aware that you need to decide whether to purchase an Express Pass or a Royal Pass – they regularly sell out – check out my article on How to Purchase Universal Studios Japan Online Tickets for everything you need to know to plan your visit to USJ in Osaka.
- If you are planning to visit Disneyland and/or Disneysea Resorts in Tokyo be aware that you cen pre-purchase your tickets online before you arrive in Japan. The best online option to purchase your Disneyland and Disneysea tickets is via the Klook website.
- The Klook website also offers a vast range of other tickets and tours for your visit to Japan, so click on this link to check out their website to see the available options and prices. Specific Japanese destinations for which Klook sells tickets and tours include Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Okinawa, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Kumamoto. Favourite tour options for my readers include the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo and the day trip from Tokyo to Mt Fuji and Hakone.
24. Japan Long Haul Flight Essentials
There is a good chance that you will be flying long haul to Japan – think flights any longer than 7 hours duration. Long haul flight essentials are as follows:
- Small hand bag, backpack or satchel
- Passport and visa
- Cell phone and charger
- Backup phone battery
- Travel pillow and travel blanket
- Noise cancelling headphones and spare batteries
- Travel accessories kit including eye mask, ear plugs, moisturiser, toothbrush, toothpaste, travel socks and pen!
- Prescription medicine and toiletries
- Smartphone, laptop, tablet and/or Kindle ebook reader loaded with entertainment
Japan and Tokyo Packing List Printable
Click on this link to download my printable two page Japan Packing List to help you easily tick and flick to ensure you don’t forget anything.
Don’t forget to join my Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – you are welcome to join and it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!
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