You are on your way to Japan to start a new journey in your life, but you realize you have no idea what to bring! Should you bring your hairdryer? Money? If so, how much? What kind of clothes do I need? What other documents should I take with me? All these questions are probably floating in your head (or will be!). Let me share with you the top 10 things to bring to Japan that I found to be invaluable.
Top 10 Things to Bring to Japan
This is most likely the most important thing to bring (besides your passport) when you arrive in Japan. Without money, you literally cannot do anything (or buy anything). Do not worry too much about bringing your home currency. You can easily exchange the currency at the airport or a bank. As for how much you should bring, the amount varies greatly depending on the person and situation.
Generally, you should bring enough money to last you until you can receive your first paycheck. However, before that, you will need to spend money on setting things up when you first arrive. Set up costs include costs such as apartment (startup fees + utilities), food, cellphone, appliances, living expenses, and more. The costs can add up, and you will need a decent amount of money for setting up your apartment and housing. (You can view more about apartment startup costs here!) You will need at least enough money to cover two months of living. Depending on your Board of Education, Prefectural supervisor, etc., your apartment may be already decided and possibly subsidized. Please contact your supervisor or predecessor to find out more information about your living situation.
Although credit cards are becoming more common in Japan, Japan is still a very cash-based society. Particularly the rural areas of Japan still tend to only accept cash. Therefore, while bringing a credit card with you is helpful, be sure to bring some money with you. Do not forget that foreign credit cards may also incur additional fees and exchange rates.
Clothes are something that many people tend to forget about. Many think that they can easily pick up clothes when they arrive in Japan. While this is true, there may be times where the clothes at the stores may not fit you. Japan's clothing sizes and styles are different from other countries. Therefore, clothes at most stores that do not accommodate foreign sizes may not fit well. This is particularly the case for bigger individuals. The largest clothes sizes you find in the store may not fit you. Therefore, it is recommended that you bring at least some clothes with you in case it takes a while to find a place you can shop at.
Sizes are not the only thing you need to worry about, but also the type of clothing you wear is important. Depending on when you will be arriving in Japan, the type of clothes will be very different. During the winter, you will want warmer clothes, while during the summer, you will be begging for cooler and airy shirts and shorts. Be sure to bring the right type of clothing for the season you will be arriving. For the rest of the seasons, you can shop for those clothes.
Do not forget to bring any clothes that you are particularly attached to! That favorite sweatshirt or t-shirt, for example!
This is very important, particularly if you require special medication. You should bring enough medication to last until you can find an equivalent of the medication in Japan. In some cases, the medication that you take may not be available in Japan, and you may have to settle for substitutes. Be aware that the medication can be different and may take some time to adjust, or it may not be as effective as what you are used to. It would be best if you investigated the possibility of having medicine shipped to you regularly or stock up and ship a year’s worth or so with you when you come. If you plan on bringing medication from your home country, be sure to get the necessary documents from your physician and fill out the required paperwork to bringing medication through the borders.
4. Electronics (Computers, cellphone, etc.)
These are the things that I am pretty sure everyone will remember to bring when they come to Japan. These will be the last thing to be packed and the first to be unpacked when you arrive. This is simple, remember to bring your computer that you would like to use and your cellphone and other electronics that you would like to use in Japan. You can leave some of the big items that you can buy in Japan, but you may want to bring them certain things from your home country. Such things can include coffee maker (if you have a favorite), computer accessories, digital cameras, video games, etc. Just make sure that the electronics are compatible with Japan’s 100 volts. If not, you will need to either leave your things behind or pick up a step-up transformer. Electronics and appliances from the US are generally OK and will be able to switch from 120 volts to 100 volts usage. However, appliances that produce heat may not get as hot as they do when used in the US. The only trouble may be with the plug may have the extra third prong and will not fit in most Japanese plug sockets. You can purchase an adapter if you happen to have any electronics with the ground prong, which will change the three prongs to two prongs.
This is an odd suggestion that is overlooked by many incoming JETs. However, this is important, especially if you have a picky palette. Although Japan has an abundance of excellent and delicious food, it still lacks some of the favorites known in other countries. In which case, it would be best to pack some of your favorite snacks and food before coming to Japan! Importing food is expensive, and you cannot always get what you want. While you are at it, do not forget to bring some snacks for your school, teachers, and other community people! This leads us to the next item…
As mentioned, you can bring snacks as souvenirs for your school, teachers, and such. However, sometimes it may be a good idea also to bring non-perishable souvenirs. These include pins, stickers, toys, etc. You can give souvenirs when you first arrive to the school, as well as to your eikawa students if you have classes. Also, it might be good to bring something for your Board of Education or Prefectural/City supervisors. You will be working with them for the next year, so it does not hurt to start off with a good impression!
7. Things from home
This is something that a lot of people tend to overlook when packing. Most of the people and students you will be meeting probably never stepped out of Japan before. Now is the perfect chance to share a part of the world outside of Japan using items from your hometown and home country! This could include small trinkets, flags, pictures, and even clothes! The more unique, the better!
Japan has a lot of cool things and an abundance of skin creams, facial cleansers, and more! Sometimes though, you just cannot live without your trusty razor or moisturizer. Some people have different reactions to Japanese products. In which case, it would be best to bring a supply of your must-have toiletries with you to Japan. Make sure you pack enough until you can either find a replacement in Japan or ask someone to send it to you later. If you are lucky, you might be able to ship it from your home country using Amazon or another online store!
9. International Driver's Permit
This is something that most JETs that are placed in rural areas will require. It does not hurt to have it even if you will be placed in the city. You never know when you may want to rent a car and drive out to the mountains or ocean! The process is not hard, and you can find more information online, depending on your home country. In the United States, you can complete the process at a AAA branch. Just remember to transfer over to a Japanese Driver’s License if you plan to stay in Japan for over a year!
They are heavy, big, and take up a lot of room. However, sometimes it is nice to relax with your favorite book when you need to unwind. Bring a few of your favorite books to enjoy during your time in Japan. Depending on where you live in Japan, getting English books may be difficult. Amazon Japan has a large selection of English books, but it lacks titles compared to overseas. This suggestion goes especially for individuals whose favorite books are not in English. The selection in Japan is even slimmer, depending on the language of the books you want to buy. Other suggestions for books are the guide and tourist books of your home country and town. These would make excellent show-and-tell material! If books are too heavy and big for your luggage, an eBook reader such as a Kindle works great as well!
BONUS! Teaching Materials
A bonus suggestion is teaching materials! These can be flashcards, textbooks, etc. that you think may help you with your teaching. Even though you do not know what you will be doing exactly, it may still be a good idea to bring some things you think may make teaching a bit easier and fun for the students! Check online to find materials from past JET participants to get an idea of what may be useful and good to have.
What do you think about this list? I am sure there are other things that you will want to bring with you, and by all means, please include them! This is a general list of things to bring to Japan that you should consider when preparing for your move. Depending on your needs and wants, the things you will bring will differ from this list and from what other people will bring with them. Think about your needs and priorities when building out a list of things. Make sure to think about what Japan has to offer and try to do some research about Japan and the area you will be living in. What might be available in the city may not be available in rural areas.