You don’t need to worry too much when packing for a trip to Japan. Like most countries, if you forget something, you can most likely quite easily buy a replacement once you arrive. But there are a few things you do need to keep in mind….
There are a couple things you need to consider when packing shoes for a trip to Japan. What does your itinerary look like? Will you be doing hiking? Fine dining? Do you want practical shoes or stylish shoes? The important thing to remember is, whatever type of shoe you need to pack, you need to bring it with you. The reason? Well if you have big feet like me, then good luck buying anything in Japan! I am a US size 9 or 10 and luckily I did not need to purchase any shoes because I don’t think I would have had much luck.
The other thing to remember is that even if you don’t plan on doing any hiking, you will still likely be doing A LOT of walking. Japan has some pretty amazing public transport systems, so you can get pretty much anywhere you want to with a combination of walking power and public transport. But one thing that did surprise me was just how much walking was required when taking some of the public transport. For example, on one occasion we walked over a kilometer underground when changing from one metro line to another in Tokyo station.
Everyone in Japan is pretty on trend. Japan is a fashion capitol. You are going to want to look good. Also, as per point one, you will likely be spending a lot of time wandering around outside, just enjoying the sights and the ambiance. I always try to travel carry on only, which means I often pack clothes which are pretty basic, easy to layer and easy to combine. Sometimes it can be a little boring as well though. I have found that one way to jazz up an outfit, make myself look a lot more stylish (and also protect me eyes from the sun while exploring) is to pack one or two pairs of unique and eye catching sunglasses. A cool pair of sunnies can make any boring outfit pop. To save money on designer sunglasses, I always shop online. A good option for those living in Australia is VisionDirectAU. I’m wearing some Mui Mui sunnies from VisionDirectAU in the above photo.
Wallet with coin purse
While I am home in Australia I pretty much never, ever, ever carry cash. Because I prefer to pay for everything by card, I usually arm myself with a foreign currency card and a zero-foreign transaction fee credit card when traveling to other highly developed countries. But one interesting thing about Japan is that for a highly developed nation, hardly any businesses accept credit card. Everything is pretty much by cash in Japan. Another interesting thing about Japan is that all the bills are usually pretty high denomination. I think a lot of us consider coins to be almost “non money”, but in Japan the coins are worth quite a bit. So coins are really valuable, and also, you will end up with heaps of them. Heaps. When I went to Japan I only brought a very basic wallet which didn’t have a coin section – big mistake! I ended up with handfuls of coins floating around the bottom of my purse. Don’t make my mistake, and bring a coin purse with you.
Ok this is sort of a weird one. I recommend keeping some small plastic bags tucked away in your purse or backpack. The reason? For some reason, public garbage bins are a super rare commodity in Japan. We would sometimes wander around for hours with mounting amounts of rubbish until we finally found a bin. Also, there are absolute tons of vending machines around Japan. Pretty much every time my 4 year old saw one he would want a drink or a snack. I quickly started carrying a small bag with me so that I could stash his rubbish without having them lose and making a mess in my purse.
Carrying a smart phone this is a given for most people, but there is a special reason why you should do this in Japan. It’s because there are two apps you absolutely need to have while traveling in Japan. The first is maps.me. This app allows you to download offline maps for countries around the world. I find this app super useful, but it was even more indispensable in Japan. I found that most of the hotels I stayed in did not offer decent maps, and let’s face it, the cities are so huge that finding your way around with a paper map is just not feasible. The second app which you absolutely need to download for your trip to Japan is Google Translate. I found this app especially useful in restaurants as many restaurants do not have English menus and many people in Japan do not speak English. The app has some a long way since I first experimented with it a few years ago. It now has a feature where you can use the camera and it live translates the detected language. This was indispensable in restaurants and grocery stores.
And one thing you absolutely do not need to pack….
Toiletries. Hotels in Japan are so well stocked with toiletries that I ended up hardly using anything that I had brought along with me. Pretty much every hotel we stayed in not only offered the standard soap and shampoo, but also offered razors and toothbrushes and toothpaste.