What to Pack for Japan? 19 Things You Haven't Thought Of | The Invisible Tourist

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Take half the clothes and twice the money.” ~ Susan Heller.

There is nowhere in the world quite as mysterious and intriguing as Japan. How can a country effortlessly combine both centuries-old traditions and architecture with the modern? What’s equally mysterious is what to pack for Japan, especially if it’s your first trip!

It’s this mystery and intrigue that can make it overwhelming when deciding on how to prepare for a trip to Japan. Never fear, I’ve shared my numerous trips and experiences, itineraries, etiquette guides, language cheat sheet and more on my Japan travel blog. Allow me to remove the guesswork and help you have an unforgettable trip for all the right reasons.

As I visit Japan regularly, you’re about to read the most up-to-date advice on the interwebs about things to pack for Japan in our current times. I’m very fortunate to say some of these insights are exclusive knowledge to me having been in this wonderfully unique position!

From essentials for your Japan packing list, to items to help you “be invisible” to the things you DON’T need to bring, read on for more!

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What to Pack for Japan? 19 Things You Haven't Thought Of | The Invisible Tourist
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What to pack for Japan? Packing list of things you haven’t thought of

I’m not sharing this Japan packing list to link to a bunch of things on Amazon you don’t really need such as jet lag pills or travel towels. Honestly, in terms of packing Japan is really not too different from most other places.

Here are my recommendations for what to pack for Japan. Save the Pinterest pin at this article’s conclusion as a quick checklist to refer to later!

Japan Rail Pass

The popular choice! It’s wise to purchase your Japan Rail Pass before you arrive in Japan, as they are much more expensive once you’re there (from memory I think they cost 20% more).

You can buy them online before your trip, and have the paperwork sent to you in advance. Don’t forget to pack your voucher to exchange it for the actual pass at the nearest JR Station when you’re ready to activate it. Buy your discounted Japan Rail Pass here.

NOTE: From October 2023, prices for the Japan Rail Pass will be increasing 77%. More details and my tips for how to avoid the price increase until December over on my Instagram here.

Suica card

Suica, ICOCA (or IC cards) are handy rechargeable cards that are perfect for using on most major Metro networks throughout Japan! Forget buying individual tickets for each train trip, simply pre-load some yen onto it and tap as you go. 

Suica cards can also be used on the JR networks, which I’d only recommend if travelling a short distance and not intercity – that’s what the JR Pass can be used for.

They can even be used for shopping! Convenience stores (known affectionately as konbini in Japan) such as 7-11, Family Mart, Lawson accept them, even some department stores such as Bic Camera, Yodabashi Camera and more here. Buy your Suica card in advance here.

TIP: If you’re only planning to stay in Tokyo, the Tokyo Subway Pass works out cheaper than using your Suica card for multiple journeys! It’s available as a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass. Buy the Tokyo Subway Pass in advance here.

TIP: Find out how you can save time purchasing the Tokyo Subway Pass in advance and how to redeem it at ticket machines here.

NOTE: Pictured below is my Manaca IC card, the only difference to the Suica is that it was issued in Nagano rather than Tokyo. But it worked for me throughout Japan with only a few exceptions (such as the private buses in Kanazawa).

What to Pack for Japan: Passport Wallet

Visa & Visit Japan Web service

Foreign visitors from 68 visa waiver countries have not needed a visa to enter Japan since 11 October 2022. If you’re travelling on a passport from China, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Russia and a few others listed here you will likely need to obtain a tourist visa.

TIP: Check for the most up-to-date information from the official Japanese Consulate/Embassy website for your city/country to see if you still need to apply for a visa to enter.

The remaining entry restrictions to Japan were dropped on 29 April 2023. Woohoo! This means uploading negative PCR certificates and the requirement for being boosted is no longer required for entry into Japan.

The MySOS app is no longer required to enter, however it has been replaced with Visit Japan Web. Although entry requirements have been dropped, we can still complete our immigration info in Visit Japan Web if we wish to fast-track the queues at airports on arrival.

If you’re going to use this service, you’ll need to have the info entered into Visit Japan Web before your flight. I suggest doing it a day or so before.

Simply follow the prompts and it will create a QR code that you need to show to the immigration authorities once you arrive in Japan. They’ll scan it and you’ll be good to go!

TIP: Remember your airline will ask to see your visa (if required) before boarding. Pictured here is the MySOS app as I visited Japan before they switched to Visit Japan Web, but the process is similar.

MySOS App to enter Japan for Foreigners

Passport wallet

Perhaps one of the most useful travel gifts I’ve ever received, a passport wallet is a great idea to keep your most important documentation altogether. It’s most handy when transiting through airports. Some things I like to keep in there are:

  • Passport
  • Boarding passes
  • Foreign currencies
  • Credit card & debit card
  • International Driver’s Licence (IDP) if you plan on hiring a car in Japan. These can be obtained in your home country before your trip (find out more here)
  • Printouts of pre-booked activities
  • Local travel passes (Japan Rail Pass, Suica Card etc). Browse a collection of passport wallets here.

TIP: When I arrive at my destination, I take out the day-to-day items such as the local travel cards and cash, then put them in my card holder. I leave my travel wallet in the hotel safe or locked inside my suitcase each day. However, it is the law in Japan to carry your passport with you at all times, so I bring that with me as well.

Printouts of pre-booked activities

Just in case of any technical difficulties whilst you’re away, it’s a good idea to print out any tickets you’ve purchased in advance for activities and experiences. Show these to the corresponding places on arrival and you’ll be good to go.

What kinds of activities do I mean? Take a read of my extensive list of modern and traditional Japan cultural experiences to inspire your itinerary!

TIP: While Japan embraces modern technology in many ways, it doesn’t so much when it comes to paperwork! Paper tickets and fax machines are still very much the norm in many places. 

I made sure I printed out my ticket to Edo Wonderland in advance

WiFi device or SIM Card

Portable WiFi is great if travelling in a group so everyone can share it (most support up to 5 devices). Alternatively some people prefer to use local SIM cards in their phones to avoid having to carry an extra device.

If you have either of these on hand already, don’t forget to pack them – these are two of my Japan travel essentials.

Alternatively, I do recommend hiring them in advance. It’s possible to pick up from your arrival airport, such as Tokyo’s Narita, Haneda or Osaka’s Kansai airports.

When heading back home, it’s easy to drop these off back at the airport. Here’s where to purchase portable WiFi and SIM cards in advance and read my guide about how to rent portable wifi in Japan for tips.

Packing cubes

These are honestly a game changer! Just buy a cheap set containing various sizes for different items – larger for clothes, smaller for underwear/toiletries/device chargers etc and you’ll be good to go.

If you’re travelling as a family, having different coloured cubes for each person helps keep the clothing neat and organised in your suitcase.

It’s a shame I only became a convert to packing cubes in more recent years, I wish I began using them during my earliest travels! They just make living out of a suitcase so much easier. Browse a collection of packing cubes here.

TIP: If you roll your clothes inside the packing cubes, not only does it make it easier to see what you have, they pack better and your clothes are less likely to wrinkle, too!

Coin purse

If, like me, you don’t often use cash at home, you may wish to add a coin purse to your Japan packing list. Japan is still very much a cash-based society, so you’ll suddenly find yourself with a bunch of coins.

A coin purse makes it easier to find spare change you need, rather than having them loosely float around in the bottom of your bag or pocket. Browse a collection of coin purses here

Card holder

Due to their compact size, this lightweight alternative to your everyday wallet is a must to pack for Japan. There’s no point bringing along all those loyalty cards from home whilst you’re away, right?

All you need are your credit cards, debit card to withdraw cash and your driver’s licence/ID card. In actual fact, I don’t own a purse and use a cardholder day-to-day. It’s so much easier (and lighter) than a regular wallet. Browse a collection of card holders here.

Eye mask

No, I don’t mean the moisturising kind, but the sleeping kind. When staying in ryokans (traditional lodging) throughout Japan, I realised that the old-world wooden and paper window shutters let in a LOT of light during the nighttime.

As someone who needs the room to be pitch dark in order to sleep, I always pack an eye mask so transparent window coverings don’t negatively affect my sleep. If you can relate, browse a collection of eye masks here.

TIP: Combined with eye masks, inflatable neck pillows and a foot hammock (if you’re short like me) go a long way in helping get some sleep on the plane!

Portable power bank

Take it from me as someone with a hopeless sense of direction – using your phone a lot for navigation will suck its battery FAST. 

During my previous Japan trip, on my first day my flight touched down at 4:30am and I couldn’t check into my hotel until 3pm. I’d planned to be on the go all day! Having a small power bank as a backup was super handy those last few hours before check-in.

TIP: When not in use, I turn off location settings and WiFi on my phone to help save battery. I’ll also switch off the WiFi device altogether and only have it on when navigating around (but that can only do so much).

Of course, you can always “old-school it” and just use the map signs in each station to get around – sometimes it can be fun! But power banks are a good idea for peace of mind. This lightweight powerbank comes highly recommended.

Comfortable walking shoes

Expect to do a LOT of walking when sightseeing in Japan! Bring along your favourite comfortable walking shoes for the season.

  • In summer, for ladies I recommend comfy leather sandals and for men smart-casual sneakers.
  • In winter, I recommend waterproof boots or shoes to avoid having cold feet from rain, frost (and snow in some places). 

Your own chopsticks

Did you know Japan goes through 24 billion disposable chopsticks every year? That’s a huge amount of waste! You can do your part as a responsible tourist and bring your own reusable chopsticks. 

Better yet, chopsticks make perfect souvenirs from Japan so keep an eye out to purchase some early in your trip to save you relying on disposable ones.

Reusable water bottle

When packing for Japan, bring along your favourite reusable water bottle to save going through dozens of plastic bottles.

Tap water in Japan is safe to drink and there are plenty of places to refill water bottles. My favourite spots are from street fountains in the alpine cities I explored in my 3 week Japan itinerary, you can’t get much fresher than that!

TIP: You could also buy your favourite small drink from a vending machine and refill it with water once you’ve finished. 

Correct travel adapters

Japan uses the same two-prong power outlets as the USA. If you’re Aussie like me, make sure your adaptor allows for conversion from our 3 pronged devices!

Double check before you leave home, otherwise you’ll need to hunt down the correct adapters from a department store just as you realise your device needs charging. I learnt that one the hard way, haha. This universal travel adapter comes highly recommended.

A Japan travel guide book

No need to pack them all – we want to pack light and minimise the weight of our luggage to allow for shopping in Japan! 

Bring along your most-used Japan travel guide book and leave it in your suitcase as you may wish to reference it whilst you’re away. 

Speaking of travel guides, did you know most of my popular Japan itineraries are available in handy PDF format? The best part is they’re ad-free and optimised for mobile! Take a look here for all my offline Japan itineraries to make your visit a breeze.

As I’ve collected quite a number in recent years, I’ve also written about the best Japan travel guide books to help plan your trip – these are exactly what I have used to curate my own journeys.

TIP: For reading on your flight, you could also bring along my #1 Amazon New Release book to learn how my overtourism solutions can help you make the most of any trip!

Toiletries

I don’t call Japan “The Land of Convenience” for nothing. Most hotels supply basic, disposable toiletries such as razor blades, toothbrushes, cotton tips and hair ties.

Again, to help do our part for the environment you can pack these kinds of items at home to save using them when in Japan.

Small amount of cash (to start)

Before I travel to Japan, I’ll exchange a few hundred dollars into yen to have immediately on hand once my feet touch Japanese soil, then withdraw more from ATMs once that runs out. 

Withdrawing money from ATMs in convenience stores will usually give us the best exchange rate when we’re in Japan.

As a general rule of thumb, I withdraw around 360 USD per week as spending money when I’m in Japan (this is overkill – but I love splurging on souvenirs and experiences!)

To save on ATM fees, I withdraw yen once per week and leave enough for one day in my card holder. The rest of the cash I keep in my hotel’s safe and take from it each day, so I’m not carrying around bundles of notes all at once. 

TIP: The denominations of Japanese yen notes are 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10,000. The 10,000 notes are rare in circulation and are usually only issued from currency exchanges. You may find it difficult to break a 10,000 note, so use it on a high-ticket item!

Camera

Are you planning your honeymoon in Japan? Don’t forget your camera to capture all those upcoming memories! It’s a good idea to pack spare batteries and SD cards, too. I use the compact Canon G7X Mark III so I’m not lugging around heavy gear all day.

TIP: My guide to mid-range travel resources covers all the gear I use and more.

Face masks

Prior to the events of 2020, Japan had always been a nation of people that embraced wearing face masks. One reason was to prevent spreading of a cold to fellow commuters. The other (especially for young girls) was more for fashion purposes and to prevent unwanted attention.

On 13 March 2023, the Japanese government dropped their recommendation for wearing face masks in most situations, allowing individuals to choose if they wish to wear them. However, you’re still likely to see most locals wearing them. 

While the jury is still out on the effectiveness of face masks, to “blend in” in Japan it’s not a bad idea to bring them along. In my opinion and for the sake of the environment, washable masks are the way to go.

If you’re planning to still wear them, I recommend at least two – alternate between them each day by washing one in your hotel each night and wearing the other once dry the following day.

TIP: On my flight to Antarctica, I learnt from the health team that disposable masks are supposed to be changed every 2 hours, or they become ineffective.

What to wear in Japan: Pack appropriate clothes depending on season

To “be invisible” in Japan, I recommend wearing smart casual clothing. This way you’re not over or under-dressed. 

Having visited Japan in summer and winter, here are my recommendations for what to wear in Japan for each season.

What to wear in Japan in Summer

Keep things simple and create a capsule wardrobe where each piece is able to mix-and-match with the others. This makes multiple outfit combinations without having to pack extra things.

  • Tops: Lightweight tops (ladies, more on what NOT to wear further down the page); linen fabric is cool and breathable in the heat.
  • Bottoms: Skirts, shorts, men may prefer chino-type shorts (board shorts are a bit too casual).
  • Dresses: Long and short, they’re nice to change into in the evenings after long days of sightseeing.
  • Ankle socks: Expect to take your shoes off when visiting temples and shrines in Japan. If you’d prefer not to have bare feet, throw a pair of ankle socks in your bag to slip on and off when you like.
  • Collared short-sleeve shirts: Yes guys, these can be dressed up or down so you’ll never look too casual. 

TIP: Bring more than one pair of shoes during early summer. The rainy season lasts from early June to mid-July, and typhoon season from July to October. It’s a good idea to have at least one spare pair of shoes so you can allow the previous day’s pair to dry out!

My feet got soaked during summer at Arashiyama Bamboo Groves, Kyoto

What to wear in Japan in Spring/Autumn

Layers, layers, layers! Again, stick to the capsule theme and select pieces that will all match with each other.

  • Jacket or blazer for the day
  • Warm coat for cold evenings
  • A few T-shirts or short-sleeve tops
  • A few long-sleeve tops
  • Lightweight scarf

What to wear in Japan in Winter

  • Puffer jacket
  • Long, thick coat (for days that aren’t “puffer jacket cold”)
  • Warm scarf and lightweight scarf
  • Woollen gloves (for near freezing temperatures) and leather gloves (for below 10°C)
  • Beanie
  • Long sleeve breathable tops, natural fabrics such as cotton or Marino wool work best
  • Woollen socks
  • Optional: Thermals to wear under regular clothes
  • Waterproof boots or shoes
  • Collared long-sleeve shirts for men.

What NOT to wear in Japan

Fashion in Japan leans more towards conservative dress, especially for women. As I explain in my guide to do’s and don’ts in Japan, ladies should leave cleavage-showing tops at home. You won’t see local girls wearing them and their shoulders are usually covered, too (albeit with a cap sleeve).

However, when it comes to shorts and skirts, brushing-the-mid-thigh-kinda-short is completely acceptable!

Jeans aren’t a huge thing in Japan, with trousers, linen and long skirts replacing them. But if you wear jeans often at home, there’s no real reason not to wear them in Japan.

NOTE: Pregnant ladies, this is a sensitive topic as I understand it’s difficult to find clothes that fit as your belly grows! But in Japan, skin-tight maternity wear is not a thing. I’ve known of tourists to complain they received some unwanted stares at their baby bumps when wearing tight clothing. This is a cultural difference we’re not as used to in the Western world, but it happens. If you can, add a loose-fit sleeveless duster like these (long vest) or lightweight scarf to your outfit to “blend in” a little better.

What to wear in an onsen

Did you know it is the correct etiquette to bathe in onsen wearing your birthday suit? Yes, really! Onsen (hot springs) are segregated for men and women, and you must briefly shower before hopping in.

Don’t bother bringing your swimwear, wearing them in the hot springs is considered unclean.

What NOT to bring to Japan

Prohibited medications

When planning what to bring when traveling to Japan, it’s essential to know the Japanese authorities are very strict when it comes to bringing medicines into the country. Some drugs are prohibited even if you have a valid prescription from your home country.

Prohibited drugs include the obvious narcotics, but also more common drugs used in cold and flu medicines such as pseudoephedrine and codeine. See a list of prohibited drugs in Japan here.

TIP: You may also need to apply for a special permit called a Yakan Shuomei to bring in more than one month’s supply of prescribed medication if you’re planning to stay a while.

Fresh foods and produce

As with medications, Japan also is very strict about the types of foods you can bring in. I personally never take any food into Japan (although I always come home with a bag full)! 

Some foods to avoid bringing to Japan include:

  • Meat and animal products including milk, eggs, cheese, bone etc
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Canned foods and highly processed packaged foods are generally ok, but be sure to check first. More info here.

Umbrellas

Whenever I travel abroad, I usually pack a small umbrella that folds up compactly in my handbag. When packing for Japan however, I don’t bring them along because I ALWAYS stock up on umbrellas once I’m there – Japanese umbrellas are honestly the best!

The classic clear plastic konbini umbrellas for 500 yen are icons of the rainy summer season, while the 24 prongs in traditional style are very sturdy and durable. They also look great!

TIP: My favourite Japanese umbrella brand is called Waterfront. I’ve had a 24 prong one since 2012 and it’s still as good as new today.

Hand sanitiser 

By all means, bring some if you can’t leave home without it. But just know it is literally everywhere in Japan, from entering stores and eateries to train stations, so you won’t use much of your own. 

Tissues

You may see people handing out pocket-sized packs of tissues on the streets. Usually I’d advise against taking things like this when abroad, but in Japan we know it’s NOT a tourist scam!

These tissue packets are actually advertisements for local businesses, so don’t be afraid to take them. 

Activewear

You’ll never catch Japanese people wearing activewear out and about! I personally tend to agree that activewear is not really appropriate to wear when travelling (or anywhere outside the gym, hehe).

Although many people wear it when abroad, it does make them stand out as tourists so is best avoided. 

BONUS essential item

Finally, the one thing that’s an absolute must when travelling in Japan? An open mind. Allow yourself to be swept up in new ways of thinking because if you do, I promise Japan will change your life and stay with you long after you return – as it did for me. 

Concluding these things to bring to Japan

This concludes my extensive packing list for Japan! Now you know what to pack for a trip to Japan (and what NOT to bring) to best “blend in” amongst locals, minimise your environmental footprint whilst you’re there and have an absolute blast.

From Japan specific items such as transport items and tickets to things to make the flight a little more comfortable, from what NOT to bring and NOT to wear if you’re hoping to be an Invisible Tourist, I hope you’ve found this extensive guide insightful and save it for your future trip!

What do you think of this guide to what to pack for Japan? Did I miss anything (aside from the obvious items such as pyjamas and underwear)? Let me know in the comments below.

While you’re here, be sure to read my ultimate guide to planning a trip to Japan to cover all your bases, find out the best places to visit in Japan based on your travel type, or learn some Japanese phrases for tourists with my FREE cheat sheet so you’re set the moment you arrive.

Feeling social? Come and join me on Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok and Instagram for more travel inspiration!

Until next time,

The Invisible Tourist


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8 Comments

    1. Thanks so much, Jen!
      So glad you found this useful and I hope you have a fantastic time in Japan 🇯🇵

  1. Hi Alyse, I can finally apply what I’ve been reading from your blogs since 2018. Love all your packing tips. My husband and I are on our way to Haneda Airport for 4 weeks – Onjuku, Tokyo, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka.
    I just need to brush up on my Japanese phrases in the plane…LOL
    We’re ready for our Japan adventure of a lifetime.
    Thank you,
    Bless from Canberra

    1. Hi Bless, that’s so exciting!! I love hearing from fellow Aussies 🇦🇺
      My goodness, thank you so much for following along all these years, I appreciate that more than you could know 🙏
      So happy for you that your time has finally arrived to visit Japan, and to hear my blog was a big part of helping with your planning.
      I hope you have an unforgettable trip, safe travels and ENJOY ❤️

  2. As a frequent traveller to Japan, I agree with most of your tips except I wouldn’t leave my passport in the hotel safe as it is a legal requirement to have it on you at all times.

    1. Hi Peter, yes you’re right!
      I have mentioned that specifically in my other articles, and re-worded this one to make it clearer to carry your passport at all times.
      Thanks for reading 😊

  3. That is so detailed and useful. Plus I second your thoughts on activewear. I am from India. And we restrict to our gym/jogging here. We often refer it as Gym Clothes (Though we go walking wearing it).Tourists wearing activewear face some unwanted stares here too!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Sahana!
      I’m glad to hear that the disdain for tourists wearing activewear when sightseeing is not just from me 😆

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