We all know the feeling: we’re on vacation, and, as we’re getting ready for a fun day of exploring, we suddenly realize that the one item that we were so sure that we packed is not in our suitcase! We turn our bags inside out to search for it, only to finally accept the fact that we must have left it in the closet at home.
Packing is one of the necessary evils of traveling, and it can be a stressful process to try to think through every single item that we may need in a foreign country, especially one that’s as far away as Japan. Where do we even start to pack for a Japanese getaway? Luckily, there are several resources that we can use to make packing easy and painless! Read below to find an important list of packing essentials for your Japan vacation!
What to Pack for Winter Travel (December-February)
In a country with four very distinct seasons, your packing essentials will largely depend on the time of year that you are traveling. Winter in Japan can see temperatures that plunge all the way into the negatives at night, and you can expect to see large blankets of snow covering the ground, especially in the highlands. However, due to lower prices, fewer crowds, and amazing skiing, winter is one of the best times to visit this country. So, don’t let the chilly weather deter you; instead, check out the list of items you will want to take with you to Japan in the winter months!
1. A Wool or Down Coat
As previously stated, winter in Japan is cold, but you do not want the chilly weather to keep you from exploring this amazing country! So, make sure to pack a warm winter coat (either wool or down are likely your best options). Check the forecast before you go, and if it looks like your destination will receive a lot of snow while you are there, you will want your warm outer coat to be waterproof, too!
2. Layers, layers, layers!
Sweaters, long underwear, and light jackets are a must for Japan in the winter. Add lots of layers under your outer coat to keep you warm all day long--layers are also easy to shed when you decide to venture inside to warm up with some hot tea and a steaming bowl of Ramen.
3. Winter Accessories: Gloves, Hat, Scarf, and (optional) Heating Pads
If you are planning to spend a lot of time outside during your time in Japan, be careful of the chilly wind! Bundle up with gloves, hats or earmuffs, and a scarf to ward off the chill. Also, if you plan on being outside for a long period of time, such as at a national park or walking trail, you can purchase disposable heating pads (called kairo) at a local store to protect your hands and feet from the cold.
4. Boots and Closed-Toed Shoes
You will want some warm, comfortable shoes for your winter vacation: warm, waterproof boots (or hiking boots if you plan on exploring national parks or nature trails) are a must!
What to Pack for Summer Travel (June-August)
Summer in Japan is one of the most festive times of the year, with lots of lively festivals and beautiful firework displays. Yet, these summer months can also bring a lot of heat and humidity. June and July are also peak rainy season, so be prepared for warm, wet weather!
1. Waterproof Windbreaker, Poncho, or Umbrella
With lots of rainy days in the summertime, it’s important to pack the right rainy day gear! Due to the warmth, you will not want to pack a heavy rain jacket, but a light windbreaker could serve you well. If it’s too warm, try a thin poncho or pack a small umbrella in your day bag.
2. Accessories: Sun Hat, Sunglasses, Sunscreen, and Antiperspirant
As previously stated, summer can bring soaring temperatures and powerful rays. No matter whether you are enjoying the beach or the city, bring a sun hat and sunglasses to protect your face, along with sunscreen and antiperspirant to stay protected (and fresh!) all day long.
3. Breezy Tops with Airy Pants, Skirts, and Dresses
Pack light fabrics that will keep you cool in summer heat, such as short-sleeved tops, cotton skirts, and breezy dresses. Yet, remember that it’s also important to remain respectful--make sure your skirts and dresses go past your knees if you are visiting religious sites, and pack a light shawl to cover your shoulders.
4. Sneakers and Sandals
You will not need heavy boots if you are traveling to Japan in the summertime! Instead, pack light (but comfortable) sandals and sneakers. Even if you plan on hiking, you can likely do so in running shoes, which will keep you much cooler than thick, heavy hiking boots!
What to Pack for Spring (March-May) and Fall (September-November) Travel
Warm, pleasant temperatures make both the spring and fall ideal (albeit more crowded) times to visit Japan. Though nights can get a bit chilly, especially in March and November, day time temperatures can be quite warm, so you’ll need to be prepared for both extremes!
1. Waterproof Jacket
Though not considered “rainy season,” spring and fall in Japan can still bring light showers. Don’t let the rain stand in your way--come prepared with a waterproof jacket or poncho!
2. Light Layers
With warm days and cool nights, it’s important to bring lots of layers. Sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, and a lightweight fleece (notably in March and November) will make it easy to go from warm daytime temperatures to chilly nights.
2. Soft Pants, Skirts with Leggings, and Lightweight Tops
The key to traveling in Japan in spring or autumn is to pack comfortable clothes. You are likely to be doing lots of walking, so you will want light, breezy clothes that will keep you comfortable all day long. It’s also important to note to dress conservatively when visiting shrines and other religious sites: skirts and shorts should go past the knee, and shoulders should be covered.
3. Walking Shoes
Avoid those pesky blisters and bring comfortable walking shoes that are already “broken in.” Closed-toed flats and tennis shoes (especially if hiking) are going to be your best friend during your time abroad!
TIP: Because you have to take off your shoes to enter most temples and shrines, bring ones that are easy to slip on and off. And, if you do not want to be barefoot, make sure to wear socks or to pack some in your day bag.
No matter the season, follow these tips to be prepared for an unforgettable vacation! Have you ever traveled to Japan? What were some of your travel essentials? Let us know in the comments below!