What to Pack

Moving to Japan can be a scary jump into the unknown. For many people Japan is still a strange, exotic country where few have travelled, so how do you know what to expect, let alone pack? Well, lucky for you we have got some great information based on many years of JETs' and other foreigners' experiences.

Clothes

Japan has four seasons that vary greatly. In Kagawa, summer is long, hot and humid; winter is cold; spring is temperate and cool; and autumn is warm and often wet. It is a good idea to keep in mind how distinct these seasons are, so be sure to pack for all seasons and not just the season you will arrive in. However, if luggage space and weight are issues, you can always find what you need somewhere in Kagawa, or have it shipped from somewhere else.

  • Summer is a time for light fabrics, given the heat and high humidity. Synthetics are often better as they dry more quickly than cotton. However, cotton and linen are often more comfortable, so it's matter of personal choice. It rains often from June until November, so come prepared (umbrella and sturdy rain jacket recommended.)
  • Autumn calls for sweaters and jeans, as it's neither too hot, nor too cold. Beware that autumn is also typhoon season so it is a good idea to bring a raincoat and rain pants if you have them.
  • Winter is chilly, ranging between 0-5°C/32-40°F for December to February so bring a nice jacket if you have one. Keep in mind that Japanese homes are not insulated, so indoor temperatures are often the same as outside temperatures (or, let's face it…worse somehow.) Thermal clothing is a good idea and can easily be bought at reasonable prices in most clothing stores here. As for winter recreation, Japan has some of the best winter resorts this side of the alps, so if you enjoy skiing or snowboarding, it may be cheaper to bring your own jacket, pants and gloves, rather than buying a new set when you arrive.
  • Spring is similar to autumn, but a little cooler and less rainy. A light rain jacket and jeans are good.

Make sure your wardrobe has proper work attire. You will need a suit for special school ceremonies like graduation and school pictures. You will also need everyday school clothes. What you wear will depend on your school. Some schools allow tracksuits, while other schools expect more business casual shirts and trousers/blouses and skirts. It is a good idea to ask your predecessor what they wore, and maybe dress smart for the first few weeks, before transitioning to a tracksuit. As a side note, ladies should try to avoid tops that are low-cut or expose your shoulders, and short skirts. Such garments will probably incite comments about how cold you must be even though it's sweltering outside. Whatever you wear to school, make sure you have a variety of clothes for a variety of occasions.

If you don't have enough space to pack enough clothes for the year, you can always buy clothes in Japan. There are many international brands, and it's easy to shop online. There are limited options for larger sizes, so it's a good idea to pack some extra essentials from back home, like bras and shoes.

For people who enjoy outdoor activities it is worth bringing your own gear rather than buying it in Japan, especially hiking boots.

Toiletries

Japan has nearly all the toiletries you could want and possibly more but…

  • It is nearly impossible to get strong antiperspirant (which you will want for the humid summer).
  • Some skin creams have bleaching agents in them, so we recommend you bring your own, buy them online or get someone to help you buy them.
  • Toothpaste tastes different.
  • Sometimes your favorite brand will have a different formula in Japan.
  • It can be hard to get things for sensitive skin.
  • Sunblock, sunscreen, sun cream, etc. is runny, often expensive and not sweat- or water-resistant.

Don't let this scare you though, because it is getting easier and easier to get anything you want on the Internet in Japan (see our shopping resource list) and at big department stores.
My recommendation is to bring enough toiletries for at least a month and then experiment with new brands, or buy on the internet.

Sanitary Products

It is not hard to find sanitary towels or tampons in Japan. They are very similar to their western counterparts. For a more in-depth guide please see the following at Surviving in Japan: tampons, sanitary towels

Medicine

You are only allowed to bring about 1 month's worth of medicine into the country, and certain medicines are not allowed into the country. See here for the official rules.

You can buy mild painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen/paracetamol over the counter in similar doses to that of your home country. It is also possible to get a whole range of other medicines over the counter in drug stores, but you may find it limited compared to your home country. If you suffer from hay fever, it may be worth bringing a small supply of antihistamines as the Japanese versions are often weaker or can induce drowsiness.

For prescription medicines, you will need to visit a doctor. To speed up a visit to the doctor in your home country, it is worth getting a letter from your doctor back home explaining your ailment(s) and what medicine(s), doses and frequencies are needed.

Birth Control/Contraception

It is very easy to find many styles and sizes of condoms in Japan, but some people may feel safer or more comfortable using condoms from their own country. If this is the case it is worth bringing an extra supply, but they are available online or in some drug stores. It is also possible to buy latex-free condoms if you have allergies to latex.

For ladies, there are a few contraception options, but it is more difficult than in the UK or the US to get birth control other than condoms.

  • First the pill and mini-pill are available at women's clinics, but cost around 2000-3000円. There are limited choices and you will have to return every month to get your next prescription. Some ladies have found it easier to have a repeating prescription or a year's worth of pills, and have them sent every 2 months by a friend or online pharmacist.
  • The next option is a IUD/IUS (intrauterine device/intrauterine system). These can be implanted by a gynecologist and last for a year or so. There are a few downsides including the effectiveness and cost, with an IUD costing upwards of 30,000円 and an IDS costing around 80,000円. Some people recommend getting a coil or IUD/IUS before coming to Japan to avoid having to worry about birth control.

For peace of mind, it is also possible to get the morning after pill if it is needed.

Electronics

You can buy nearly anything you need in Japan, and for most items it is a bad idea to bring them since voltages vary from country to country. But there is one thing you should bring:

  • Your trusty laptop - You can buy them in Japan, but they are typically more expensive and will have a Japanese keyboard. Beware, though, that if you need your computer fixed, you may not be able to get it fixed in Japan (if you didn't buy it in Japan), and you may not be able to ship it overseas because of the battery. This isn't a guarantee, but a possibility.

Everything else is a bit pointless. It's hard to buy only a SIM card so your phone from back home will have no use in Japan. Avoid bringing hair dryers, irons, kettles, electric toothbrushes, etc., as these might blow up or simply not work. If you do have something you want to bring, check the voltage range. Japan uses 120V AC, America uses 100V DC, and the UK uses 240V AC. Most laptops and USB chargers will work fine, but anything else needs to be checked first.

Japanese outlets only allow for two-pronged plugs, so if something has three (for example, your laptop's power cord), then find an attachment that will help you plug it in here.

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