A Foolproof Japan Packing List for Summer 2024

by | Mar 24, 2024 | Japan, Travel

Are you planning a trip to Japan this summer?

It’s gonna be VERY hot!

So, you’ve got to make sure you pack the right stuff for your trip.

In this article, I’m going to share with you a foolproof Japan packing list that will help you survive the summer heat and all the other challenges of traveling Tokyo, Kyoto, the Japan Alps and so on!

I visited Japan in August twice (crazy!). The first time I packed way too much and way too many of the wrong things (including the wrong shoes that sent me to the emergency room! – Read about it in this post on what to do if you need a doctor in Japan!). The second time I learned my lesson. So, this list is based on a lot of trial and error. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I did.

Let’s begin.

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Japan Packing List Overview

Jump to the section of this post that interests you the most:

Japan Packing List – Luggage

The most important packing dilemma many travelers are faced with on their first trip to Japan is what kind of luggage to bring:

Suitcase OR backpack?

I’m not going to beat around the bush!

You need a backpack.

For umpteen reasons!

Unless you’re wealthy beyond belief, you’ll be taking a lot of subway lines, trains, and buses. All of this means that you’ll be walking up and down a lot of stairs. And I’m not talking just one flight of stairs. Sometimes multiple flights and some subways are deep underground so there’s going to be a lot of steps.

Are there elevators and escalators?

Sometimes. But they’re REALLY hard to find. I know this because I had some health and physical issues walking during my first trip to Japan and needed an elevator.  

If you’re taking trains between cities, you might need to change trains, requiring you to walk up and down stairs QUICKLY. You don’t get much time between your connection (10 minutes maybe) and it’s not ALWAYS easy finding your next train because Japanese train stations defy logic or maybe they’re too logical (Shinkansen trains and regular trains do NOT leave from the same section of the train station).

So, the best thing to do is to use a backpack that you can easily carry up and down stairs.

Get a Small Backpack (40 – 50L)

One MORE important backpack tip for Japan:

Your backpack should not be big. Keep it between 40 and 50 liters. Not only because of the endless stairs but also for storing your luggage on trains. If your luggage is oversized, you need to store it in a specific part of the train. This is a hassle because you get maybe 30 seconds to get off the train when it stops. You will hear announcements (most of the time in English but not always) to warn you to get ready, but still, you want to be as agile as much as possible.   You want luggage that’s small enough that you can store in the racks above you or put right in front of you on the train.

Plus, you don’t want any luggage that is going to get in the way and be a bother for Japanese people. They are VERY conscientious, and they don’t appreciate people who aren’t (understandable)!

So my recommendation is a lightweight, small backpack of not more than 50L (40L is ideal).

1. Osprey Fairview and Farpoint

One of the most popular backpacks is the Osprey Fairview 40L. Osprey has a bigger version at 55L, but I’m a minimalist so I don’t think you need anything bigger than 40L.

The male version of the Fairview is the Osprey Farpoint 40L.

I used a Kelty Redwing 40L when I was in Japan. I liked this backpack a lot. Sadly, Kelty no longer makes that size. They now just have a 36L and 50L.

2. Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Travel Backpack

I had knee replacement surgery in 2023, so to extend the life of my titanium knee, I’ve ditched the backpack (I’ve been using one for 30 years of international travel and it’s what I used during my trips to Japan!) and I’ve gone with a combination wheeled suitcase/backpack. Osprey just came out with a new and improved one that is amazing: Osprey Sojourn.

The Sojourn is firstly a wheeled suitcase but it can then be turned into a backpack, perfect when climbing stairs and getting off and on trains in Japan.

The Sojourn comes in three sizes:

3. Day Pack

The next piece of luggage you need for Japan is a day pack for carrying your stuff around when sightseeing. Make sure it’s not too big and not too heavy.

On my first trip to Japan, I got a day pack that was way too big and heavy. I was carrying around too much stuff – camera, the Lonely Planet Japan guide, which is the weight and size of the Bible, water bottle, sunscreen, and on and on. You’ll be doing a lot of walking in Japan. A lot. And it’s going to be soooooo hot in the summer. Get a backpack that has good support with good straps but that’s not too big.

The Osprey Daylight Plus has great reviews and has great support. For me, I have a lot of camera gear, so I use a camera backpack. Jump to the camera section for info on what I carry.

4. Backpack Rain Covers

A backpack rain cover is an essential item to pack for Japan in the summer. It rains at that time of year and sometimes the rain comes down in buckets. It’s also typhoon season.

Pack a rain cover for both your small daypack and your bigger backpack.

I like these backpack rain covers from Frelaxy because they have a storage pouch and a reflective strip is good for walking at night.

5. Compression Packing Cubes (+ Laundry Bag)

I swear by these compression cubes from Tripped. I have been traveling full time for almost 3 years and I use these compression cubes every day and they’re still in decent shape. They organize your clothes and they compress them, thus saving you tons of space.

These narrow cubes from Tripped fit the narrow shape of backpacks PERFECTLY.  Wide packing cubes are better for suitcases and unsuitable for backpacks.

You also get a shoe case and a laundry bag. The former keeps your shoes from dirtying other things in your bag. The latter keeps your dirty clothes separate from your clean clothes.

6. Crossbody Fanny Pack

One of the reasons I love Japan so much is how safe it is, especially for solo travelers. Still, I don’t like keeping my money and phone in my backpack. I like to keep it in front of me for easy access and security.

I’ve come to really love these fanny packs that are now being used across the body. They’re comfortable to wear and much more stylish than the old fanny packs that people would wear at their hips.

Make sure you get one with an internal pocket, meaning one pocket zipper faces your body. It keeps your money and credit cards safe. If you’re lucky your phone, too.

7. Travel Purse

If you don’t want to use a crossbody fanny pack in Japan, I recommend this anti-theft purse from Travelon. It’s what I’ve used over the last three years. Now I switch between this purse and the above fanny pack.

The purse has 4 pockets: ideal for organizing your wallet, phone, and other essentials. It also has a water bottle pocket.

The material is also anti-theft proof, meaning thieves are not supposed to cut it open with a knife. The zippers have locks on them, making it harder for thieves to get into your purse.

Japan Packing List – Electronics

Besides your smart phone, what other electronics should you pack for Japan?

  • Power Bank
  • Power Plug Adapter
  • Air Tags
  • Kindler Fire

8. Power Bank

The first must-have electronics for your Japan packing list is a power bank. You need it to recharge your phone (or pocket WiFi or Kindle) if you’re out and about and the phone runs out of batteries.

On my first trip to Japan, I was touring Takayama when my phone ran out of batteries. It was dark and I was completely lost! I had no idea where I was, and I had to go to the bathroom like crazy. Luckily, I met a Japanese man who walked me to my hotel, which happened to be 20 minutes from where I had gotten lost.

I’ve used many power banks. You want to get one that is powerful enough that it will recharge your phone quickly.  I prefer having a power bank to have at least 20,000 mAh of power for multiple-day hikes. For Japan, you can probably get by with 10,000 mAh.

Check that your smartphone’s cable is compatible with the power bank. Do you need a power bank that accepts a USB-C or USB-A cable? But now some power banks are magnetic.

I’ve had good luck with Anker power banks. Right now, I’m using a Mophie power bank.

9. Power Plug Adapter

The good news for those from North and South America is that Japan uses the same Type A and Type B outlets, so you shouldn’t need a power plug adapter. It actually came in handy one time in Japan when my laptop (3 prongs) needed to fit into a 2 prong outlet.

Different kinds of electric outlets

However, if you’re from Europe (Type C plug), Singapore and the UK (Type G plug), and Australia (Type I plug), you’ll need a power plug adapter.

Japan’s power supply is 100 Volts. The United States and Canada are 120 Volts, which is generally fine for Japan, while Europe is 240 Volts and Australia 230 Volts. Your phone, power bank, Kindle, and laptop should automatically switch voltage – no need for a converter. But if you add other items like a hair dryer to your Japan packing list, then you might need something that changes the voltage. An adapter is not it! You’ll need a voltage converter. Or check your electronics to see if they’re dual voltage.

10. Air Tags or Tile Mates

Don’t travel to Japan without packing item trackers like Air Tags or Tile Mates. Air Tags are for those who use Apple products (iPhone) and Time Mates are for those with Android products like a Samsung phone.

Attach them to your things and then use an app on your phone to track where the item is. For example, when you’re flying to Japan and you need to check your luggage, you can put an Air Tag or Tile Mate into your backpack or suitcase and you’ll know where the bag is at all times by tracking it on an app. So cool!

11. Kindle or Kindle Fire

If you’re like me and you’re a real bookworm, then you’ll want to pack a Kindle or iPad, so you can read books during downtime or when on a train. Forget about packing physical books. They are just too heavy and in Japan with all the walking you need to do, you have to limit your weight. You can get an e-book for Lonely Planet Japan.  

I have a Kindle Fire that I use to read books AND watch movies. Mine is an 8” Fire with 32 GB of memory.

By the way, if you like to read a book set in a place you’re visiting, check out this FABULOUS list of books on Japan.

BONUS: I’ve created a FREE detailed PDF version of this 3-week Japan itinerary. The guide also includes step-by-step instructions for buying and using your Japan Rail Pass.

Click here to get lots of great tips for traveling around Asia as well as this FREE 3-week Japan itinerary guide. 

Japan Packing List – Clothing

When deciding which clothes to pack for Japan in the summer, these are the things you need to think about:

  • It’s incredibly hot AND humid in the summer. I’ve been all over Southeast Asia and Central America, and Japan in the summer is as hot as Singapore is all year round. But somehow worse!
  • Japanese dress modestly. They don’t wear tight-fitting clothing or short skirts or shorts. I saw Japanese women (young and old) wear either long skirts or business suits.
  • Pack for a week even if going for 2 weeks or more. I went for 3 weeks in Japan but packed as if I were traveling for 1 week. Wash clothes every 7 days. There are coin-operated washers and dryers in Japan, and if need be, you can wash your clothes in the sink using a bar of soap or shampoo.
  • You might need to take off your shoes when entering hotels, restaurants, and temples, so think carefully about what socks you pack. Don’t pack ones with holes or stains on them. Japanese don’t go barefoot, so you must bring socks and carry them around with you if you’re wearing sandals.

This is what I pack for 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 1 month, and even longer:

  • 7 tops
  • 5 pants, capris, shorts, or skirts – lightweight and quick-drying
  • 7 underwear
  • 4-5 pairs of socks – no holes!
  • 1 fleece
  • 1 nice outfit to wear if you plan on dining out in a fancy restaurant
  • 1 sleepwear
  • 2-3 bras
  • 1 hat for protection from the sun

12. Tops

As I’ve mentioned 100 times in this post, Japan is hot and humid in the summer, so you need short-sleeved shirts. Make sure they dry quickly, don’t wrinkle too much, and don’t absorb too much moisture. The best material for this is nylon or polyester, but it isn’t the most comfortable material to wear. You can also try bamboo viscose material, which is more comfortable but doesn’t dry as quickly as polyester.

I sweated a lot and after one use, my shirts were so gross that I had to wash all 7 of my shirts after 7 days. I was also worried that I smelled because I know that Japanese people are sensitive to smells. You can easily find coin-operated washing machines and dryers in hotels, hostels, and guesthouses in Japan.

Your wardrobe for Japan should include mostly solid-colored shirts (no writing or designs or patterns) so that you can easily mix and match with different pants and skirts. I pack a combination of subtle and dark colors like grey and dark blue shirts with bright colors like pink and bright blue. Sometimes I want to stand out like when taking tours so that the tour guide doesn’t leave me behind. I know that might sound strange to you, but as a solo traveler, it’s a fear I have.

Don’t pack tight-fitting, low-cut tops as Japanese dress quite modestly.

13. Pants, Capris, Skirts and Shorts

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Libin Capri Pants

My Japan packing list included a mix of pants, capris, skirts, and shorts. Everything I packed was specifically for hiking and travel—lightweight and breathable. No jeans. They are just too heavy, bulky, and hot. Bring pants made of nylon, polyester, or bamboo viscose.

I never saw Japanese women (or men) wear shorts in Tokyo or Kyoto. Young Japanese women often wore long skirts. So, if you still want to wear shorts, you’ll fit in better if they’re down to your knees.

I also never saw Japanese women wearing leggings alone. If they wore leggings, it was with a skirt or dress.

Pack pants or capris that have lots of pockets and at least one of which is zippered.

I’ve had these North Face Aphrodite capri pants for almost 10 years! They have lots of pockets including two zippered pockets and they’re super comfortable. The pants also wick away moisture and repels water.

I also love my Libin Capri Pants. The material is very comfortable, lightweight, and quick-drying. Plus! They’ve got 4 zippered pockets. The only problem is that they run a bit small. I wish I’d gotten a bigger size.

14. Underwear and Socks

Pack enough underwear for a week: 7 pairs. Wash in the sink if you run out before you need to wash your shirts and pants.

Pack at least 4 pairs of socks. Make sure your socks have no holes in them and they’re not too scruffy because you might need to take your shoes off when entering some hotels, restaurants, temples, tea houses, and Japanese homes. Dark colors are a safe bet. Going barefoot inside (or outside) is a no-no. If you want to wear sandals, then you need to carry a pair of socks with you.

I also recommend wearing compression socks on the long flight to Japan. They also help if you are like me and have plantar fasciitis.

15. Fleece

You probably think I’m crazy for recommending to pack a fleece for the summer in Japan. I always travel with one because I get cold on planes, and trains and buses tend to be cold.

If you’re someone who never gets cold on planes, then you might want to leave it at home because fleeces can be bulky and take up a lot of space.

The other reason I always pack a fleece, even in the tropics, is that if I get sick and get the chills, a fleece has been a lifesaver.

Now my fleece actually has never fit in any of my backpacks. I had to tie it around my waist or wear it when I traveled between cities in Japan.

I like Columbia fleeces because they’re comparatively lightweight, not so bulky, and not too expensive.

16. Lightweight Windbreaker or Rain Jacket

This is another Japan packing item that’s optional. It’s hot in Japan and when it rains, it doesn’t really get that much cooler, so a rain jacket just sort of uncomfortably sticks to you. An umbrella is better for dealing with rain.

If you’re going to be spending time in the mountains like doing the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route tour or hiking at Kamikochi, then a lightweight jacket will come in handy in the morning and late afternoon and evening.

I travel with this Columbia Switchback jacket. I love the color and quality, and I can scrunch it up small enough to fit in my backpack.

17. Hat

The sun gets strong in Japan in the summer, so it’s essential to pack a hat. Baseball cap is also fine. But make sure to remove it when inside especially when entering temples.

Japan Packing List – Footwear

The first time I went to Japan, I took the heaviest shoes I could find: a pair of hiking boots (dumb!) AND a pair of Tevas (dumb!) AND flip-flops. I’d had both shoes for several years and they weren’t in the best of shape. I was carrying a heavy backpack around. I got a blister on my foot from the Tevas. The blister became seriously infected. Finally, after ignoring it for a few days, I pushed myself to find a doctor. You can read about my experience dealing with the Japanese medical system in this article.

Since then, I’ve learned my lesson. Shoes are heavy and they take up valuable real estate in one’s backpack. Therefore, the next time I went to Japan, I packed ONLY the following shoes:

  • Walking shoes – Brooke’s Adrenaline GTS
  • Flip-flops

Another thing you MUST know is that the Japanese frown upon bare feet. If you do insist on wearing sandals, TEVAS, or Birkenstocks, carry a pair of socks with you for when you need to take off your shoes in temples, restaurants, or hotels.

If you do insist on bringing a dressier shoe, bring some very lightweight black flats.

18. Walking Shoes

You’re going to be doing a lot of walking in Japan, so you want to bring a pair of good quality walking shoes with good support. If you’re buying new shoes, make sure you’ve broken them in by the time you get to Japan. Don’t buy cheap shoes. Footwear for Japan is one area you don’t want to skimp on.

I love Brooke’s Adrenaline GTS shoes. They work well with my plantar fasciitis and bunions. I wore them during my second trip to Japan and I had no problems with my feet.

If you’re lucky and don’t suffer from foot problems, then I recommend the Cloudflyer On shoes. They’re so stylish that (depending on the color) you can get away with wearing them with more formal clothes. They also give you amazing support. Unfortunately, they don’t come in wide sizes, so I don’t wear them when traveling.

19. Flip-Flops

The other pair of shoes that you should pack for Japan is flip-flops. They’re comfortable, lightweight, and don’t take up much room.

I don’t wear flip-flops outside, though. Instead, I wear them around my hotel room (but only if I’m allowed to wear shoes inside, that is). If I’m staying in a hostel or a guesthouse with a shared bathroom, I wear them in the shower.

Japan Packing List – Security

Japan has a reputation for being a very safe country. It is definitely safe compared to a lot of other places I’ve traveled. Pickpockets and muggings are very rare. Still, there are a few things you should pack to ensure that you don’t experience any unfortunate events.

  • Money Belt
  • Lock

20. Money Belt

No matter what country I visit, I always pack a money belt. Japan was no exception during my two visits. I wore mine when I was traveling between cities. My money belt held my passport and half of my credit and debit cards and money. But I never wore it when sightseeing or a day or night out and about. I kept it in my room.

There are two kinds of money belts that you can get:

I’ve used both but I feel like the running belt is more comfortable than the traditional belt. So that’s what I use the most often nowadays.

The only negative is that the fabric of the runner’s belt can start to smell after a few days. Given the heat and humidity in Japan in the summer, it’s very likely to smell even sooner.

21. Combination Lock

If you’re going to be staying in hostels, you’ll need a combination lock to store your valuables in your locker.

Make sure your lock’s bars/cables are thin because sometimes the hole you need to put the lock through is small. You can also use the lock to secure your backpack’s zippers.

You might also want a lock for locking your checked luggage. I recently had some things (not expensive) go missing from my suitcase while traveling from Mexico to Costa Rica last year. Just make sure the combination lock is TSA-approved.

Is a Japan Rail Pass Worth It?

Are you wondering whether the Japan Rail Pass is worth it?

In this guide to the Japan Rail Pass, I break down the transportation prices for each of the destinations in this Japan itinerary of 3 weeks. Then I compare them to the 2024 price of a Japan Rail Pass.

You’ll also find out where and how to purchase a Japan Rail Pass, how to activate the Pass when you get to Japan, and how to use the Pass. Check out the current Japan Rail Prices from my favorite travel agency in Japan or book your pass through Klook.

Japan Packing List – Toiletries

You most likely can find any toiletry item you need in Japan that you use in your home country. You might even find some things that are better.

This is what I packed for Japan:

  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Dental floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Hair gel or cream
  • Brush or comb
  • Body soap
  • Face soap
  • Moisturizer
  • Contact solution
  • Eyeglass cleaner
  • Chapstick
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Hairbrush

22. Toiletry Bag

You’ll of course need to pack a toiletry bag for Japan. Get one that comes with a hook that will allow you to hang the bag from something like a towel rack in the bathroom. A lot of different pockets is a good thing, too. I like to keep my toothbrush separate from my hairbrush!

Tripped has a toiletry kit that consists of 3 bags:

  • Hanging toiletry bag with multiple zippered pockets
  • Transparent bag for liquids – great for getting past TSA
  • Pouch organizer for cosmetics

23. Soap Container

I love this Japanese-brand soap box. Sadly, I left mine in Costa Rica and I have to make do with a cheap one that leaks.

It’s got a sponge that soaks up the extra water, which keeps the soap dry and helps it last longer. The container also has a band that goes around it, preventing it from opening up in our toiletry bag and spilling all the contents out.

24. Microfiber Towel

If you’re staying in a hostel, pack your own towel. Some hostels require you to pay to use one of their towels for the shower.

Make sure it’s a microfiber one as it will save you space in your luggage. These towels also dry quickly.

You can buy a variety of sizes. I have one that’s the size of a beach towel and one that’s small for drying my face.

I like the towels from Rainleaf because they don’t smell like another brand of towel I have.

25. WashCloth for Shower

These exfoliating washcloth towels are a perfect addition to your Japan packing list. They’re quick-dryinglightweight, and small. Pack one to use for the shower.

Japan Pack List – First Aid Kit

I have a couple of philosophies when it comes to packing my first aid kit.

Philosophy #1: Pack it if you’re going to need it right away. If you get a headache at 11:00 pm or 1:00 am or 5:00 am, you’re not going to go out to a pharmacy to buy it. You want that pain medicine right away. Same with BandAids!

Philosophy #2: While you’re at the store, check the date of expiration for all the items on the shelf. Choose the one whose expiration date is the furthest out. When you buy first-aid stuff for travel, you’re unlikely going to use it all up before it expires a year or two years from the date of purchase. Then you end up wasting a lot of it.

  • Pain relief medicine – I like to pack BOTH Tylenol and an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen or Aleve
  • Insect repellant – Japan has mosquitoes but it’s nothing like Vietnam or Cambodia so bring a small bottle.
  • Sunscreen – You will definitely need to pack this for Japan in the summer
  • Aloe vera gel – Soothing your skin in case you get sunburn (optional)
  • Throat lozenges – In case you get a cold, cough, or sore throat. I’ve had a hard time finding these overseas.
  • Band-Aids – Good to have with you in case of an emergency.
  • Antibiotic medicine for wounds like Neosporin – Good to have with you in case of an emergency
  • Antiseptic spray – Again it’s good to have with you in case of an emergency
  • Thermometer – I’ve gotten really sick while traveling and I didn’t have a thermometer.  I wish I had one just to know how high my temperature was. They don’t take up much space either. I’ve ended up in the emergency room in the Philippines.
  • Tiny Tweezers – Very useful and doesn’t take up much space
  • Tiny scissors – Very useful for opening bags and cutting tape
  • Nail clipper – Good to have in case you need to clip a nail.
  • Vitamins – Travel can wear down the immune system, so I like to pack some vitamins.
  • Mask – In Japan, when Japanese get a cold or a cough, they wear a mask so as not to get other people sick. If you want to do as the Japanese do in Japan, then pack a mask in case you get a cold (travel can wear down your immune system and make you more susceptible to colds)
  • Prescription medicine – Make sure to keep it in the original container; Japan doesn’t allow some medicines that are allowed in other countries

Japan Packing List – Miscellaneous

What else do you need to pack for Japan in the summer? Here are some essential (and not so essential) items you might want to consider packing.

26. Water Bottle

The first time I visited Japan in August, I packed a water bottle, and it became a nuisance. Because it was hot and humid, I was constantly needing to rehydrate but I constantly wanted COLD, COLD, COLD water. Unfortunately, the water in my water bottle was warm or nothing was left. So, I’d go to one of the ubiquitous vending machines and buy another and another bottle of COLD water. Then I ended up juggling two water bottles. I felt like I wasn’t really helping the environment or saving space. In the end, I left the water bottle on the train.

The next time I went to Japan in the summer, I bought a bottle of water from a convenience store and then when it was empty, I refilled it from the tap in my hotel room. It’s safe to drink tap water in Japan. I used that same water bottle until it got scruffy-looking or until I needed COLD water from a vending machine or a convenience store.  

If you still want to pack a water bottle for Japan, consider one that is lightweight and that fits in your backpack side pocket.

27. Umbrella

June, July, September, and October are the rainiest months in Japan, so your packing list should include an umbrella.

Both times I went in August, it didn’t rain all that much. The first time, it rained twice: a typhoon in Kyoto (one day of heavy rain) and an annoying drizzle in the morning in Hakone. The second time I went to Japan in August, it poured during the two days I was in Nikko. The rest of my stay was dry.

28. Document Holder

This might seem a bit old school for some of you, but I like to pack physical copies of my flight, hotel, and tour information along with a physical copy of my passport. Booking.com allows you to print off a copy of your hotel name and address in Japanese.

All of these paper copies go in a plastic document holder. As I travel, I also fill the document holder with receipts, ticket stubs, and paper maps

29. Plastic Storage Bags

Ziploc Variety Pack – 54 Freezer Quart Bags – 38 Freezer Gallon Bags – 125 Sandwich Bags – 52 Storage Gallon Bags

Another must-pack item for Japan is a bunch of Ziploc bags. They are perfect for storing food, especially packages of food that you open but don’t finish. You can put wet or dirty clothes in a Ziploc bag. They’re good for storing bottles that have a tendency to leak or open. Pretty much everything in my backpack is in a compression bag or a plastic Ziploc storage.

Keep your passport in a Ziploc bag. I got caught in a sudden heavy rainstorm in Thailand. My passport was in my money belt under my clothes, but it got soaked and the ink from some of my stamps ran. I now ALWAYS store my passport and some money in a Ziploc bag in my money belt.

30. Travel Journal

I love Moleskin Journals for writing about about my travels. This is what I took with me to Japan–actually three of them because they are rather thin. They’re thin, lightweight, and durable. The paper is nice and smooth, giving you a nice writing experience.

31. Travel Sewing Kit

I pack a tiny sewing kit with needle, thread, and some buttons in case a button falls off or something rips. A button on my pants fell off at the beginning of my trip to Peru. Thankfully, I had a sewing kit and I could sew it back on and still use the pants.

Japan Packing List – Camera

For those of you who want to bring their camera to Japan, this section is for you. If you don’t, you can skip this part.

32. Camera

If you’re looking to buy a camera for Japan, I recommend getting a Fuji or Sony mirrorless camera.

Fuji X-T4 Mirrorless Camera

I own a Fuji X-T4. The camera takes great photos. Fuji cameras are known for producing photos with great color. It also has built-in image stabilization. Fuji just came out with an X-T5, but I think the X-T4 is good enough.

Sony a7 III Mirrorless Camera

The other camera that I recommend getting is the Sony a7 III. This is probably the best non-professional camera on the market. It’s got great autofocus and it produces sharp images in low light. know Sony came out with the a7 IV, but the a7 IIII is still great and is now cheaper.

33. Camera Lenses

I recommend packing these camera lenses for Japan:

  • Average focal length Zoom (16-80 mm) for everyday shots of street scenes, people, and attractions
  • Wide Angle Zoom Lens (10-24 mm) for street scenes in Tokyo and Kyoto and the traditional Japanese architecture.
Fuji LensesSony Lenses
16-80 mm average focal length lens24-70 mm average focal length lens
10-24 mm wide angle lens10-18 mm wide angle lens

34. Tripod

If you want to night shots of Tokyo streets, night photos from the Tokyo Sky Tree, or early morning shots of Mt. Fuji, bring a tripod to ensure your photos are sharp.

I pack this mini tripod. It’s small, lightweight, and stable. I like it more than the gorilla pods.

However, a full-sized tripod is better for those street shots.

35. Lens Cleaning Kit

Pack a camera and lens cleaning kit for Japan. I can guarantee that you’re going to need to clean your lenses multiple times during your trip.

There are lots of lens cleaning kits on the market. I own this kit (I threw away the case). Whichever one you get, your kit should have first and foremost a lens pen, a small spray bottle of cleaning fluid, a microfiber cloth, a brush, and a rocket air blower (in order of importance).

Lens pens and microfiber cloths get dirty, so make sure they’re relatively new.

36. Camera Strap

I cannot recommend this Peak Design camera strap enough. I love it.

It’s supposed to work with any camera brand. I find the strap easy to adjust, durable (same one since 2018), and comfortable.

Just watch several videos first before attempting to put the strap onto the camera. Some videos teach you the wrong way.

37. Silicone Gel Caps

The humidity in Japan can ruin your camera and lenses. Pack plenty of silicone gel packets and store them with your camera and lenses in Ziploc bags. They will soak up the moisture and thus prevent fungus and mold from forming on your equipment.

Humidity destroyed my camera and one of my lenses while traveling in Central America.

38. Camera Bag

I have a Brevite Camera Bag, but I hate it and don’t recommend it. The top compartment collapses onto the bottom compartment, so the stuff in the top part sits on my camera and lenses. That is probably what broke my camera lens. As soon as I get back to the U.S., I’m buying a Wandrd Prvke Lite.

At the time I was buying a new camera bag, I bought the Wandrd Prvke 31L, but it was way too big and heavy for me. I returned it and got the Brevite Jumper instead.

Now Wandrd has an 11L camera bag that expands to 16L called the Lite and it’s probably the ideal bag for me and a perfect one to take with you to Japan.

The bag has got four compartments as well as internal smaller comparts. It’s sturdy, durable, and comfortable. There’s a laptop sleeve. I also like that the camera compartment opens from the back and not the front.

Japan Packing List – Documents

What documents to pack for Japan? I recommend packing the following documents and forms of payment (credit cards, etc.) for your trip to Japan:

  • Passport – Of course, you need to bring your passport. Make sure that you have at least 6 months left on it. Most countries will now allow you to enter if it expires in less than 6 months. Scan the information page of your passport and email it to yourself and put another copy in the Cloud like in Google Docs.
  • Cash – I usually bring about US$300 – $500 of American dollars with me to Japan just in case my debit card isn’t working. At least, I have some money with me until I can figure out how to get it to work. I don’t bring Japanese yen before arriving in Japan.
  • 2 Debit Cards – Pack a debit card to get cash from ATMs. You’ll find ATMs at convenience stores like Lawsons, Family Mart, and 7-11. Pack 2 in case you lose one, your number gets stolen, one doesn’t work for some reason, or an ATM eats one. All of these things have happened to me before. If you do lose your card, contact your credit card company and have them DHL a new card to you. Do not use Fedex! DHL is faster.
  • 2 Credit Cards – Japan is mainly a cash-based society but there are times when you can use your credit card like at hotels and some restaurants. Bring 2 credit cards (Visa or Mastercard) in case one doesn’t work, your bank cancels yours, or you lose one. In March 2024, my bank canceled my credit card while I was in Mexico because someone had stolen the number. I’m not sure how or where it happened! Luckily, I had a backup and wasn’t in that much of a pickle. My bank did send me a new one in less than 5 days. Also, I cannot tell you how many times my bank refused to process a transaction I tried to make online like buying a bus ticket. My bank knew I was overseas, yet they still gave me trouble.
  • Pay Pal Account – You might not need to have this but it’s good to have it available in case. I’ve needed it several times while traveling in Mexico. When I try to buy a bus ticket online, the bus company doesn’t accept foreign credit cards, so I need to use Pay Pal.
  • Prescriptions for medicine, eyeglasses and contacts – In case your glasses break or you run out of contact lenses, you at least have your prescription with you.
  • Proof of your return flight – If you booked a one-way flight, the airline might ask for proof of a return ticket or a flight out of Japan. Make sure you know which terminal you fly out of on your way back home.
  • Travel insurance and medical insurance – Ideally have a physical copy of medical insurance. If not, at least have a digital copy stored on your phone. I use SafetyWing for my insurance. I just had my foot crushed in Mexico and needed an x-ray. Luckily, I had insurance.
  • Japan Rail Pass Voucher – If you’re getting a JR Pass, don’t forget your voucher.
  • Physical and/or digital copies of your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb reservations in Japanese – I usually have physical copies of my reservation with the address and name in Japanese. If I need to know how to get to my hotel, I can ask Japanese people and if it’s in Japanese, they will more likely be able to help me if the hotel name and address are in Japanese.
  • Vaccine card: You don’t need to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to enter Japan any longer. However, I still carry mine around with me as well as my WHO yellow vaccine booklet.

Japan Packing List – Apps for Your Phone

When preparing for your trip to Japan, make sure you add these apps to your phone:

  • Google Maps – Download maps for Japan before arriving in the country. And learn how to use Google Maps. Because Japan doesn’t have a similar street numbering system like many of you have in your country, you will need to use Google Maps
  • Maps.Me – Sometimes this is a much better map app than Google Maps. But you get charged after downloading a certain number of free maps. You need to download the map to use it.
  • Google Translate – You need to download the Japanese dictionary to your phone so you can use it offline.
  • Booking.com – Best accommodation booking app for Japan. Sometimes prices are cheaper on the App than on desktop
  • Agoda – Another great accommodation booking site that has great deals for Japan
  • Freetour.com – An app where you can sign up for free walking tours
  • Find Device – This app will help you find your phone if you lose it in Japan
  • Get Your Guide – A great tour booking site that allows you to book tours; great customer service
  • Viator – Another great tour booking site for booking tours
  • Klook – A great tour provider for Japan
  • Navitime App – This is a great app for finding metro, train, and bus schedules
  • PapaGo – Another translation app that gets a lot of positive reviews. It’s free and available for Apple and Android phones. You can have a conversation with someone and it translates the Japanese-English in real time.
  • VPN – Get a VPN for your phone and laptop to securely use your public and hotel WiFis.

Best Resources for Your Trip to Japan

Book Your Flights for Japan

Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to Japan. They will turn up results for all airlines including major ones and local airlines. You’re going to find EVERYTHING that’s available and thus get the cheapest price.

Book Your Accommodations for Japan:

The best hotel booking sites for Japan are Booking.com and Agoda. They have the biggest selection, and they consistently churn out hotels and hostels at the lowest prices of any other booking site. Another website for backpackers and budget travelers is Hostel World.

Book Your Tours for Japan:

The three best tour booking sites for Japan are Viator, Get Your Guide, and Klook. Viator has the biggest selection. Get Your Guide has terrific customer service. Klook specializes in tours in Asia.

Get Connected when in Japan:

You’ve got 3 options for staying connected in Japan: a pocket WiFi (what I used), a physical SIM card, or an eSIM. Several companies offer eSIMs for Japan. I recommend getting one through Klook or Airalo.

Book your Japan Rail Passes:

Japan has many different types of passes. The JR Pass is one of the most popular passes. Buy them through Klook before your trip to Japan. There are other passes as well like the Hakone Freepass.

Get Your Rail Pass for Tokyo

Get an unlimited train pass for most metro lines in Tokyo. They’re good for 1, 2, or 3 days. I always get the 3-day pass.

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About the Bamboo Traveler

Welcome to The Bamboo Traveler, a travel blog dedicated to helping those travelers who want to dig deeply into the history, heritage, and culture of a place. Whether it’s through the pages of your passport or the pages of a book, I’ll help you travel the world and uncover the history, culture, food, architecture, and natural beauty of some of the world’s most fascinating places.


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