Japan is one of my favorite countries in the world and we’ve taken several trips to different regions of Japan. From the bustling big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka to off-the-beaten-path locations in Japan such as Hokkaido, the Japanese Alps, Koyasan, and Shikoku.
Japan is a large country with four distinct seasons as well as different climates in the various regions, which can make deciding on your Japan packing list quite a challenge!
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Japan packing list: everything you need to know
In this post you can find detailed information about the Japan travel essentials to bring with you, based on our own experiences traveling around this beautiful country.
Versatility is key when it comes to packing for Japan!
It’s not uncommon for temperatures to be 20°C of more apart between the different prefectures in Japan.
For example, when we make a road trip on Hokkaido in April, there was still snow on the mountain tops, temperatures during the night were below 0 and we even needed cloves!
However, when we flew south a week later, the temperatures in Kyoto were a comfortable 25 degrees and we walked around in t-shirts and shorts.
Average temperatures in Japan
Here are the average temperatures throughout the year for several of the main hotspots in Japan.
|Tokyo||8° – 22°||19° – 31°||10° – 25°||2° – 12°|
|Kyoto||4° – 25°||20° – 33°||8° – 28°||0° – 10°|
|Sapporo||-4° – 18°||13° – 25°||2° – 20°||-8° – 2°|
|Okinawa||18° – 26°||24° – 31°||20° – 30°||14° – 21°|
The perfect Japan travel packing list for any season
Backpack or suitcase
During our first trip to Japan, we actually went camping and we brought a tent, sleeping bag, and other camping gear. It was just the two of us (my husband and myself) and we were backpacking Japan on a budget.
We traveled to a lot of off-the-beaten-path locations where it would have been inconvenient to log around a large suitcase. So when choosing between a backpack and suitcase, consider carefully where you’ll be spending most of your time in Japan.
Will you mainly be visiting cities? In that case, a suitcase is a good option. We also brought a suitcase for our second trip to Japan, as we had a lot more luggage because we were traveling as a family, with our then 1-year old son.
Below you can find my recommended bags and suitcases.
If you decide on bringing a backpack, don’t forget to buy a flight bag to protect it during transport. All the loose straps of your backpack can easily get caught on a luggage belt or between a train door, etc.
Zipping your backpack in a flight bag streamlines and protects your bag and keeps it clean.
I love my packing cubes as it makes it so much easier to keep my stuff organized! Especially now that we travel with our son, it can be a nightmare to (quickly) find what you are looking for inside an unorganized suitcase.
Not with packing cubes! I usually have one or two for myself and one for little D. I have packing cubes in different sizes, the smaller ones I use for toiletries and other smalls things while the bigger ones are perfect for clothes.
The cubes not only help to keep our stuff organized, but they also make it easier to utilize all the space in our suitcase and backpack efficiently.
Clothes and shoes
As mentioned before in this post, accounting for all sorts of weather is key when considering which things to pack for a trip to Japan.
Here the magic word is layers. For example, during winter, it can be very cold outside in Tokyo. However, when you step into the MRT or into a store, you’ll quickly begin to feel uncomfortably hot and you’ll be glad to remove a layer (or two).
On the other hand, in summer it’s hot and humid outside but with air-conditioned public transport and shopping malls, you may actually find yourself freezing in your breezy summer dress.
Here are my Japan packing tips for clothes to bring on your trip:
- Down jacket (comfortably warm but packs really small)
- One or two pair of skinny jeans
- A hoodie or warm sweater
- A couple of t-shirts
- A vest top (too much cleavage is considered inappropriate so keep this in mind when considering what to wear in Japan)
- A couple of shorts and skirts
- A nice dress for an evening out
- Enough underwear
You will be walking a lot during your Japan trip so I recommend wearing comfortable shoes!
- Lightweight sneakers (with a proper footbed)
- Pretty sandals or something sturdier, like the Teva Tirra. I wear my Teva’s all the time, they may not be very fashionable but they are very comfortable and they give proper foot support. In my experience, sandals are the perfect footwear when exploring cities in Japan during warmer weather. Also, you’ll be taking your shoes of often in Japan (whenever entering a temple or a home) and sandals are easy to put on and take off.
Things to pack when hiking in Japan
If you intend to do a lot of hiking and outdoor activities during your Japan trip like we did, I recommend packing the following items.
- Proper hiking boots
- Hiking socks
- Hiking pants
- Merino hiking shirt (Merino clothes are not cheap but in my opinion, they are worth every penny, they are light, warm and dry and don’t smell)
If you only plan on exploring Japan’s beautiful cities you won’t need these things.
Here is what I usually bring on my trips.
- Ecofriendly deodorant
- Contacts and glasses
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Solid shampoo bar (shampoo and conditioner are usually provided in Japanese hotels and onsen so you may not actually end up needing your own shampoo)
- Make-up and make-up remover
- Sunscreen lotion
Documents and money
- Debit card
- Credit card
- Cash (Japan is still very much a cash society and there are plenty of places where you can’t pay by card so make sure you always carry enough cash, especially in more rural areas with fewer ATMs).
- International drivers permit (if you plan on renting a car you will need an international driver’s permit based on the 1949 Geneva Convention model)
Small emergency kit
You always hope you won’t have to use these items but it’s smart to carry them with you anyway.
- Hand sanitizer
- Motion sickness pills
- Re-hydration sachets
- Betadine antiseptic
- Lightweight scarf for spring, summer, and autumn
- Lonely Planet Japan
- Reusable (filter) waterbottle
- Gifts from your home country to give to people you meet along the way (this is very common in Japan and is highly appreciated by accommodation hosts, tour guides, and other people who provide a service for tourists).
Additional items for your Japan winter packing list
Japan in winter is beautiful but you do need to pack some extra stuff if you want to stay comfortable. Here are my recommendations:
- Warm winter coat
- Nice warm scarf
- Warm (merino) socks
- Thermal underwear (such as these merino wool long-sleeved thermal shirt and merino leggings)
Japan travel checklist
Here is a convenient printable pdf that you can use as your Japan trip packing list. Download it for free below!
What to pack for Japan: in conclusion
I hope this Japan packing checklist will help you prepare for your trip to Japan. Please let me know if you have any questions, you can leave a comment below or send me a message.
Also read my other Japan posts for more Japan travel inspiration!
This post was updated in June 2020.