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Japan Packing List: Essential Things To Pack For Japan

Japan is one of my favorite countries in the world and we've taken several trips to different regions of Japan.

From bustling major 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!

Japan packing list: everything you need to know

Mount Fuji Japan in autumn

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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 or more apart between the different prefectures in Japan.

For example, when we make a road trip in 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.

LocationSpring 
(March-May)
Summer 
(June-Aug)
Autumn 
(Sept-Nov)
Winter 
(Dec-Feb)
Tokyo8° – 22°19° – 31°10° – 25°2° – 12°
Kyoto4° – 25°20° – 33°8° – 28°0° – 10°
Sapporo-4° – 18°13° – 25°2° – 20°-8° – 2°
Okinawa18° – 26°24° – 31°20° – 30°14° – 21°

Each season in Japan has its own charm. A visit in Spring is the best option for those who want to see the cherry blossoms.

Summers are hot and humid (so stay away from the bigger cities) and great for hiking on Hokkaido and in the Japanese Alps.

Fall brings spectacular autumn colors and the winter months are a great option if you love skiing (and if you want to visit the famous Sapporo snow festival).

That being said, it's important to pack appropriately to make sure you've got a comfortable trip!

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.

That's why we both carried one backpack and one daypack, which held everything we needed (including all our camp gear) while still weighing in at less than 15kg each.

We traveled to a lot of off-the-beaten-path locations where it would have been inconvenient to log around with a large suitcase.

So when choosing between a backpack and a 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 better 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.

Flight bag

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.

Packing cubes

I love using packing cubes as it makes it so much easier to keep my stuff organized! Especially now that we travel with our kids, 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, one for my husband, and one for each of our kids.

I have packing cubes in different sizes, the smaller ones I use for toiletries and other small 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.

Versatile clothes and comfortable shoes

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

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 souvenir shop, 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, convenience stores (like Family Mart and 7-11), and department stores, you may actually find yourself freezing in your breezy summer dress.

Therefore, it's a good idea to pack layers for your Japan trip. Here are my Japan packing tips for clothes to bring on your trip:

  • Down jacket (comfortably warm but packs really small)
  • One or two pairs 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 pairs of underwear

You will be walking a lot during your Japan trip so I recommend wearing comfortable walking 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 off often in Japan (whenever entering a temple or a home) and sandals are easy to take off (and put back on).
  • A pair of flip flops

Things to pack when hiking in Japan

If you intend to do a lot of hiking and outdoor activities during your Japan trip as we did, I recommend packing the following items.

If you only plan on exploring Japan's beautiful cities you won't need these things.

Admiring the view in Kamikochi Japanese Alps

Toiletries

Here is what I usually bring on my trips.

  • Hairbrush
  • Ecofriendly deodorant
  • Contacts and glasses
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Solid shampoo bar (shampoo and conditioner are usually provided in Japanese hotel rooms as well as in the onsen so you may not actually need your own shampoo)
  • Make-up and make-up remover
  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Lip balm
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Items you need for medical care (painkillers, band-aids, etc)

Electronics

Shibuya crossing in Tokyo from above

Documents and money

  • Passport
  • Debit cards ⇒ look into which bank is best for you, overseas transaction fees add up if you are on the road for a long time! I recommend having 2 cards from different banks, so if one doesn’t work in Japan, you’ve got another one.
  • Credit cards ⇒ essential for booking flights. As with debit cards, it can be smart to apply for 2 credit cards, just for peace of mind and to make sure you don’t run into any issues.
  • Cash ⇒ while I recommend bringing bank cards, Japan is still very much a cash society. 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)
  • Japan rail pass read more below

Note: if you plan on covering long distances in Japan within a short period of time, I highly recommend buying the Japan Rail Pass.

This pass gives you unlimited trips on most of the famous JR bullet trains, JR buses, and several other lines. You can choose a pass valid for 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days.

While the JR Pass offers great value for money and its the easiest way to get around Japan, it may not always be the most economical option for your trip.

It's worth calculating the costs of your itinerary to Japan with and without the rail pass to see which option is best for you.

You can use Hyperdia to check the costs of your intended Japan itinerary and decide whether or not the JR Pass is worth the money for your trip.

Bullet train Japan

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
  • Painkillers
  • Motion sickness pills
  • Imodium
  • Re-hydration sachets
  • Plasters/Band-Aids
  • Betadine antiseptic

Other essential things and miscellaneous items

  • Sunglasses
  • Scarf (my #1 travel item and one of the first things I pack)
  • Hat 
  • Umbrella
  • Lonely Planet Japan
  • Reusable water bottle
  • 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 for winter travel in Japan:

Japan packing checklist (downloadable PDF)

Here is a convenient printable pdf that you can use as your packing for Japan travel checklist. Download it for free below!

Plan your Japan trip like a pro with these tools:
Get a Japan Railpass to save lots of time and money.
✅ Rent a car for your Japan road trip via Rentalcars.com.
✅ Stay connected with Airalo Japan offer.
✅ Plan your journey with the Japan Lonely Planet.
✅ Find the best hotel deals on Booking.com.
✅ Join the best tours in Japan via Klook.
✅ Travel safely and get reliable travel insurance from Safety Wing.

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 about this comprehensive packing list, 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 February 2023.

Hafsha

Saturday 23rd of February 2019

May I know when was your trip in Hokkaido? In what season?

Lotte

Sunday 24th of February 2019

Hi! My trip to Hokkaido was in Spring, at the end of April and start of May 2016 to be exact:-)

Ioanna

Saturday 4th of February 2017

You are right - I would never think of Japan as a camping destination! I am a solo hiker/camper myself and would love to hike in Japan one day! btw - i can recommend a Vango Blade 200 for a comfortable 2 person budget tent if you wanted to change :) It's probably smaller than yours, but weighs only 2kg and is no where in price range of the fancy-shmancy ultra-light ones! :)

Great trip!

Lotte

Sunday 5th of February 2017

Thanks for the advice about the Vango, I'll check it out for our next camping trip:-). Japan is great for hiking, but keep an eye on the season as many hikes will be closed a large part of the year because of snow (on Hokkaido many only open in June!).