Through all my years and trips to Japan, I’ve become a reliable source of information for friends around. Many times I’ve received messages starting with “Hey, how are you? I’m going to Japan, what should I do?” Even though I love to grab a coffee with anyone and talk deeply about the matter, sometimes I just don’t have the time, or is just not possible, as I’m always anywhere else but home. So I’m starting a series of Hype list, and going to share my travel tips and how to move around Japan to make it easier for everyone visiting the islands, and also making it easier for me to have the answers ready here written on Hype in Tokyo. This packing list will make you realise sometimes less is more, specially when planning a trip to Japan.
It’s decided, you booked your flight to Japan for the travel of a lifetime, you’re hyped as ever, but the clouds of doubts and fear make an appearance. What should I pack for the trip? I’m gonna leave the obvious packing out of the list, but worth to mention at least. Season clothes, travel electronic adapters for your gadgets, and finally, your camera because you’re going to take a lot of photos.
1. Japan Rail Pass
The most convenient rail pass four tourists heading to Japan. For a limited time, you have unlimited rides on the JR company. If you’re only going to be in one city, I don’t recommend it. If you’re planning to travel around using the shinkansen, it’s the best option. Be smart and spend a bit more of your budget in a JR pass.
I heard many times and lived the situation in Japan. “The ATM is not giving me any money” or “my credit card is not working/accepted”. Japan is still a mostly cash loving country. Many credit cards don’t work in ATM or shops, as for many restaurants they don’t accept credit cards even in some small hotels. Bring enough cash for your trip and rely only on your credit card for buying souvenirs on the Tax free shops.
3. Small suitcase plus backpack
Most common mistake I’ve seen for travellers in Japan. After reading this there’s no excuse. The space in cities is limited, there’s too many people on the trains, and then, they appear. The monster suitcases and backpackers trying to fit in the space of five people on the train. Second scenario, arriving to the capsule hotel and trying to make your way through narrow hallways, jumping over suitcases in an obstacle race to your locker, just to find that the guy before you has open his huge backpack and is unpacking everything to make it fit into the locker. Wrong in many ways. Because it’s not only one tourist, it’s the whole hallway. Again, be smart. Bring a small suitcase and a (not so big) backpack if you need to take some things out everyday with you. Also, there’s no need to bring a change of clothes for every single day of your trip, as there are coin laundry machines almost in every hotel. This way, the whole trip will be even better for you, as the rooms at the hotels are generally small. That’s my strategy. Small suitcase, leave it in the hotel with the important stuff locked, and take the backpack for the day out. If you don’t need it because you’re going to make a long visit in one area, there are coin locker as well in almost every station.
Make your trip lighter. And the last reason, to avoid moving around with lots of luggage around Tokyo, as it’s not a much accessible city as it seems for carrying around your suitcase. The stations and elevated crossing will take you long time to figure out where are those wanted elevators.
4. Comfortable shoes and new socks
Might heard of this before, but I think it’s good to make a point here. Travelling requires always lots of walking, plus a lot of time sitting on trains and airplanes. Comfortable shoes are a must for travellers. Specially in Japan. Visiting a shrine at the top of the mountain, trying local food in an izakaya, or being invited to an apartment. Taking off your shoes is a must in all this scenarios, and you don’t want to let others around you see the hole on your socks. It’s a shameful moment.
5. Pocket wifi device
This is not something you pack, but something to book in advance and receive it in the airport or your hotel. My gadget recommendation of this list. On my last trips I booked a pocket wifi from Japan Wireless and I will keep doing it as it always goes well. I need my laptop and smartphone to be connected 24/7 to work and free wifi services in Japan are not as good as it might seem, though Japan has been working on the improvement. With a pocket wifi device you solve your connectivity problems for all your gadgets. The moments I use it the most are on my train rides to other parts of Japan. Works perfectly.
Following this five items on the Hype list for packing to Japan will make a good starter for your travel and you’ll be one step ahead for the next step. Arriving to Japan and move around the country. And what about you? anything you miss on this list, or any doubt regarding how to pack for a trip to Japan? Feel free to leave a comment in th section below.