So you finally received your acceptance letter and you’re ready to move to Japan. But first things first. What should you bring with you? What will you need while you’re there? What can you find there? Can you buy clothes and shoes there? Should you try and bring your whole closet with you?
There are going to be so many questions running through your mind the moment you start packing. I remember repacking my suitcase five or six times before it was time to go. And after all of that effort, I still felt like I made the wrong choices.
JET only allows you to bring two suitcases with you, which doesn’t seem like a whole lot when it comes packing your entire life in it. You have to pack your essentials (work clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc.) but what else should you bring? Let’s go over some essentials you’ll need for at least your first month in Japan.
Tokyo Orientation Essentials
Before you’re able to settle into your new place, you have to go through Tokyo Orientation. That’s two days of seminars, going through the ins and outs of Japanese customs and teaching to prepare you for the future. They only allow you to take one suitcase to the hotel, so you’ll need to have all your orientation essentials in one suitcase. You’ll only be in Tokyo for two days but it’ll feel like the longest two days of your time in Japan. So you’ll want to be as prepared as possible to make your time go smoothly.
try to dress like these guys
1-2 suits: This is basically the outfit you wore to your JET interview. A nice black or dark blue suit with a jacket and tie. For ladies, a knee-length skirt with tights is optional, and dress shoes. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, Walmart dress pants and jackets work just fine. Just make sure everything fits and looks nice. Nothing oversized, or mismatched. And for the love of God, please iron your suit.
1-2 pairs of shoes: Remember to make sure all of the shoes you bring are comfortable. You’ll be walking around in them all day. Now is not the time to try and break in a new pair of pumps. Please remember to bring matching dress shoes to orientation. Don’t be the person that wears black sneakers with their suit; this isn’t prom.
Appropriate Casual Clothes: Even though you’ll be free to run around on your own in the evening, you should still dress conservatively during orientation. No muscle tees or short-shorts. Save all of that for when you settle in. You’ll be around diplomats, JET officials, teachers, etc. You never know who is watching you while you’re there.
Orientation/ JET Handouts: Some of you might have received some things in the mail or you might have received them at the pre-departure orientation in your city. Make sure to keep those documents with you. During this time you’ll be asked to sign a lot of important papers. Now is not the time to show how forgetful you are.
Toiletries: Most toiletries such as lotion, sanitary napkins, toothbrushes, body wash, etc. can be found a local convenience and department stores. However, I suggest you bring some travel sized versions with you so you don’t have to worry about re-upping on toothpaste during orientation.
Medication: Make sure to pack whatever medication you might need in your orientation suitcase. Allergy, migraines, anxiety, menstrual, etc. While you can find medication in Japan you don’t want to have to go through the trial and error of figuring out what works for you right now.
What about after you move-in? Surely you’ll need more than 2 suitcases worth of stuff to fill your apartment. My advice for packing is, less is more. Humans are hoarders. Even if you only plan to stay for one year, you’ll still accumulate more things to bring back than you originally anticipated. Many people talk about how hard it is to find things in Japan. But actually, you can find a variety of things and substitutes here to make your life comfortable. Some things will take research and a bit of creativity but there isn’t anything I’ve come across that was impossible to get here. For move-in you’ll need:
Money, Money, Money, Money!!
Money: Of course you’ll need money here. The recommended amount to bring is about $2,000~$3,000. One reason for this is you won’t get your first paycheck until about a month later in August. So you’ll have to fend for yourself until then. Another reason is some of you will have to pay your “key money” when you move in. The key money is usually 1-2 months rent and a “thank you” fee to the landlord upon arrival. It’s a terrible rule but there’s no way around it, unfortunately.
Find clothes that are good for work weekend and Travel
5-7 Outfits of work Appropriate clothes: I don’t recommend bringing a lot of clothes to Japan because you’ll end up buying a lot of clothes here even if you don’t mean too. Ask your predecessor about work attire. Some schools aren’t strict on the dress code while some schools require you to wear very formal workwear. I suggest looking into a capsule wardrobe to better help you pack. Also, take the weather into consideration before you arrive. You’ll be here in July so it’ll be hot on arrival but make sure to prepare for the other three seasons as well. For the ladies who are worried about work-appropriate clothes, you can read this nice article here.
*Considerations for plus-size readers: Plus-size clothing is still a new concept in Asia. So you might want to pack a little more or consider online shopping for new clothes. ASOS has great deals and free shipping worldwide.
1-3 Pairs of Shoes: To start off with, I bought a good pair of sneakers, dress shoes, and a pair of sandals. Whatever shoes you bring make sure they’re comfortable to walk in since you’ll be walking a lot here.
*Considerations: Japan typically only carries up to a size 9 for women and a size 11 for men. So if you have bigger feet you might want to make arrangements for new shoes once you’re old ones wear out.
Underwear: Of course pack underwear but you can find underwear in Japan. Most foreigners usually size up to get the right fit. Stores such as H&M and Uniqlo also carry international sizes.
*Considerations: Japanese bras are different from western sizes and styles. For bigger chested ladies If you’re bigger than a D cup, I suggest bringing a lot of bras.
Make-up: You can easily find the basics such as eyeliner, mascara, primers, etc. but as far as concealers and foundations bring enough to last you while you’re here. I’ve heard even for white people foundation is hard to find because Asian people have more olive skin tones. For brown and black people, good luck finding your shade here. You can sometimes find good deals on Amazon Japan but you’ll most likely have to consider other providers.
- Online Make-up stores with international shipping
- Miss A: Sells make-up for $1
- Sephora: There are some product restrictions but they do ship internationally. However, I do think you have to pay in Yen instead of Dollars.
- Amazon Japan: Sells make-up usually for over market value. They might not carry darker shades.
- NYX Japan:Nyx is new in Japan still but they do carry a good number of shades.
Hair-products: Japanese people use a lot of hair products from wax to gels, hair spray, etc. Ethnic hair products can be found here but you’ll usually have to pay 3 or 4 times the price. So either bring your own set of products or go DIY. There are also some online vendors that sell their own natural hair products (links). If you’re looking for extensions and wigs look no further than aliexpress.
Memorabilia/Realia from home: It’s always nice to bring in pictures, games, or mementos that you can use in your lessons or English clubs. It gives your lessons a more personal touch and it helps the students to be more engaged in your lessons.
Medicine: I think most medication you can find in Japan (Japanese version) if you’re insistent on a certain medication I suggest bringing your own supply. If you’re bringing medication make sure to fill out the medical form sheet here.
Drivers License: Even if you won’t have a car provided while in Japan you should at least bring your international license when you first come. Many parts of Japan are still very rural and can only be accessed by car. It’s not necessary if you don’t need it but it’s a pain to go through the process of getting your license here.
Chocolates are good omiyages
Omiyage (Souvenirs): Bring some omiyage to give out to your colleagues at work. It’s not expected that you do but it is a custom. A lot of people stress this but you don’t have to go overboard; candies, chocolates, snacks, pens, etc. anything is fine.
Phone Options: You are required to have a Japanese phone number for your supervisor to call you on. It’s also necessary for you to receive emergency alerts such as typhoons, earthquakes, etc. Navigating cellphone options in Japan can be overwhelming but there are cheap options available. If you’re staying for less then two years I advise getting a sim card, use Skype phone services, or keeping your phone plan from home. It’s relatively easy to get a new phone but contracts in Japan are serious. They’re automatically for two years and breaking a contract is a long process and will cost you a lot of money.
Laptop: Of course bring your laptop/tablet. If you’re not tech savvy, I’d advise you to learn how to connect your electronics in a classroom setting. Many of your Japanese English Teachers don’t know how to do this. So if you want to use electronics during a lesson you’ll have to be self-reliant.
Things Not To Overpack
Deodorant/Lotion/Toothpaste: Despite what everyone says deodorant isn’t that hard to find. You can find a lot of American brand toiletries online for a very fair price. Online stores like iherb also ship many American brands to Japan as well.
Game Consoles/ Heavy Electronics: Unless you’re an adamant gamer I’d leave the PlayStations and Xboxes at home. You can buy many of those consoles for cheap in Japan. (Playing games in Japanese is a great way to learn Japanese). TVs, stereos and such can also be found for cheap here too.
Heavy Sports Equipment: Again unless you’re seriously into sports I would leave your heavy sports gear at home. I.E. snowboards, bikes, rackets. You can always join a sports club in Japan and they’ll more than happy to let you borrow their equipment.
Books: As much as we love books, they’re heavy and take up a lot of space in our luggage. It’s 2018, get a kindle instead.
Packing for Japan seems daunting but it’s really not that complicated once you start. These are what I believe to be essential to your stay here but hey; everybody has different needs. What are some things that you packed or didn’t pack to travel abroad?