japan-backpack

The Ultimate Packing List for Japan: what to take (and not!) on your backpacking trip

In this article you’re going to find everything I really wish I had known before preparing my backpack for my Japan trip. I left for my 2-week backpacking trip in Japan on 6th November: there’s nothing better than exploring one of your top dream destinations at your own pace, having the freedom to change your mind whenever you want!

I went on the road taking everything I needed on my back, through streets, alleys and off the beaten paths, among cities, villages, mountains and seas, and I came back home with so many stories to tell!

So, what did I learn? What do you really need to pack for a backpacking trip to Japan? First of all, you shouldn’t leave home without a dose of waku waku. Yes, because the Japanese language has got a great deal of terms to describe emotions in detail and one of them is waku waku. That is a sort of onomatopoeia which describes the feeling of the longing to do something, and the happiness and excitement it brings. It is the sound of rapid heartbeats.

Apart from waku waku, follow my packing list for Japan and you’ll pack your backpack in the easiest way, saving both:

  • space, that means weight, and consequently benefits your feet, hips, back and shoulders
  • and time, so that the night before leaving you’ll be able to relax and have a goodnight’s sleep knowing that you’ve packed in the best possible way!

Packing list for Japan: hand luggage

Before leaving for Japan, check the luggage restrictions of your airline company. The allowances could refer to dimensions or weight. In this case, use a portable luggage scale and take it with you for the flight back.

I took a small backpack, that I also used during my day trips if I could store the heavy backpack somewhere. If not, and you have to take both backpacks with you:

  • obviously, if you have space in the bigger one, put everything in that one;
  • if you don’t have any space left in the bigger backpack, first wear the smaller on your front and then the bigger on your back. In doing so, the shoulder straps of the heavy backpack will hold and fix the lighter one and, as soon as you’ll have the possibility to put one backpack down, it will be easy to do it with the heavier one! In this article, you’ll find my recommendations about the best places to store your luggage in Japan.
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My hand luggage packing list for Japan

  • Cellphone. If, like me, you’ve planned to use a portable wi-fi, you can put it in airplane mode from the take off until you land back in your country of origin.
  • Tablet, if intending to watch some movies and write some blog posts.
  • Earplugs for cellphone and tablet.
  • Charger for cellphone and tablet.
  • Boarding passes
  • Passport
  • Credit cards
  • Yen. I took a little sum with me which I used, because in many places, especially on the Japanese Alps, you can only use cash. But you will also be able to withdraw the sum you need from the numerous ATM points.
  • Sunglasses
  • Face moisturizer and lip balm, to combat dry airplane air.
  • Travel socks, so you can take off your shoes on long-haul flights.
  • Scarf, to protect you from near-by passengers who start a typhoon from the air vent above your head
  • Adapter (the same as US)
  • Camera
  • Camera charger
  • Headlamp for reading once the lights are turned off.
  • Batteries for your headlamp and camera. Since last year, you must carry all batteries in your hand luggage because it’s prohibited to put them in your checked baggage. Take a look at your airline’s lithium battery policy.
  • Business cards
  • Japan Railway Pass voucher
  • Japanese portable Wi-Fi voucher
  • One or two pens, always useful for filling in official forms such as visas
  • Everything necessary for one day, in case your checked luggage arrives late.

Packing list for Japan: checked baggage

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Clothes to wear on a 2-weeks Japan backpacking trip in November, Japanese Alps included

  • Heavy jacket
  • Windproof and waterproof jacket
  • Poncho
  • Waterproof hat
  • Tracksuit or something like that, to be worn when you’re in the hostels or in the local houses, or as a pyjamas
  • 2 pairs of trekking trousers
  • 2 trekking long-sleeved underwear t-shirts
  • 2 trekking long-sleeved sweatshirts
  • 2 piles
  • 3 pairs of trekking socks
  • 3 pairs of underwear
  • 2 neck-warmers
  • 1 pair of gloves

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Shoes to pack for your backpacking trip in Japan

  • 1 pair of comfortable sneakers to stroll the towns (I normally wear them when I leave, to save some space in the backpack)
  • 1 pair of trail running shoes, which are good both on tarmac and on off-the-road tracks. If your itinerary includes a large part of rough or slippery terrain, you’d better take trekking boots with you.

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Electrical items

I try to fit everything in my hand luggage to prevent damages and losses. If you haven’t enough space, be sure to place the frail stuff in the middle of your checked baggage, well wrapped up in some soft items, like jumpers and sweatshirts.

One important item I always put in my checked luggage because too big is my power strip! It allows me to charge all my devices together, even if I only have one available socket, as could happen in the guesthouses. In this case, the power strip should have its own adapter for US/Japan, and all the other chargers must be used with their original output (e.g. the Italian output if you bought the power strip in Italy).

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Survival

Medicines

All the medicines you normally have to take, and a kind of emergency kit, composed more or less by:

Medicines in your travel emergency kit

  • Antibiotic (one that you’ve already tried more than twice, to avoid allergies)
  • Antipyretic
  • Antihistamine
  • Emergency cortisone, if you’re prone to allergies
  • Anti inflammatory
  • Intestinal antibiotic
  • Antidiarrhoeal
  • Antiemetic

Then, everything else you could need, e.g. I know that in my case I’m prone to sore throats and stomach pains, so I always prepare myself against those problems.

Having to walk a lot, I never forget some foot patches and two ankles supports, just in case…

Beauty

I’d suggest you to separate your toiletries into more than one case. Small cases can easily fit in every tiny corner of your backpack, you cannot do the same if you pack one big beauty case.

Let’s talk about hair: yes, a very small hair dryer and a very small hair straightener can find their place in your backpack, yes this is survival! You’ll need an adaptor for the hair dryer, which will probably reduce the power of the air jet but better than nothing! The straightener should be a very small one, otherwise you have to put it in your hand luggage because of its lithium battery. Yes, hair straightener is survival!

Empty space

I’m not a shopaholic, but in Japan I couldn’t help myself buying every little gadget I saw. If you don’t have any empty space in your luggage, you’ll have to buy another backpack, like I did.

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Other things

  • Elastic bands, that could always be useful. Check out this article about what you should pack for your backpacking trip if you need more information about it.
  • Plastic bags for clothes

  • Selfie stick, tripod and other photographic equipment (solo travelers like me need to be very well equipped!)

  • Combination lock

  • Hand sanitizer gel

Japan packing list: what not to bring

  • Lots of clothes on a Japanese trekking route?

You’ll find a washing machine and a dryer wherever you’ll go, both in automatic laundries and in the places you’ll sleep in, for free or for a very small sum. This is a very good reason not to carry much weight on your back.

  • Food for hiking on the Japanese Alps

You can find just about anything you want to eat in Japan, both in the big cities and in the small mountain villages. So, leave your trivial snacks at home and enjoy the incredible Japanese food and street food. You’ll find a must-try at every corner!

If you’re afraid that a bout of uncontrollable appetite will sneak up on you in the middle of the night, you’ll have lots of amazing convenience stores that open 24/7 scattered everywhere, such as Seven Eleven, Lawson and FamilyMart.

  • The right umbrella for Japan

If you only plan to stay in cities and towns, without going trekking, you could need an umbrella. But I suggest you to save some space in your luggage and to buy one once you’re there. The transparent plastic umbrella is one of the most famous must-have’s for every Japanese person. During rainy days, as soon as the first drop falls, everyone opens their transparent umbrellas and Japanese crowded cities start to look like a massive bloom of jellyfish!

  • Shower products in your luggage for Japan

They’re quite useless in Japan, because wherever you sleep you’ll find everything you need… and much more! Japanese toilets and bathrooms are always very clean and well equipped, not only with body wash, shampoo and conditioner, but also with body lotions, face creams, toothbrush and toothpaste, shower cap, cotton-bud sticks, and everything else you’d need. Also the smallest guesthouses will provide a rich bath set, that would be fit for a 5* hotel!

  • Slippers in Japan

In many Japanese public spaces and houses, you have to take off your shoes and go in only wearing socks.

If you’re staying in a guesthouse or an hostel, put your shoes on the shelves at the entrance and take a pair of slippers.

If you sleep at homestays, taking off your shoes at the entrance would by highly appreciated. People often only wear socks at home, but your hosts might provide you with your own personal pair of slippers. They must be changed when entering the toilet: Japanese people always have one more pair of slippers to be exclusively worn by everyone who wants to go to the bathroom. Those slippers must be taken off when you come out and left by the door.

As you can see, you won’t need a pair of slippers to travel in Japan. You could take a pair of flip flops if you’re using shared showers, although they are normally extremely well cleaned!

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Ok, that’s all for now. Preparing your luggage for your backpacking trip could look like an Herculean task, but practice is the key! Take a look at my article about how to prepare a perfect backpack for your backpacking trip, and… have you seen the great news on getgoingirl.it? Now, there are interactive lists! You can tick the items, save the list using your email address and print it as a reminder while packing.

If you have any doubts or think there’s something else to take (or not to!) to Japan, don’t hesitate to write in Comments. So… have an exciting trip to Japan! And an amazing waku waku vibe before going!

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Summary
The Ultimate Packing List for Japan: what to take (and not!) on your backpacking trip
Article Name
The Ultimate Packing List for Japan: what to take (and not!) on your backpacking trip
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Lista di tutto ciò che dovresti portare in Giappone per un viaggio all'insegna del trekking e di quello che al contrario sarebbe solamente peso in più.
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Getgoingirl
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