Packing Tips: Don't Forget These Things When
You Go to Japan. Things to Bring or leave behind

Here are a pile of packing tips to get you off to a good start in the land of the rising sun.

Unless you’ll be working in a terribly small city, you’ll be able to find almost everything you need.

So don't worry to much about forgetting common things. After walking or driving around a bit, you'll find you can get most of what you need and probably a whole lot that you don't!

Packing Tips for Going to Japan - Things to Bring

  • Many schools pay salaries at the end of the month, it’s important to bring quite a bit of cash. Although Japan is basically a cash society it is caving into the credit card dilemma. Travelers checks denomiated in yen is best. If they are denominated in USD or other currencies only large banks like Mizuho, City Bank etc. will cash them. 

    For English teachers going with a job lined-up, we recommend you bring at least $3000 U.S.D. in its Japanese equivalency and a credit card in case you get into a jam… you never can tell. Of all packing tips, this is biggest of them all.

  • Remember, if you work for your average English school, you get paid at the end of the month, so you need to bring enough to pay your rent and eat until payday. If you don’t have work lined-up, we recommend you bring $4000 U.S. Make sure to exchange your dollars for yen before you get on the plane.

  • Make sure to bring any prescription medicines you may need and put a week’s supply in your carry-on, in case they lose your luggage. Be careful with amounts. Usually a 1 month supply is not a problem but if you're carrying in 3 months of a prescription medication get a letter from your doctor to show to immigration in case they open your bag and start asking questions.

  • If your very tall or big, have very large feet or breasts bring extra clothing items with you. You’ll be hard pressed to find your sizes anywhere in Japan. Here’s a simple tip for understanding clothing sizes in Japan. If you wear a small, you’ll be a medium in Japan. If you’re a large you’ll be an XL. Ladies, braziers are different. A U.S. D-cup isn't the same size as a Japanese D-cup. So if you're well endowed bring some extra ones.

  • Critical packing tip. If you’ll be applying for a working visa after your arrival in Japan, bring your original transcripts and degree. (You’ll need these to apply for your Certificate of Eligibility.)

  • Make sure to pack lace-less shoes or shoes you can easily slip on. You’ll be surprised to find how often you'll be taking them off. Trust me, you'll be kicking yourself if you only bring laced shoes and can't find your size.

  • Bring a few interesting and lightweight gifts from your home country. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to show your appreciation to your new students and friends. Gift giving is a very integral part of Japanese culture. Gifts from abroad carry a lot more weight than the same 'ol, same ol' that you can buy in Japan.

  • Most schools have dress codes so make sure to ask your employer what their dress code is and pack accordingly. (No, you probably can’t wear jeans to class.)

Packing Tips. What Not to Bring to Japan

Electronic Products

If you’re thinking of bringing electric items like stereos, you might want to re-think things. Firstly, the item has to survive getting there. Plus it’ll be even more money to bring it back home. On top of this you’ll face electric current compatibility problems.

Japan operates on 100 volts. Given the competitive pricing of consumer electronics and the fact that you can get cutting edge technology in all their latest gadgets, it makes sense to buy it there. One of the largest complaints is that things like hair dryers or heaters don't have as much kick when forced to run on 100 volts. Akihabara in Tokyo is the best place to buy consumer electronics.

But with Amazon on the scene now you can order anything you want, but keep in mind that if the delivery address is Japan they will force you to buy through Amazon Japan and then jack the way up. No kidding I have scene vitamins - same brand, dosage etc. go for twice what Amazon U.S. charges.

Packing Tips - Health and Beauty Aids

Many products like health and beauty aids etc. you find in the U.S. can be found in Japan. Maybe not the exact brand but something similar. So if any brand will do, it’s unnecessary to bring things like toothpaste, shampoo, lotion etc. Just pack travel size bottles of these items to get you through the first few days. Procucts from Clinique, Procter and Gamble, Pantene, Channel, Shick, you name it, litter the shelves.

One notable exeception in health and beauty aid products is quality deodorant. And regarding health and beauty aid products in general, if you have a brand you can’t live without and don’t know if you can find it in Japan, it’s a good idea to bring a good supply. (We're working on a master list of western produced products that are available in Japan.)

Packing Tips - Pets

Some packing tips are easy, others are not. This one is not. If you want to bring your pet, get ready to face a gauntlet of measures designed to discourage you from bringing one in. On top of quarantining your pet at AQS (Animal Quarantine Service) upon your arrival in Japan, there are loads of procedures and documentation required before you arrive with Rover. What kind?

  • You need to notify AQS 40 days before your arrival.
  • You'll need to have your pet given a minimum of 2 rabies vaccinations.
  • Your dog needs to be identified with a microchip. (Not just any microchip an ISO compliant 11784 or 11785 series microchip. If the chip isn’t ISO compliant, you need to bring a microchip reader.)
  • Your pet needs to have been kept only in a designated region for the past 180 days, since birth, or since arriving directly from Japan. (This is the inoculation period for rabies.)
  • Also the blood serum level needs to be within an acceptable anti-body range. This range is at least 0.5 IU/ml.
  • There can’t have been any outbreaks of rabies in your designated region in the past two years.
  • Your pet can’t be suspected of having rabies (and in the case of dogs, rabies and leptirospirosis) when inspected prior to departure.
  • Inspection and testing of anti-body ranges etc. has to be done by a certified lab.
  • Here's the link for notification, certification forms and guides to importing your pet.

    Survival tip
    Note: If you fail to quarantine your pet for the minimum 180 day waiting period, upon your arrival in Japan, AQS will do you the favor of finishing the quarantine sentence at their facility. Ouch!!! The average financial penalty for having AQS finish the quarantine will be between 30 and 35 dollars per day. Multiply that by the time it takes a government office to fix the mistake equals your total financial pain.

    Furthermore bringing a pet to Japan will make finding accommodations much harder. It’s already tough to find accommodations in Japan as most landlords don’t allow pets. For these reasons, we recommend you don’t bring a pet.

    If you've read our packing tips section and you're ready to go, you're ready to learn some important Japanese etiquette...using chopsticks.
    If you'll be heading to Japan, get a head start on basic Japanese at our learn Japanese online page.

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