Are you heading to Japan soon? This guide will give you a crash course on the regions of Japan, an overview of weather differences, types of luggage to use, and helpful tips to make your trip more enjoyable. There is also a printable Japan packing list at the end that you can use for your preparations. Are you ready to jump in? Ikimashou (let’s go)!!
Regions and Prefectures in Japan
Did you know Japan is made up of over 6,800 islands? With that much water, it is no wonder that this country is a fish and seafood lover’s paradise (which is why this is my kind of place). There are 9 regions in Japan, with 47 prefectures. Depending on where you are headed, do keep in mind that weather will be quite different depending on whether you are in the north, south, or central region.
The 9 regions in Japan from North to South are:
Most visitors coming to Japan tend to stay on the central Honshu island, which includes the Kanto region that holds Tokyo, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa prefectures. Honshu also holds the Kansai region, which includes Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Mie, Nara, Shiga, and Wakayama prefectures. Generally, the climate of Japan is colder in the north, temperate in the central region, and somewhat tropical conditions (warm and humid) in the southern islands.
When is the rainy season in Japan?
The rainy season (also referred to in Japanese as tsuyu or baiyu) typically lasts from the beginning of June to mid-July. Okinawa experiences rains slightly earlier in May and Hokkaido experiences little rain during this time. Even if your trip falls during this rainy season, you should not be deterred. The rain falls in bursts and doesn’t necessarily occur every day. Plus, this gives you the opportunity to buy an adorable umbrella or cool rain poncho!
How should I dress in Japan?
As with any country, you can’t necessarily categorize all fashion sensibilities into the same bucket. But generally speaking, Japanese people dress modestly. There are very few midriffs showing, muscle tank tops, displays of cleavage, or short shorts. As you pack, keep in mind that it is very likely you’ll be making impromptu stops at temples, shinto shrines, and heritage sites. I would advise bringing articles along that are respectable but still show your personality. You’ll find that Japanese people have a killer fashion sense and it’s not uncommon to see crews of friends rocking the same styles such as greasers, lolita looks, and even matching name brand apparel.
I personally recommend bringing your clothing basics and also throwing in a few statement pieces of your own– whether it’s a funky tee, loud necklace, outlandish sunglasses, or whimsical print button up shirt. It will be fun to represent your personal style and I guarantee there will be someone that will appreciate it. Also, keep in mind that Japan is also a fantastic place to shop for unique clothing. Try to leave some room in your luggage so you can take souvenirs and goodies home. As with any major city, Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo, and Osaka is best suited for comfortable urban wear.
What kind of suitcase should I have for Japan?
It is highly likely that you’ll be traveling throughout Japan on their high-speed rail system using the JR Rail Pass. If that’s the case, ease of mobility is key! Train stations may get very crowded and there will be moments that you will need to hand carry your belongings up and down multiple flights of stairs to get to the platform. It may also be difficult to find space in the overhead storage compartment bins for large suitcases, so it’s best to travel light with a carry-on and a backpack.
There are plenty of laundromats in every city, so you can always plan to do some laundry while you are abroad to spare yourself from taking too many items along. Coin lockers are also available at most major train stations, so another incentive of traveling light is having the ability to stash your belongings between trips if needed. It is a lot easier to find smaller lockers than larger ones! If you must travel with multiple or large suitcases, Japan also has a solid and affordable same day or overnight courier system called takuhaibin. Talk to your hotel/hostel or pop into a convenient store to inquire about your options.
Should I bring certain documents?
Beyond the normal travel documents such as passports and visas (if needed), you will also find it exceedingly helpful to print out a record of all of your reservations. In the event that you get lost, it will be more helpful to have your accommodations written in Japanese. You can show this to a taxi driver or a helpful person to ensure you are getting to where you need to go. This may also sound a little strange, but if you run your own business or want to network with others you should also bring business cards. Exchanging business cards is a common practice, so don’t be surprised if you hit off a conversation and your new friend gives you their card.
Other things to keep in mind for Japan
Tipping is not customary. Japanese people take great pride in their work and will treat you with respect and give the best service they are able to. In the event you forget this point or try to leave a tip, you may even find your server chasing after you on the street to return your money. In some cases, you may even offend people by leaving one. If you would like to show your appreciation in some way, gifts are always well received. In particular, local gifts from your region are great choices because they are shows of thoughtful behavior.
Go forth and have fun!
You are going to encounter so many special moments that you’ll want to capture. Be sure to prep your mobile devices, clear your memory storage space, and even consider buying extra data storage cards so no experience gets left behind. If you happen to forget any electronics, just visit the Akihabara Station in Tokyo and you’ll be in tech wonderland with all of the latest and greatest gadgets! For more information on Japan travel and real-life itineraries, check out my posts on Tokyo and Hakone or Nara and Osaka on my Japan page.
I’ve created this Japan packing list here for you to print out, fill in, and cross off for your upcoming trip. Have a great time and let me know how it all goes– I sincerely want to know.
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