Japan is a remarkable country because of it’s continual innovation in fashion, transportation, and technology. It is a place where one holds his or her craft seriously; a place where you are treated with the highest respect no matter who you are. While traveling in a foreign country with a completely different alphabet can be entirely beguiling, I encourage you to think of Japan as a puzzle waiting to be unlocked. One of the main things to note about preparing for travel to this country is that it is a compact place. Having a massive suitcase will only slow you down in the numerous train stations, tiny staircases, and take up precious space in your lodgings. If you are still in planning your trip to the “land of the rising sun”, you may want to get a head start by checking out my 2-week itinerary with stops in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, Nagasaki, and Fukuoka. In this article, I’ll give you a few helpful tips for winter travel in Japan and then share my packing list with you.
1) Travel with a carry on suitcase and backpack.
Having a carry-on suitcase will help alleviate weight stress on your back. Most streets and establishments are well paved or tiled so you won’t have to worry about dragging it across cobblestone. Do note that certain train stations are built way underground with only stairway access. Make sure you can carry the weight of your bag up multiple flights if you have to.
2) Save room by wearing your bulkiest items on the flight
Yes, you might look a little odd by dressing unusually warm to the airport. But, it will save valuable room in your luggage for important base layer items. Wear your winter coat, boots, scarf, and thickest sweater to the airport. Once you are on board, it’s easy to store your coat in the overhead storage bin with your other belongings. Check with the flight attendants if they might have slippers available so you can change out of your boots. You’d be surprised to learn the type of items airlines will offer if you just ask for it!
3) Change it up with accessories
Let’s face it– there is only so much room you have to pack essential items so you’re going to have to get creative with sprucing up your outfit each day. Bring functional accessories such as printed or colorful scarves, hats, or gloves that will introduce a different element to your daily attire.
4) Japanese people generally dress modestly and stylishly
You’ll be hard-pressed to find ripped jeans, beat up sneakers, bare midriffs, tiny shorts, or out of date fashions in the streets of Japan (especially Tokyo). Read more in my guide on preparing for a trip to Japan with information on its 9 regions, rainy season, and type of suitcase you should bring.
Japan Winter Packing List
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- Airline tickets and printed itinerary
- Travel insurance
- Local currency and bank cards
- Travel passport holder and wallet
- 2-Week JR Rail Pass to ride the bullet train all over Japan (well worth it if you plan to travel throughout the country)
- Carry-on spinner luggage
- Travel adapter with USB ports
- Chargers and cables
- Smartphone (I use an iPhone) – Airplane mode on to avoid roaming charges with WiFi on
- Kindle E-reader
- Bose Headphones// Bose wireless earbuds (optional)
- Power bank with extra USB ports (optional)
- Skyroam mobile hotspot (pay as you go) (optional)
- GoPro adventure camera and accessories (optional)
- Casual walking shoes
- Tall boots (treated to be water resilient with water protectant spray)
- 2 Pairs of pants
- 2 Fleece-lined leggings to wear underneath pants
- Daily skin moisturizer
- Face cleanser
- Medicine (general assortment)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
- Shampoo & Conditioner or pack your own in these reusable bottles
- Contact solution and lens case
- Deodorant (women’s)
- Optional: face wipes, q-tips, hair ties, bobby pins, stain remover pen, antibacterial gel
Travel the Country: JR Rail Pass
Sit in the Totoro’s Cat Bus: Ghibli Museum in Mitaka
Visit Kyoto’s Kitchen to Taste It All: Nishiki Market
Take in Fresh Air and Views of Mount Fuji: Hakone Area
Try This: Okonomiyaki in Osaka
A Glimpse in Kabuki: Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo
Treat Yourself: Stay at a traditional Japanese inn, Ryokan
Printable packing list (print PDF)