The 7 things that you should carry at all times when living in Japan

  • HOW TO
  • Breaking my own cardinal rule the other day, I realized I was without half the items I rely on. With the heat in the summer months reaching up into the high 30s but the actual “feel” is in the 40s there are certain things you really shouldn’t leave without, even if only for a few hours. Similarly in the winter the same items will help keep you healthy and comfortable.

    Keeping in mind that this is Japan and capitalism is alive and thriving, it is possible to get any and all of these items when you are out and about; however, if you are eco-minded then here are the items to keep on you at all time.

    1. Your Pasmo/Suica card (with money to spare on it of course)

    From transportation to grabbing an onigiri from the Konbini having this card on you at all time will ensure you always have the ability to jump on the train or getting a snack.

    2. A compact umbrella

    Something that can fit in your purse or bag. Having a large umbrella for typhoon season is a much better idea, but for the day today when the weather is uncertain either rain or shine, it’s a good idea to be prepared. After 2 years living in Japan I finally broke down and a bought a rain or shine compact umbrella and I primarily use it to block the sun, although I have used it on occasion when caught in the rain.

    3. Residence card

    It’s always a good idea to have ID, but when you are a foreigner living in Japan, it’s even more important to have your residence card. I’ve never been stopped by the police, but I know people who have been randomly stopped and asked to produce valid identification.

    4. Having a scarf at all times is similar for carrying an umbrella

    It’s good for keeping the sun off your neck but even better for when you find yourself with a chill. For women, it’s also a good idea to have one if you feel the need to fit in better. Not a lot of women where tank tops or sundresses, so if you do (especially) during the summer months. You may find that you want to be able to cover your shoulders when you go inside.

    5. A light jacket or sweater

    A light jacket or sweater will come in handy more during the spring and winter but again, if it’s hot out and cool inside then having something to cover up from the sun or protect yourself from the chill is handy. UNIQLO carries clothing that is UV protected, so I usually carry a cardigan that is UV protected for my bike ride to school and for when it’s chilly out.

    6. Drinks

    Water and tea are of course the easiest things to purchase when you’re out and about. There are vending machines every 30 yards or less so it’s very easy to just pop in a 110 yen (or use your PASMO) and grab a water. However, as I said earlier, if you prefer to be more eco-friendly carry a refillable water bottle. I know people who purchase up to 9 or 10 plastic bottles a week! That’s up to a 1100 yen per week and as many bottles going into the bin. Think of the sake you could be buying with all that extra yen!

    7. A hand towel

    A hand towel is going to save you on more occasions than not. Public restrooms are as likely to not have a hand drier as will. Keeping a hand towel with you will ensure you don’t have to use your pants and shirt to dry your hands. Additionally in the summer you’ll be sweating enough that you’ll need something to mop up your face and neck.

    There are any number of things you may want to carry with you, personally I also always carry hand sanitizer and a plastic bag (for garbage) with me. Lately I’ve also started carrying a sensu because it’s been so hot. Everyone has their own needs, but I hope you find that this basic set of 7 items, keeps you ready no matter what comes up.