What I Packed for Japan vs. What I Needed to Pack

  • LIVE and WORK
  • Packing for trips and vacations have always proved to be a difficult thing for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m leaving for two days or two months, I have never been able to pack effectively. I’ve watched many Youtube videos and read articles on how to pack well or what to pack when going somewhere, and while I have picked up a few good traits, my old habits die hard.

    Packing too much, not enough, not packing until the day before I leave, I’ve done it all. So packing and getting ready for my two-month trip to Japan proved to be my greatest challenge yet. I have to admit I did not start packing for Japan until the day before I left, but I had been preparing to pack the week prior, making sure I had everything I needed. Was packing so late my best strategy? Probably not, but I think this is one of the times I’ve been the most prepared.

    Now that I have been here for a few weeks I’ve had plenty of moments where I have thought, “I wish I had brought this”, or “I really wish I hadn’t brought this”, or even “I’m so glad I brought this”.

    So I’ve compiled a list of what you may think you need to pack versus what you should really pack for going somewhere like Tokyo. Keep in mind that I am here for two months living in a student apartment and am working full time, so your packing list may differ from mine based on what you are packing for and what your preferences are. However, many of the things on my list can be applicable to lots of other situations and destinations of travel.

    What I Thought I Needed:

    More than two pairs of heels
    When my mom saw how many pairs of shoes I was packing, especially heels, all she had to say was, “you’re kidding me”. Well, I hate to admit it, but you were right, mom. I walk more than anything here and the last thing I want to wear is heels. I really only needed two pairs at most for going out on the weekends if I even feel like wearing heels then.

    More than three crop tops
    I’m a sucker for a cute crop and it’s the perfect summer top. But it’s not that perfect when I remembered I’m in an office five days a week. And this isn’t even all the crops I brought…

    Author’s photo

    A ton of outlet converters
    Japan and the U.S. relatively have the same kind of outlet and voltage. The only difference is that Japanese outlets are just two prongs, perfect for phone chargers. So I really only needed one converter for my laptop because that has three prongs instead of only two.

    Lots of ‘going-out’ clothes
    I really thought I would be going out way more than I actually am, so I brought all these clothes for the weekend that are useless during the week while I work.


    Okay, so I didn’t actually bring this, but I thought about packing it. I’m really glad I didn’t because my apartment has one and so do most hotels and hostels honestly so I don’t need to bring one on any weekend trips either.

    Lots of accessories
    This will definitely differ for everyone, but I am someone who doesn’t wear a ton of jewelry or accessories but for some reason when I go on a trip I think I will. I brought some jewelry that I would rather have just left at home than risk losing abroad.

    What I Really Needed:

    More Jeans
    So I thought Japan was supposed to be super hot and humid in the summer, which is true, but that doesn’t really start until July. And so far June has been kind of chilly and really rainy so I wish I had a few more pairs instead of so many skirts or dress pants. I can also dress casual enough to wear jeans to work, which is not true for every job, but had I known it was this casual I would have brought one or two more pairs.


    More regular shirts and T-shirts
    Like I said I brought too many crop tops. I also brought neutral, solid color shirts for work, but I wish I had brought more short sleeve T-shirts to wear to work and also on the weekend.


    More walking/ tennis shoes
    I’ve been walking an average of three miles every day and I brought too many heels. So I’ve been letting the heels just sit in the closet while I rotate through my flats and sandals.


    Mini backpack
    Mini backpacks are perfect because they actually have a lot of room, but are still small. I on the other hand just brought a clutch purse, fanny pack, and a regular backpack. The fanny pack is nice a lot of the time but sometimes I need more space, but not so much to take my actual backpack.

    Comfort food
    While there is AMAZING food in Japan, I can’t afford to eat out every day for two months. So I’ve been cooking some meals at my apartment but I can’t always find certain ingredients I need for food I want to make, and I also don’t know how to cook with Asian food ingredients. So, I wish I had brought a box of Kraft mac n’ cheese or other packable snacks from home.

    Liquid foundation
    I really don’t know why I didn’t bring it? I guess I thought I was saving space, and I thought I can just get some abroad if I need it. Well, I wish I had it now and when buying makeup here I can’t test skin shades so it’s a guessing game if I pick up my color. They also only have only like three shades to pick from for foundation in Japan.


    Plastic bags & reusable bags
    There are no public trash cans in Japan so sometimes I literally just have to hold onto my trash until I get home. Also, I forgot I would be grocery shopping since I am here for a while, so I wish I had a reusable bag for that.


    Plain and simple, I didn’t bring them and I definitely should have.

    I didn’t realize how much I used them until I didn’t have them.

    What I’m Glad I Packed:

    Fanny pack
    This really has worked out so well for me. I wear it across my shoulder and chest and I feel better knowing that my important things like wallet and passport are close to me. It is pretty roomy and I have been able to fit a lot in it. While I do wish I had more space sometimes, it’s perfect for walking around and sightseeing on the weekends.

    Portable charger
    This is so important for almost any trip. I never want to be walking around with a dead phone in a foreign country for so many reasons, from taking pictures to calling for help.


    Laundry bag
    It helps me stay organized with my clothes, and have an official spot to put dirty clothes. This is something I have forgotten to take on a lot of trips and always wished I had it.

    Umbrella/ raincoat
    This will depend on the location and season of wherever you are at, but for me, it is rainy season in Japan and I didn’t want to wait and buy some here. Saves money and I was prepared.

    An amazing gift from one of my best friends, it’s a tripod I can put my phone on and take my own pictures with a Bluetooth button. In the words of my friend, “you might not find someone who knows your best picture angles like I do”. So now I can take my own travel pictures if I’m on my own.

    Author’s photo

    Reusable Chopsticks
    My other best friends gave me these before going on my trip. I’ve used them almost every day here. I buy my own ramen at the store and I don’t need to worry about not having utensils to eat with. Also, I try to be as environmentally friendly as possible and it has saved me from using so many disposable chopsticks.

    My own towels
    It was far more convenient to bring my own than to buy some here. It saved me time and money because my first couple of days here I didn’t even know where the store was to buy towels. But, this would be different for people who are strictly staying in hotels.

    My must-have toiletries
    Again, I didn’t know where any stores were to buy essentials so I’m so glad I just had them on hand already.

    Author’s photo

    Disposable camera
    This a personal thing I like to do. I like to have a disposable camera on any trips to take pictures to then develop when I get home. It’s fun because I have no idea how they will turn out and I can relive the trip and fun moments when I get the pictures back.

    This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are many more thing I brought with me that I’m glad I had, but they are things most everyone else knows to bring on a trip. As I said, this is just my personal list for being in Japan, but I think there are some things I learned about packing for this trip that I can use for many more of my adventures.

    My advice on packing is to really understand what weather will be like wherever you are, know that you may not always be able to lock up valuables and plan out how you can make multiple outfits out of fewer clothes.