But what to pack? What must-have items should you take with you? Did you forget to pack something important?
Part II: Pack Your Things
What should I bring to Japan? I personally needed some advice, but I also wanted to provide more opportunities for members to contribute to our semi-weekly homepage articles. In this article, I compiled all of their advice and helpful suggestions into a handy list of must-have items for those also moving to Japan someday in the near future!
So, without further ado, here's a list of what our lovely "Gaiwajin" recommend bringing to Japan!
1. Rain boots. First things first; you gotta have some nice, sturdy rain boots. "It's best to get rain boots that go up to your knee before you go to Japan and take them with you for the rain and monsoon/typhoon seasons," Waffles advised me. "If you live outside of the city you can get pretty wet and dirty from rain."
If you don't have enough room in your suitcase to accommodate a pair of knee-high rain boots, pack some waterproof sandals or perhaps a colorful pair of classic "Crocs" instead. Clothes can get washed, but your nice shoes and sneakers can take some serious damage from the rain if you don't plan on bringing anything waterproof. Remember that you'll be doing a lot of walking in Japan, even on rainy days.
2. Stick deodorant. Haha, you knew this was coming. As I mentioned in my last article, deodorant and antiperspirant products are incredibly hard to find in Japan. If you do happen to come across some, more often than not, it'll be a weak, spray-on liquid that westerns just aren't used to. But if you're desperate, well, there's no better way to wake up than with a nice, ice-cold liquid spritz in the morning, amirite?
Try to find a value pack of antiperspirant deodorant at your local wholesale market, and buy at least five to take with you! They should last you quite a while, but you can always ask friends and family to send you more.
3. Outlet (and voltage) converters. As mentioned by Bokusenou and Jade, Japan's wall outlets are primarily intended for devices with two-prong cables. So, "be sure to get an adapter for any device you take with a three pronged plug."
They also recommend that you "check the voltage of your devices and compare it with the voltage available in Japan before you plug them in because otherwise you may end up killing your device." Eastern Japan, including Tokyo, has electricity that is 10 hertz slower than the United States' standard 60 hertz, while Western Japan (Osaka, etc) is the same as the US. Most devices should work, but things like clocks may go slower in Japan. So be sure to check all the charger cables of your devices, and get voltage converters if need be.
4. Medication. From common painkillers to prescription medication, it's smart to be a little worried about what medication you can and can't find in Japan. So, before traveling to Japan, Chocopie recommends that you "research which one is closest to the kind you usually take. This is a summary of brand painkillers in Japanese and here's one in English. Here's information on medication you can't take to Japan, and what to do if you need to take a large supply of prescription medication."
Japan is very strict about what medication can be brought into the country, so make sure that you do your research before packing a few painkillers into your check-in luggage.
5. Makeup (esp. foundation). I know that not all of you who read this use makeup, but for those of you who do―our very own Jembru brought up an important point: "If you have blindingly white skin like I do," she says, "you might also struggle to find foundation pale enough for your skin tone."
Asian cosmetics tend to have a grayish pink tone in the formula that can be really unflattering when applied to white skin, whereas foundation in the US and UK have yellow tones to combat redness. Of course, after a few trial and errors, you'll probably find a product that works for you in Japan. But until that happens, bring a handful of your favorite products to last you a few months. You can always have friends and family send you more.
6. Bring your own pillow. That's right, the number one regret that I often hear the most from expats in Japan is not bringing their own pillow with them. More often than not, you'll find that pillows in Japan are a little harder than what you may be used to, sometimes stuffed with buckwheat hulls or various dry beans. If you're moving into a dormitory or hostel, chances are that you'll end up with a pillow like this.
So, if you have some extra space in your suitcase to accommodate a pillow, do take one with you. If anything, it'll make you feel more at home in your new habitat.
7. English books, or perhaps an eReader tablet. For those of us who love to read, you'll find that English books can be a little hard to come by in Japan. In fact, you'd be lucky to find an English copy of Harry Potter at your local bookstore in Japan. I recommend getting an eReader (perhaps a Kindle or a Nook) so that you can download English books rather than waiting for them to arrive in the mail, or hoping that you'll find it a copy at your nearest bookstore.
However, eReaders can be a little pricey. These reading tablets can cost anywhere between 100-200 USD. If you want something cheaper, you can always download the Kindle App for your smart phone or tablet. The app is free, and you'll be able to purchase and download books no matter where you are. There's also iBooks and the Kobo Reading App. If you're a reader, definitely consider downloading these apps.
8. "Omiyage" (souvenirs). Japan is a country known for its "omiyage culture" (souvenir culture). If you go on vacation, or move from one place to another, you're almost expected to present friends and family with souvenirs from where you came from. That said, if you're staying with a host family, this is a must. Do not leave home without souvenirs. No, seriously. Besides, it's a nice gesture and a great first impression.
Take a small stuffed toy with you, or perhaps a couple of your favorite figurines. Print out some pictures and then buy frames for them when you get to Japan. You could even bring a small art piece to hang up. Either way, try to bring something special to help turn your new place into a new home. Even if it is just a dorm room.
10. Survival Kit. Take a few essentials (disposable razors, shampoo, toothpaste, etc) to last you up until two weeks (ie. until you can locate your nearest drugstore and restock). If you're transferring to a university in Japan, like I am, the first couple weeks will be a little crazy. You might not have much free time to go shopping for all your essentials.
I also want to take the time to thank all of the lovely members who helped contribute to this article! Your advice and helpful suggestions not only benefited this article, but they were also a huge help to me (personally) as well. So, a huge "thank you!" goes out to Chocopie, Jembru, Waffles, Jade, and Bokusenou! And don't worry, there'll be more opportunities to contribute to homepage articles real soon.
Getting to Japan will be taking a little break until I get used to my new situation in Tokyo, but you can expect to see part three sometime in September! Until then, I'll be posting a few pre-written articles that were written before I left. See you then! ― Anna (LittleGaijin)