Summer in Japan is a double edged sword. You get beautiful flowers, fantastic festivals and a lush green landscape with sweeping views from the frequent mountaintops. But you also get tsuyu (rainy season), high humidity combined with heat, and typhoon season. Each island of Japan offers its own drastic climate change and it’s own set of packing challenges for visitors.
>> Don’t forget to plan ahead and book your Japan accommodation before you go!
A few things to note when you begin to comprise your packing list for Japan:
Despite what you hear about the crazy fashion in Tokyo, Japan is a very modest nation. If you plan on visiting smaller towns or religious sites you need to cover up a bit. I have seen one set of exposed shoulders all summer and women often wear nylons or even leggings with shorts, skirts and dresses. They tend to wear looser, flowing tops and I have yet to see exposed cleavage or tummy (though I’ve seen some short-shorts, even without nylons twice)!
Japanese consider pale skin beautiful and will wear long pants, sleeves, hats and even gloves when it’s over 100F with 80% humidity. They even carry umbrellas. I literally live on the beach and it’s packed on weekends with steady traffic during the week and I have yet to see a single bikini- most women wear “bathing clothes” that look like leggings and thermal tops but I have seen some very modest one-piece suits.
You’ll want to pack quick drying fabrics. Between sweat and the rain your clothes will constantly be soaked. So be prepared to do some laundry (even if it’s in the sink). Seriously. This is the most important advice I can give you.
Accessories are key! Japanese wear uniforms for school and work. So to set themselves apart they invest in their handbags, shoes, and jewelry. You’ll be on foot a lot in Japan so shoes are tricky, you want to balance style with comfort! So bring a few essential fashion accessories and a killer pair of wedge heels (super popular in the summer) and you’ll fit right in!
My Trip & Packing List:
For Obon I went to Hokkaido for the week and this list comprises what I took for nine days and eight nights in my carry on bag and LeSportSac Deluxe Every Day bag. Hokkaido is significantly cooler than Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku so I took more layering options. If you’re going to the southern three islands, I’d still take at least one long sleeved shirt and a pair of pants or leggings, but I have yet to wear either my whole summer in southern Japan.
1 Black Maxi Dress
1 pair of Jeggings
1 pair of Black Leggings
1 pair of Shorts
3 Tank Tops (I wear as undershirts with low cut tops and/or button ups)
1 White Long Sleeve Button Up
3 V-neck Quick-Dry Tees
1 pair of Pajama Pants
1 Pajama Tee
3 pairs of Socks
5 pairs of Underwear
1 Sports Bra
1 Swim Suit
1 pair of Dressy Sandals
1 pair of Chaco Flip Flops
1 pair of Sneakers
1 wrist watch (bring one, trust me- they’re essential for catching trains)
1 pair of Stud Earrings
Electronics & Extras:
1 Point & Shoot Camera with extra battery, extra memory card
1 DSLR with battery charger, extra battery, extra memory card, extra lens
1 small Notebook
2 Pens (for jotting down notes, customs forms, etc)
1 pair of Sunglasses
1 pair of Glasses
1 pack of Tissues
2 Sweat Towels
1 Sensu (hand fan)
2 scoops of Powdered Laundry Detergent
Travel size Moisturizer
Travel size Saline Solution with contact case and extra lenses
Travel size 2-in-1 Shampoo + Conditioner
Travel size Face Wash
Travel size Toothpaste with dental floss, toothbrush and mouth wash
Travel size Sun Screen
I did laundry once in the middle of the week. Laundromats are extremely easy to find in Japan and are relatively inexpensive. I washed and dried one large load for my husband and myself for $4.00. Don’t worry about packing enough for your whole trip… You’ll sweat through things and want to change frequently and the thought of ducking into a cool, shady laundromat for an hour or two will be very inviting after hours in the heat in humidity!
Most travelers visiting Japan stay within Honshu. Temperatures and humidity here are very high so if you’re packing for a trip to popular destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, change up your packing list to include lighter, looser clothing. Just don’t interpret this as wearing less!
If you forget to pack an item or want to save space, Japanese convenient stores are very easy to find and carry a small variety of everything on the planet one might need! Large train stations and airports are often attached to huge shopping centers so you can pick things up right as you start your journey!
>> Check out our packing for Japan in winter post.
About the Author: Emily is an American expat living in southern Japan with her husband and cat. When not tutoring English or taking day trips to Kyoto, Emily spends her time planning upcoming travels and crafting. You can find her at www.nekoinnippon.com and follow Neko in Nippon on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
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