The following is a guest packing list for Japan in winter by Chelsea Baldwin. See all packing list posts here.
Being one of the most developed countries in the world, Japan offers a much more clean and comfortable place to travel compared to other countries in Asia. But in the winter, Japan can get really cold, especially if you’re traveling close to the water in the north. You’ll want to pack plenty of warm items, but make sure you can layer well, as the Japanese like to keep it really warm inside. Take about a week’s worth of clothes and plan ahead for when you’ll do washes.
2 bras – One skin-color and one colored bra worked well for me.
5-7 pairs of underwear – This depends on how frequently you’ll be washing your clothes, and whether you’ll be washing them by hand or with the rest of your clothes.
>> See all of our undergarments posts.
2 pairs of Jeans – Take durable pairs that are comfortable and stylish for traveling, city excursions and hiking.
>> Check out the debate about the best travel pants for women.
1 large scarf – Make sure it covers your head well. Some temples require it as a sign of respect, but it will also keep you warm.
2 light jackets/sweatshirts – If the weather isn’t too cold, this could be your outer layer. For greater packing efficiency, try packing two items that can be layered with each other.
1 heavy jacket – Snow and high winds from the ocean are no joke in a Japanese winter.
7 shirts – Pack a variety of shirts: short and long-sleeved, with different styles and different weights. This will be your base layer.
1-2 dressy outfits – Take something cute for going out on the weekends. If you want to wait until you get there to shop for clothes, the Japanese are very stylish.
5-7 pairs of socks – Try to get socks made for freezing temperatures, especially if you’ll be outside a lot.
>> See also our packing list for staying warm when traveling.
1 pair flip flops – To protect your feet against grimy shower floors.
1 pair tennis shoes or hiking boots – Take a pair of shoes that will keep your feet dry and warm. Make sure they’re comfortable enough to endure hours of walking through cities or mountains.
1 pair flats – Take a cute pair of shoes for going out at night.
2-in-1 Shampoo/Conditioner – Make sure it’s under 3.4 ounces (or 100ml) if it goes into your carry on.
Bar of Soap – Put it in a plastic container so you won’t have to worry about a mess.
Toothbrush and toothpaste – Get something to cover the head of your toothbrush.
>> Have a read of our Lush liquid alternative travel products reviews and our guide to the best toiletries for carry-on travel for some extra toiletry advice.
Deodorant – You don’t want to stink.
Razor – And shaving cream if you’re not comfortable using soap as a lather.
Brush/Comb and hair ties – For the best packing efficiency, you can forego the brush and just pack a wide-tooth comb. (Try a headband, too.)
Diva Cup – So you don’t have to deal with going into a drug store trying to decipher Japanese writing on tampon boxes every month.
Medicines – Take an emergency stash of things to treat stomach ache, diarrhea, constipation, colds, and headaches. Buying things from the local pharmacy is a guessing game you don’t want to play because almost nothing is in English. (See our medical kit packing list.)
Birth Control – Just in case.
Towel – To dry yourself off after a shower.
Instead of a sarong or a travel towel, the Turkish towel can be a more effective item on your packing list. Absorbent, lightweight, and versatile.
Camera – Take as many pictures of the land of the rising sun as possible.
MP3 Player or iPod – To zone out on long bus or train rides.
Chargers & Adapters – Make sure your valuable electronics always have juice.
E-reader – To entertain yourself when traveling between cities or during your down time.
Laptop – Use hotel or cafe wi-fi to check your email, upload travel pictures, or talk to friends and family back home on Skype.
Visa – If you go for 90 days or less as a tourist, you don’t need it. If you’re going for another purpose, get all the paperwork straightened out before you get on the plane.
Editor’s note: Citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, most countries in Europe, plus several others do not need tourist visas for 90 days or less. Check with the embassy to verify if you need a visa.
Earplugs – For peace and quiet on the plane.
Eye mask – Get as much sleep as possible on the plane, and help yourself get over jet lag. (See a list of items to pack to help you sleep.)
Japanese phrase book – English is not as widely spoken in Japan as other countries. Make sure you can communicate your basic needs and know how to get travel information. (See also language tools for female travelers.)
P.S. Check out the ultimate female packing list for Japan in summer.
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About the author: Chelsea Baldwin is a professional freelance writer who is constantly looking forward to her next plane trip to a new, exotic land. Although she’s been to a handful of countries, she’s never traveled for pure tourism. Instead, she’s traveled for work, internship opportunities, or volunteer community development work. Connect with her via her travel blog, Twitter, or her website, CarolinaFreelanceWriter.com.
Book a Viator Tour Before You Go
Overnight Stay at Kinnotake Tonosawa Ryokan with Onsen and Breakfast – $389.30
Spend a night at Kinnotake Tonosawa, a ryokan founded on the concept of “a release from the everyday.” Kinnotake Tonosawais a modern ryokan situated in Hakone and is popular with travelers, both local and from abroad. Each room in the ryokan features an open-air rotenburo onsen (out door hot spring). In addition, at the entrance to the ryokan is a large suspension bridge and the ryokan comes into view only after one has crossed the bridge.
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Don’t forget to carry a small packet of tissues with you. Japanese public toilets often lack toilet paper so you don’t want to be caught without your emergency supply. (Small packets of pocket tissues are often given out as advertising in Japan so you may end up receiving a free supply, but you can’t count on that happening at the critical moment 😉
Agreed! Pocket tissues are a must no matter where you are in the world. 🙂
From Michelle on Facebook: “I’m currently in Japan visiting family and traveling. I would say many buildings are not well insulated or heated so it is chilly inside. While winter is typical a dryer time of year, it has rained several times since we have been here. You can purchase umbrellas easily and fairly inexpensive. I would pack plenty of socks, because you will need to remove your shoes at temples, shrines, ryokans, and other places.
One important thing to remember to bring is a hand towel, because most toilets do not have paper towels or hand dryers to dry your hands. Remember to bring plenty of layers.”
I’m currently in Japan traveling and visiting family. I haven’t had to cover my head in shrines or temples. Another thing I would argue, most Japanese buildings are poorly insulated and not well heated. At times, it is warmer outside than inside. Also in the winter months, be prepared for rain. While in Kyoto for three days, it rained 2 of those days.
One important thing to bring is a hand towel you can put in your purse or day bag, because toilets do not have paper towels to dry your hands. I would also bring plenty of socks. In many temples and shrines, you will need to remove your shoes. You will also need to removed your shoes before entering some ryokan rooms or hotel rooms.
Thanks so much for all the advice
You’re welcome! 🙂
We JUST went to Japan for Christmas and New Year – These are great tips, however I’d advise to ditch the short sleeve shirts as a base layer – long sleeve only. I didn’t wear any of the three short sleeve shirts I packed.
Also, it’s a godsend pack thin thermal long johns and tops. The long johns are great under jeans when it’s cold (trust me, it’s cold).
Uniqlo (they’re everywhere) have a great product called HeatTech which you can pick up for the equivalent of less than $10. Grab tights and long sleeve tops for layering.
The only place I didn’t need to double layer pants was Tokyo. It was great in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and up in the mountains of Nagano.
Totally agree Sarah! Winters in Japan are bitterly cold ,especially when visiting mountain areas..wish I had packed the thermal,etc you mention here.
I just moved to Sendai, Japan last week and it has been quite cold. Not only is it cold outside but inside as well. Most of the buildings here only heat key areas, like offices and bedrooms. The kitchen, bathrooms and hallways are unheated in many places. Even when I’m inside my room I always have a sweater on, so thin layer or T-shirts that I have packed have gone unused.
Slippers have come in handy since the floors are so cold, and the building I’m staying in doesn’t allow shoes inside. Picking up a cheap umbrella when you arrive might also help. There is places to stash them in most building so you are not forced to carry them around when inside.
If you want to go out clubbing a cute dress is essential. The Japanese always get decked out for the club and I felt a little ridiculous in my jeans.
Awesome tips and insight Tierra! Thank you 🙂
ZA @ The Girl Who Cry Wolf says
Awesome! I’m going to Japan end of the year and it’s definitely during winter. This post is certainly timely. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Wow this is an absolutely amazing packing list and comment thread!! I’m packing right now and am so grateful for the advice. Thanks!!!
Tejana Howes says
Thanks for this packing list!
I have a question for you: I am relocating from Canada to Australia and will be stopping in Japan for 9 days. I have heard that a maximum of one months’ supply of prescription medications (my concern is birth control) is allowed in and up to 3 months if I send the Japanese government a special letter. Is this true? I would like to take as much as I can with me.
I’m so glad i found this on pinterest! I am going to visit my daughter in January 2015. She currently lives and works in Nagano. I wasnt sure what to expect, just knew that it would be very very cold. The information is very helpful. Thank you so much.
I haven’t been to a temple in Japan that required women to cover their heads. I can’t say there isn’t any as I haven’t been to ALL the temples but I’ve been to more than 50 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
Any thoughts on what to pack for 6 days the 3rd week of March? We will be visiting from Arizona so anything below 75 is cold for us 🙂