The Japanese are experts in the efficient use of space and uncluttered living. When it comes to your trip preparation, our advice is to embrace this minimalist approach when packing for your Japan backpacking tour. Here’s our packing list for upcoming adventure!
A backpack or hold-all
One thing to be careful of when travelling in Japan are size restrictions on public transport. While you might be tempted to bring a big suitcase that you can fill up with souvenirs, modes of transport like the shinkansen (bullet train) have strict guidelines for baggage in place which can make getting between cities difficult. To combat this, we recommend bringing a rucksack or large backpack – that way, you can throw it on and go! It’ll be easier to meander around the city, and you’ll be much less likely to overpack. And after all, it is a backpacking tour!
Let’s be honest, everyone wants to charge cameras, phones or tablets. How else will you snap pictures of all the beautiful destinations you’ll be visiting! Most devices these days are dual voltage and should charge no problem with an adaptor, despite Japan’s unusual 100 volts power. The American style two pinned (flat, not round) adaptors will work in Japanese sockets. Hairdryers and straighteners are often more problematic due to the power flow and may not work properly even with an adaptor. If you ask at the reception of any of your hostels, they’ll have a hairdryer for you to use. You might just have to embrace your natural hair for your trip – but hey, isn’t that what travelling’s all about?
Flip-flops AND comfortable shoes
It’s a good idea to bring both. But if you’re really backing light, opt for shoes. Flip-flops are great to throw on when you’re at your accommodation, walking to the convenience store or hitting up the beach, but you can end up with dirty feet when you walk for extended amounts of time. In Japan, it’s polite to take your shoes off indoors, and it’s not really seen as acceptable to walk around in bare, muddy feet indoors. This is why your close-toed shoes and socks will come in handy.
It’s unlikely you’ll get much in the way of service from your domestic network operator – and if you do, it’ll be extremely pricey. You’ve got a couple of options if getting in contact is a must for you. Firstly, you can make use of the internet access from the Wi-Fi you’ll find in all your accommodations, and in shops, cafés and restaurants across the country. Your second choice is a travel SIM. While you can get this delivered on your arrival in Japan, the more efficient option is to opt for an eSim. These are electronically delivered and activated SIM cards that you can buy from online retailers like Holafly. You can read our post on eSims here.
No sleeping bag needed
Despite many people’s preconceptions, a budget backpacking tour doesn’t mean that you’ll be ‘roughing it’. Japanese hostels are some of the best in the world – and what’s better is that they’re super affordable. Fresh linen, pillows and duvets are provided at all of the accommodation on our Japan backpacking tours. Check out our top hostel picks to find out which of our Japanese hostels gives you a memory foam mattress!
In many areas of Asia, a pale complexion is a common beauty desire, and that includes Japan. Many Japanese sunscreens that you come across will include a whitening ingredient (not what most Westerners want), although the some are similar to Western sunscreens and just use SPF. Rather than trying to ask in Japanese for non-whitening sunscreen, or trying to decipher the packaging, it’s probably easier to bring your own if you’re travelling at a warm time of year. Pick up a full sized bottle after security before you fly out to avoid the liquid limitations.
Most convenience stores and pharmacies will have a range of tampons, although pads are much more common across Asia. But, like the sunscreen, the packaging and writing can be hard to figure out, so to avoid a hassle, it’s probably easier to bring your own. Unless, of course, you’re keen on improving your Japanese language skills – in which case, be our guest to ignore this tip!
Before you go packing your entire wardrobe, almost all of your accommodation in on your Japan backpacking tour will have laundry services for you to use. Remember, embrace the minimalist approach and pack interchangeable items that you can wash. You’ll thank us later when you’re carrying a much light backpack!
- Swimming costume (remember your onsen etiquette and do NOT wear in the baths)
- Lightweight waterproof
- Jumper/trousers, especially if travelling on the October tour when a bit cooler at night
- Passport – and save a copy of it on your phone or your email. Trust us!
- Japanese yen or credit/debit card
- Student card if you have one, as there are a few student deals on the trip
- Travel insurance policy
- Photocopies of insurance policy, bank cards, passport photo page, visa
- Camera and charger – Japan is a photographer’s dream!
- Small first aid kit with medicine for diarrhoea, paracetamol, disinfectant etc.
- A small day bag/rucksack
And that’s your Japan packing list – you’re ready to go on your backpacking tour! See more information on our 19-day Epic Japan Loop, 13-day Budget Japan Tour & 12-day Japan Family Adventure, or get in touch with any questions.
Last updated on 22nd August 2023.