With this being my first overseas trip, I had the intention of packing light. Intention. In the end I took way too much stuff with me, so learn from my mistakes and do not take these 10 items with you.
Note: This ‘things not to pack to Japan’ – article is mainly for ‘beginners’ who travel overseas for the first time. For experienced travellers this might evoke a big yawn of ‘there we go again’, but if you’re new to overseas travel like me, this list might help you lighten your load.
Don’t get me wrong, I was quite content with the suitcase I had with me. However, the basic weight was too much. It was a sturdy suitcase for sure, but that also meant dragging along additional weight. If you come from abroad it might be worth the risk to travel with a lighter suitcase, or choose a backpack (which they tend to load on last in the airplane since the shape is odd). Also, I slept in hostels during my stay. Although there was enough space to store my suitcase in all the hostels, I would recommend a backpack or a moderate suitcase. They are easier to shove onto the first floor of a bunk bed for example. If you’re in doubt about the size: just try to lift it above your head. Doesn’t work? Then you might need a different suitcase.
Things not to pack to Japan? Too. Much. Clothes.
I really believed I had this one figured out. We had a three-week trip to Japan, and I would pack clothes for about one and a half weeks. Then I would wash everything at the hostel in Kyoto (we checked if there was a laundry room beforehand) and wear everything again. It was still too much. Things I packed too much of: jeans for one. Jeans are durable and even if you would wear the same ones for one week, no one would really notice. They’re heavy, take up much space and I had too many with me.
I also overpacked basics like underwear and socks. I’m not the type to wear the same basics more than a day, but I still fell into the ‘one more pair’ trap, which basically meant I had basics for two weeks. Unnecessary, and the weight of my suitcase reminded me every single time. Also, you can easily handwash your socks and underwear in a sink. If they’re quick-drying fabrics, they will be dry the next morning.
Multiple Portable Rechargers
I travelled to Japan with a friend, and we both took along multiple rechargers. Like, why? ‘Just in case’… There’s no need. We had two phones, two camera’s, a go pro camera and a portable wifi with us, but we only needed one extra recharger for the wifi for two days (out of 18). The camera’s have their own light batteries and there’s many places where you can just charge your phone (in the bus from the airport for example. You do need your world adapter for that). Just take one portable recharger with you, leave the rest at home.
Too many gadgets
As you can read from the last bullet point, we brought a lot of gadgets. Maybe even a bit too much. We did use them all, depending on where we were. Sometimes a phone felt more casual and less tourist-like in cafe’s for example. We mainly used our camera’s outside and during our trip to Miyajima Island and Himeji Castle. A Go Pro is great for attractions, water parks and such, but if you’re planning a trip to the city you can leave it in a locker. Your phone will do the job just fine if you need to film something. Rechargers… only one. Cables, over-ear headphones… just leave it. And unless you’re a blogger who’s on a year-long trip or a professional photographer, keep your laptop at home as well.
Do pack: a world adaptor with USB chargers. It’s just one item but you can literally plug any item to charge.
Hair styling tools
Okay, in my defence: I have really curly, prone-to-frizz hair, so I did need some hair styling products to help me get ready (and not look like Hermione that got into a fight with crows). But I absolutely didn’t need to bring my hair dryer or full-size hair products. I know, I know. I was used to a few hostels in Europe, and they didn’t have nice hair dryers in the bathrooms like the Japanese hostels. No wonder they said it wouldn’t really matter if you stayed in a three-stal hotel or a hostel, the facilities of all the places we’ve been to have been more than I expected. Check the box with facilities on the website of the hostel or on Booking.com to see if they have those things, and your suitcase will feel a lot lighter. As for the hair products: check beforehand how much product you actually need for three weeks time. I use special products and I didn’t want to wander in Japanese stores in search for the same brand, but the amount I used from the bottles was laughable. Do yourself a favor and either buy travel-sizes if available, or pour them in a smaller container.
Extra tip: I brought a travel-sized soap, shampoo and conditioner, but never needed them. The hostels I went to all had these products available for free in the shower. Also a ‘just in case’ that only made my suitcase heavy.
A towel (not even a small one)
This was also a ‘just in case’, even though I knew the hostel had towels. In fact, all the hostels we stayed in had towels, and we got at least one towel free of charge. If you needed more towels you had to pay a small fee (mostly 50-100 yen, which is about 40-80 cents). I mean, why on earth did I think that it was a good idea to pack a small towel in the first case? Just read the description of the hostel you’ve booked.
I didn’t pack this one myself, but I heard people in the hostel talking about it. Especially how they regretted bringing the detergent with them since the hostel provided special laundry detergent satchets, the perfect amount for one wash. Most hostels have laundry rooms, and if it’s unclear on the website if they also provide laundry detergent, don’t be afraid to ask.
Another item on the list of things not to pack to Japan : shoes. I mean, it’s always a good idea to bring one extra pair of shoes, especially since you’ll be walking a lot in Japan. And maybe a pair of slippers for the bathroom. I used them once, and then tossed them in the trash because they took up too much space and it was just bothersome to change from your tatami slippers (you’ll get them at every hostel to walk around in your room) to bath slippers. Neat shoes? Don’t need them. I had black sneakers, which also doubled as pub crawl – karaoke – theatre shoes. So my advice would be two pair of shoes you can walk on for hours, with one pair on your feet. Others might say one pair is enough, but I have big feet, so finding shoes in Japan is a challenge. And I was glad I had them with me already, since I accidentally ripped my shoe from toe to heel (because I was dumb enough to climb a rock for a perfect picture, ahem).
Think long and hard about the valuables you want to bring with you. I wouldn’t take any expensive jewellery with me, expensive branded clothing or laptops and ipads. I noticed some people taking photo’s with an i pad, but most phones nowadays have camera’s which either equal or surpass the Ipad-cam. Laptops are annoying as well, since they usually don’t fit in the lockers the hostels provide. If you wish to take a laptop with you, choose a small one of about 10 to 11 inches. In this case an Ipad or other tablet might be a better option since they fit in the lockers of most hostels. Also, leave the branded bags at home. I noticed a girl taking ‘her Louis’ (aka louis Vuitton bag) with her everywhere she went because she was afraid it would get stolen. Two questions though: why would you take it in the first place and why would you stay in a hostel with shared bedroom…
A book or e-reader
Books are heavy, simple as that. And if you want to read something, you can do so on your phone. It might not be ‘the best way’ to read, but who cares? It saves up space and you can buy a book from the city you’re in. In Japan most restaurants or cafés even have a small reading-section with manga, newspapers or kawaii stuff, so if you’re eating alone you can just browse through those. Some cafe’s also have English books, but even if you can’t read Japanese, the drawings are interesting enough.
Which things did you bring with you to Japan that were completely unnecessary? Which items would you put on your ‘things not to pack to Japan’- list? Or do you have a ‘things to pack’? Leave a comment below and let me know!