We receive a lot of questions from readers about what to pack for their trip. So we set out to help our readers determine what to wear in Japan. After traveling around Japan for years, we’ve crafted the perfect Japan packing list.
It’s not a big deal if you’re struggling with what to pack for Japan. Before our first trip abroad, we spent months debating what we should bring. We made a lot of mistakes. Our best advice is not to overthink packing for any trip. Unless you’re going off the grid, you can find whatever you need when you arrive.
This article should be a good base with recommendations about things to add to your Japan packing list. We include our favorite travel clothes, shoes, luggage, and accessories. The idea is to break down all the travel essentials for your trip and give you an idea of what you should carry in your suitcase or backpack.
What’s The Weather Like in Japan?
Before thinking about what to wear in Japan let’s discuss weather! You may be surprised that Japan’s climate varies significantly from north to south. The country is an archipelago with over 3,000 islands and islets. Its islands stretch from a high latitude in the north to a low latitude in the south. As it is a series of islands, the surrounding sea currents significantly impact the country’s climate.
Weather on the northern island of Hokkaido is dominated by snow in the winter and sees mild summer temperatures. While the island of Honshu, Japan’s largest and most populous island, is a humid subtropical climate with all four seasons. Further south on the Ryukyu islands, see nearly tropical weather and temperatures.
Nearly all of Japan sees a lot of precipitation. It is influenced by monsoon circulation. Cold currents from the Northwest drive winter in winter storms. While in the summer, humid winds from the tropical southeast blow over the islands. This is most notable during early summer and autumn season changes when Japan receives typhoons and torrential rains.
Japan sees a lot of precipitation throughout the year, which would explain why nearly 70% of the country is forested. Yes, it’s not all cityscape. The natural parts of Japan are breathtaking. We highly recommend a hiking trip along the Kumano Kodo!
It’s best to check the weather a week before your trip to get an idea of what the temperatures will be like during your trip. Also, make sure to check all of the regions you plan to visit. Japan is a vast country, and the weather in the north may be much different than in the south.
The Essential Documents To Pack
- Passport – This is obvious, but you won’t make it far without a passport.
- Credit Cards – We use several travel credit cards offering purchase protection, rewards, and no foreign transaction fees.
- Visa – Make sure you have a visa if required.
- Driving License – If you plan to rent a car, you will need your driver’s license, plus it never hurts to have a second form of I.D.
- IDP – If you’d like to drive a car in Japan, it is required to have an IDP. This is a booklet with multiple language translations of your license. It must contain a Japanese translation.
- JR Pass – If you are planning on traveling a lot around Japan, a JR Pass is crucial to saving money!
Our Favorite Tours in Japan
- Kyoto: 2-Hour Gion Geisha District Tour
- Sumida River: Japanese Traditional Yakatabune Dinner Cruise
- Tokyo DisneySea 1-Day Passport
- Tokyo: Samurai Kendo Practice Experience
- Tsukiji Market Walking Tour & Rolled Sushi Class
- Tokyo: Mt. Fuji, Hakone, Lake Ashi Cruise and Bullet Train
- Tokyo: Go-Kart Tour and Photoshoot
- Kyoto: 45-Minute Tea Ceremony Experience
- Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi Scenic 1-Day Bus Tour
What Luggage To Bring To Japan
I have two bag recommendations for a trip to Japan. You can opt for a traditional hardshell suitcase with four wheels or a travel backpack. Suitcases with four wheels are best as the ability to roll sideways down the aisle of a train or a sidewalk makes life a lot easier. Japan has an excellent rail network that makes it easy to travel.
We prefer hardshell as it does a better job at protection and security. Our favorite hardshell suitcase is the Delsey Helium Aero 25″. Travel backpacks are great for young backpackers, digital nomads, or minimalists! They are also great if you want to save on any checked bag fees your air carrier may charge.
Peak Design Packing Cubes are phenomenal at organizing and separating dirty clothes. They also make one of our favorite bags, the Peak Design Travel Backpack. It’s a smart bag with a minimalist style that works for everyone, from young backpackers to modern business travelers.
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What To Wear In Japan
What you wear in Japan depends on your plans, destination, and season. The weather and your clothes depend a lot on the season. Budget and travel style have a significant impact, too — a well-heeled traveler staying in luxury hotels will have a much different packing list than a backpacker.
No one size fits all rules exist, as a snowboarding trip to Hokkaido is wildly different from photographing the cherry blossoms or sightseeing in Kyoto. We suggest casual clothing with comfortable footwear. The key to packing is clothes that can serve multiple purposes.
We like to pack clothes in classic, versatile colors that allow us to mix and match outfits. You can adjust to various weather and climates by throwing in some layers. A traveler should be able to dress for almost any setting or weather if done right.
It’s also important to always pack a shell jacket, as rain and snow are frequent throughout the year. You’ll almost always see rain or snow if you visit the country for over two weeks. Finally, don’t forget to pack some athletic clothes for a Japan trip! There are many amazing adventures and outdoor activities to enjoy around the region.
It’s good etiquette to cover your legs and shoulders when visiting temples and shrines. The Japanese would never tell a foreigner to cover up, but it’s more of a sign of respect by the traveler. If you have plans to visit religious sites in Japan, pack some appropriate clothing.
The Japanese are well known for their boldness in fashion. Street styles from Japan and their adoption of kawaii and cosplay have global impacts. It’s a place you can take some fashion risks. This is most pronounced in young Japanese, who face less social pressures to conform, as most Japanese dress neatly and conservatively. You’re going to see some outlandish and fun outfits in Japan.
Generally, most people visit Japan in the summer, so prepare for hot and humid temperatures. Below we share the staples and make some recommendations on our personal favorites. Please consider this a guideline as we recommend everyone dress and pack to match their style.
T-Shirt or V Neck
A classic tee will never go out of style. We suggest sticking with solid colors like black, white, or grey. We recommend you keep it simple when it comes to tees. Our favorite color is a light heather grey as it’s easy to stain white. We love the quality and ease of ordering from Bombas if you’re after a classic cotton tee.
However, a merino wool shirt is a worthy investment and one of the best pieces of travel clothes. Wools shirts stay fresh longer and do an excellent job at temperature management. I’ve tested a lot of wool shirts out, and my favorite for travel so far is from Unbound Merino.
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You’ll want some shorts for your Japan trip if it’s summertime. You won’t find many Japanese in shorts, but it’s appropriate to wear as a foreigner. Shorts are also easy to pack as they take up less space in your luggage and can be easily washed.
I like to pack two or three pairs for versatility, such as gym shorts, bermuda shorts, and technical travel shorts. Shorts are one of those items I find acceptable as cheap cotton items. We’ve tested a lot of travel shorts out and only been impressed by a handful.
Our recommendations for men’s shorts are the Western Rise Evolution, Quicksilver Amphibian, and Outlier OG Freeway. Recommendations for women include the prAna Elle Short, Vuori Dash, prAna Kanab, and Patagonia Baggies.
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Many outdoor activities in Japan require some activewear to enjoy. So, when you’re wondering what to wear in Japan, consider packing at least one active outfit. Not to mention it’s great to stay in shape while traveling. Several daypacks for travel will work nicely on a hike or in the city.
As for the shoes, we’re pretty loyal to the ultra trail running Salomon Speedcross shoes, but we recommend the more versatile adidas Ultraboost for everything else. Regarding clothing, we love Vuori Shorts and Outdoor Research Echo Shirts. Pack a sports bra if you like one for activities; our favorites are from Handful.
See Our Recommendations
Jeans are a fashion staple but aren’t the best packing or most comfortable travel pants. However, travelers have options such as DU/ER jeans. The organic cotton jeans look sharp, but a subtle blend of polyester and spandex allows the jeans to stretch and resist wrinkles.
Fit is exceptional, with a slim fit throughout the leg. You can comfortably wear the jeans on long travel days without any discomfort. Thanks to the synthetic blend, they’re great for lengthy trips as there is no need to wash the jeans.
We find the summer to be too hot for jeans in Japan, but love wearing them the other three seasons. Most notable with pants and jeans is that they should be worn when visiting temples and shrines as a sign of respect.
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A pair of chinos or travel pants are great for traveling around Japan. Our first choice is a reliable pair of “travel pants” with synthetic materials. These pants are often stain-resistant, dry quickly, weigh less, remain fresh for multiple wears, and are more comfortable than traditional pants or chinos.
We love that these technical pants, previously only made for hiking, now resemble chinos. It’s a classic pant that goes with a sweater, dress shirt, t-shirt, or blouse. When choosing a color, try to match the destination and season. However, light tan pants tend to be the most versatile.
For women, we suggest the Kuhl Freeflex Pants for outdoor adventures and the Everlane Utility Barrel Pants for a more stylish city/town look. Men should check out the KUHL Renegade Rock Pants for outdoor adventures and the Western Rise Evolution 2.0 Pants for everything else.
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Sweaters are a great travel outfit staple. They’re comfortable, stylish, and warm. This very much depends on the season and destination. However, for most of Honshu in the winter, a warm sweater is enough to survive comfortably.
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No matter the season, a rain jacket is crucial for traveling around Japan (and the rest of the world). Japan receives a lot of precipitation every season, particularly in early summer and fall. We suggest a hard-shell hiking jacket for the outdoors/hiking.
They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. Any rain jacket will do, but the top-dollar ones designed for the outdoors will hold up and help in inclement weather. They also do an exceptional job at blocking the wind, which can be unrelenting.
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The Japanese wear a surprising amount of Western styles, particularly when it comes to outdoor wear. One of the most common staples is the down jacket, as it’s perfect for winter. Montbell is a Japanese outdoor brand, and you’ll see their jackets everywhere.
Like the Japanese, we’re big fans of packable down jackets. It is one of the most versatile travel items we carry in our luggage. It can handle cold winter weather when layered, but it’s also light enough to be worn on a cool evening.
We find they’re handy in the shoulder seasons around spring and fall. Summers are hot, and unless you have plans to climb Mt. Fuji, you likely won’t need the warmth of a down jacket.
See Our Recommendations For Down Jackets
We always pack a swimsuit. However, Japan is among the few countries we’ve never worn swimwear. Japanese culture has long loved communal bathing with thousands of onsens and sentos across the country. We worked on a guide to visiting the Japanese Sentos in Tokyo with the business association (no other reason we’d ever have a photo inside).
You can’t skip one of these cultural institutions on a trip to Japan. However, there is a caveat, and it is all done nude. Swimsuits are not permitted in onsens unless it’s private. We hope to check out Okinawa and some of the country’s beautiful beaches soon.
For a fantastic women’s swimsuit brand, we recommend Londre and Carve Designs. They make high-quality swimsuits for women. Vuori makes fantastic lightweight Cruise Board Shorts in various prints and colors.
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You can never have enough underwear or socks. We love wool undergarments on the road as they dry quicker and have antimicrobial qualities. This means they stay fresh longer and keep you more comfortable.
After a lot of testing, our favorites are from Icebreaker. They make several versions and cuts for men and women to match personal tastes. What’s best about wool underwear is that they can be washed in a bathroom sink at night only to dry by morning the next day, so you could feasibly travel with only one or two pairs of underwear.
They are pricey, so we can’t don’t recommend everyone replace every pair. We still travel around with several regular cotton undies, but a couple of pairs of these for dirty clothes emergencies come in handy.
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We’ve learned to love our feet with a good pair of socks. You will want to keep your feet dry while walking around. Most importantly, wool socks stay fresh for several days as they have natural antimicrobial properties.
We travel with several pairs of wool socks on any trip. They make every style and cut these days, so finding the pair you need is easy. Our recommendations for socks are Darn Tough, Smartwool, and REI Co-op. If you still want some classic cotton socks, check out Bombas.
Our Favorite Wool Socks
On every packing list for Japan should be a pair of comfortable shoes. Hitting the sidewalk and letting a city unfurl around you is one of the best ways to get familiar with a new city, especially in Japan. We love to wear our Allbirds, but any comfortable casual shoe will work.
Our Recommendations For Shoes
Regarding cool temperatures in Japan, we love to wear our Blundstones. Women can wear them with chinos and a blouse, while men can pair them with just about anything from jeans to a suit. Boots are seasonal, and we’ll leave them at home for a trip to Japan in the summer.
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A stylish pair of sunglasses is an excellent addition to a travel outfit. Everyone owns at least one pair of sunglasses. However, it’s best to ensure they have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We always travel with two pairs of sunglasses as we’re pretty active. A pair of Smith Optics for hiking and outdoor adventures and a couple of stylish sunglasses to wear at the beach or around town for the day.
As sunglass snobs, we love the classic styles of Persol and Rayban. There are no better fashion accessories that are critical to your eye health. We cannot imagine traveling anywhere without a pair of sunglasses.
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Men’s Packing List for Japan
Men should pack at least one or two dress shirts for a trip to Japan. We suggest you stick with a classic color like blue or white that will never go out of style. A solid dress shirt has more structure and feels appropriate for nice evenings.
The type or age of the travelers doesn’t matter either, as almost everyone will find use in a dress shirt. Bluffworks makes travel dress shirts that resist wrinkles but lack a cotton shirt’s structure.
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Women’s Packing List For Japan
Not suggesting you wear Kimono, although it’s a great thing to do in Japan. However, a comfortable sundress for summer in Japan is a tremendous idea. Not only is it more comfortable, but it’s also cute. Ladies, it’s the perfect time to bust out your favorite summer dress.
Some great websites for dress shopping are Salty Crush, Lulus, and Free People. My only recommendation is no ridiculous gowns that you see on social media. Dresses are a travel staple and occupy almost no room in your suitcase.
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Romper, Playsuit, or Overalls
Rompers are our favorite travel outfits for women because they’re stylish, comfortable, and practical. You can’t go wrong here, and we suggest throwing at least one or two rompers in your suitcase for Japan.
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Don’t Forget To Pack Items For Japan
As Lonely Planet Pathfinders who used to go on assignments for the guidebook company, we love to have a physical guidebook when traveling. We spend enough time attached to our phones in everyday life and planning our trips. Once we reach a destination like Japan, we put the phone away and pick up a guidebook to help with our trip.
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You’ll need something to stash your photography gear, hand sanitizers, papers, phones, and anything else for a full day out when traveling. We’ve tested out a ton of daypacks and backpacks over the years, and our favorite is from Peak Design. As photographers, we always need a daypack for travel, but we leave it in the hotel room most days when exploring Japan.
Our Recommendations For Backpacks
We suggest you keep your toiletries organized and separated from your clothes. It almost feels like a toiletry bag is essential for any trip. Plus, it’s not uncommon to find extremely small or cramped bathrooms in Japan.
Buying a hanging toiletry bag is an excellent option if you are limited on counter space. This bag style tends to have a better organization system with various sections for storage than the traditional option. We love the Peak Design Wash Pouch. It contains a hidden hook to hang and features terrific organization.
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It is important to travel with fresh water in hand as it is easy to get dehydrated when out. We like to use insulated stainless steel water bottles because they keep drinks cool. Carrying a water bottle is great for the environment as it reduces plastic waste.
Our favorite is the Grayl GeoPress purifier bottle. A purifier helps save money, reduces plastic waste, and guarantees that our water is safe and free of viruses and other waterborne illnesses. Purification is unnecessary in Japan, but we always have it for an impromptu trip to somewhere more remote, and they’re great for hiking.
See Our Recommendations
Packing cubes are phenomenal for the organization of any backpack or suitcase. They are one of those packing essentials that should be in every bag as they keep all of your clothes and toiletries organized. Cubes also keep clothes folded and protect them from wrinkles.
Our favorite packing cubes are currently from Peak Design. It’s a slick design, and each cube has a divider to separate clean from dirty clothes. This saves the need for additional cubes and makes organization easier.
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We don’t travel with all our best jewelry for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t mean we don’t travel with any jewelry in Japan. We love having necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings when we dress up on the road. A travel jewelry box is the best way to keep this jewelry safe and organized!
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A travel passport wallet is an affordable travel essential. Your passport is a vital travel document you must carry for a decade. Protect your passport in a wallet to ensure its longevity and save the headache of replacing it. Several options can protect the passport or replace your wallet. We recommend a great wallet from Herschel Supply Co.
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These are small but essential travel necessities for Japan as they can be crucial to your sleep. Whether flying in business class or in a hostel, a good pair of earplugs will help you sleep. You also never know if you may have noisy neighbors or have a room on the ground. When you need them, they are a lifesaver.
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Electronics To Pack For Japan
While I love having a good real book when I travel, sometimes it’s just not practical because of the weight — keep them at home. If you plan to island-hop, you’ll want to pack fairly light.
A Kindle is an essential travel accessory for travelers who love to read. As much as we love an actual book, they are too heavy and take up too much room in my suitcase. We recently upgraded to the Kindle Paperwhite and love it. It’s small, has touchscreen functions, and has a backlight to read at night without a harsh glare.
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Anker Power Bank
I love traveling with a power bank to ensure my electronics never die. I usually don’t need to use it on long flights as some new international flights provide entertainment systems with USB ports! (Always make sure your charging cable is handy when boarding the plane)
We also find a charging point during layovers, but getting to a new city without your hotel reservations and map can be a significant pain. I recommend purchasing this power bank because it’s a great value with solid reviews.
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A high-quality camera is an important packing item for Japan if you want some great shots while on your vacation We travel with many cameras. Still, the one we universally recommend is the RX 100.
They make several models at different prices, but using a point-and-shoot camera that anyone can operate is simple. It also takes superb images with a 20mp resolution and full manual controls.
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You Need This on Your Japan Packing List
We never travel without travel insurance with Heymondo. With all the risks of travel in a foreign country and insurance coverage, we never have to worry about a good health plan. Heymondo offers incredible flexibility and great plans!
You never know if the worse could happen while you’re abroad, and your insurance plan at home often will not cover medical emergencies abroad. Having peace of mind with a good backup plan helps us sleep at night.
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Japan Travel Planning Resources
- Packing Guide — Check out our Japan Packing List to help pack your bags and ensure you don’t leave anything at home.
- Protect Your Trip — We don’t travel without travel insurance, and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Travel Adapter – Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Book an Experience – See all the best Japan experiences and tours here.
- Get a Japan Rail Pass (Buy Here) – They make traveling around Japan so much easier and cheaper. Read all about if it’s worth it here.
- Travel Shoes – Allbirds are the ultimate travel shoe. They are sustainable and last forever while looking good. Read our full Allbirds review.