Wondering what to wear in Japan? You aren’t alone. Japan can be a very tricky country to pack for as there are so many styles you can go with, and of course, every season is different.
We’ve traveled to Japan during all their four seasons. Most of Japan is a four-season country and winter travel is vastly different than summer. Here are the essential Japan packing list items to bring with you depending on the season you visit!
Table of Contents
- What to Pack for Winter in Japan
- What to Pack for Spring in Japan
- What to Pack for Summer in Japan
- What to Pack for Fall
- Other Japan Travel Checklist Items
- Japan Packing Tips
The Ultimate Japan Packing List
Winter in Japan
It is considered rude to wear your shoes inside in Japan so most places will give you slippers to walk around with once you take your shoes off at the door. However, I never found these slippers comfortable and would rather have my own fuzzy cushiony ones from home.
The further north and into the mountains you go in Japan the more snow you’ll be facing. You will definitely need winter boots if you are in Hokkaido – and good ones at that. I had to buy mine in Hokkaido and definitely paid a premium, but it was well worth having the boots rather than just general travel shoes. For those that plan to be in heavy snow in Japan, I highly recommend a good pair of Sorels.
If you are just hanging out in the cities I still recommend a good pair of boots, just maybe not such intense ones. Sorel, makes stylish yet practical city winter boots too.
If you plan on skiing or snowboarding this winter in Japan, you’ll need Goggles during your trip. My favorites are made by Smith Optics. The Chromapop lens technology is like seeing the world with a fresh set of our eyes. They enhance contrast, reduce glare, and reflection for superb vision while in snowy conditions. They come in a wide range of colors and typically have lens inserts included.
We’ve learned to love our feet with a good pair of socks. You will want to keep your feet nice and dry while you walk around. Most importantly wool socks stay fresh for several days as they have natural antimicrobial properties.
We travel with a couple of pairs of the Darn Tough Merino socks and our feet have never felt cold or wet. You have several options for size, but on the average day or the summer, we like to wear thin wool socks. However, in the winter months or on an adventure, a thick pair of hiking socks are always good to have in your luggage.
If there is one article of clothing made for travel in cool climates it’s the wool sweater. Sweaters are a tremendous travel outfit staple. They’re comfortable, stylish, and warm. It doesn’t matter the season either as most of many of our favorite destinations around the world are temperate and remain cool year round. This means comfortable day time temperatures during the day and chilly evenings in the summer.
I have a number of sweaters, but my favorites are from organic materials like wool or Alpaca. It’s even become my favorite travel souvenir and I treasure my Scottish wool and Peruvian Alpaca sweaters. Ever since then we’ve been living out of them when it is cold.
Of course, you can still find a great sweater at home. I love this recycled one from Patagonia, one of our favorite outdoor brands.
The more north you go in Japan in the winter, the colder it gets so you’ll want to have thermals on if you plan on spending anytime outside or in the mountains.
We’ve tried a few different brands, but recently settled on Kora as our favorite pair of thermals. It may be best for us as we need something technical when we snowboard or climb mountains to wick away moisture from our bodies. Kora makes high-performance technical clothing out of quality Yak Wool from the Himalayas — warning they are high priced.
For base layers we recommend they fit snug are made from a noncotton material like nylon or wool.
If you’re visiting Japan in the winter you absolutely need a winter jacket. It can get very cold especially on Hokkaido and you’ll want a heavy filled down jacket, or well-insulated coat to keep you warm.
The further south you go the milder the temperatures, but you will still want something for winter. I traveled around Hiroshima Prefecture in February with just a sweatshirt and North Face shell. It’s all about where you go and the month you visit!
Vests are a great way to keep your body warm without overheating. A good black or white one goes with any undershirt and also appears stylish when walking around winter destinations.
Bring a scarf/neck warmer to Japan in the winter. It’s the easy small things like this that are essential to keeping warm. If you forget one, don’t worry! You’ll easily be able to find small accessories like this when shopping in Japan.
Another small accessory that you’ll want to have with you in the winter. A good hat is great to keep your whole head warm. As a female who wears ponytails quite a bit I actually prefer earmuffs – they are cute and don’t ruin my hair!
Spring in Japan
adidas Walking Shoes
A good pair of closed toed walking shoes are essential for Japan travel. Of course, they don’t have to be Adidas, I just noticed a huge amount of Japanese wearing these in the city – so if you want to blend in get those Adidas three stripe shoes! You can see our favorite women’s travel shoes here, and our favorite men’s travel shoes here.
Slip on Shoe
Wearing shoes inside Japanese homes and guesthouses is a big no-no. You’ll be slipping your shoes on and off a lot, so an easy slip-on shoe is perfect to throw in your Japan packing list.
We’ve all heard of Tom’s, and it’s tough not to love a company that donates a pair of shoes for every pair they sell. The uncomplicated canvas slip-on shoes are cute with a wide range of color and print choices. They also pack up exceptionally well and offer an offer a surprising amount of support for their size.
Above all, they’re affordable shoes that won’t break the bank. One downside is they tend to smell after a while and won’t last much longer than a year.
There are only a few travel items we recommend everyone has and one of those is a down jacket. A down jacket is a staple for travel and outdoor activities as it’s tremendously versatile. It’s still chilly during the spring in Japan and you will definitely want a down jacket that is light and warm.
We always recommend you bring a great packable down jacket on just about any extended trip.
A pair of chinos work on both sexes for a classic look that works in a multitude of environments. It’s a classic look that when combined with a sweater, dress shirt, tee shirt, or blouse.
We love to go for simple colors that will work with multiple shirts. A good brown, white, pastel for women, or grey is always a safe bet. What’s great about chinos are they look equally good on the beach as they do a nice restaurant or bar.
Ladies will fit in well with a floral dress among the stunning Japanese cherry blossums. Just a word of warning, cleavage and showing the shoulders and chest in Japan is not common.
You likely won’t find many Japanese women bearing the top half of their body so I would recommend something florally and loose that covers the shoulders. Showcasing the legs never seems to be a problem though, so feel free to make those dresses above the knee if you want!
Summer in Japan
Comfortable Walking Shoes
Like in the spring you will want comfortable and breathable walking shoes during the summer in Japan. This Japan packing list item is vital to your enjoyment of Japan – seriously, once your feet start to hurt from a day of walking it’s all downhill. Adidas works well here or another favorite, All Birds.
I pair of stylish sandals will do wonders for you in the heat of a Japanese summer. Yes – it can get crazy hot and humid in Japan so you will want something breathable for your feet. I would not, however, recommend flip flops unless they are very fashionable. They are uncomfortable to walk long distances in and will make you stand out (more than you already do).
I have been a fan of crocs for years. I find them to be one of the best travel sandals for walking while still looking cute. Yes, I said attractive. Crocs make some pretty charming women’s sandals perfect for travel.
I have had a few pairs now and even wore them to the club at a younger age. Crocs are reasonably affordable, are comfortable for a day of light walking, and they are completely waterproof.
A summer dress is an essential Japan travel item for the ladies in the summer. Same as in the spring section.
Still wondering what to wear in Japan? As mentioned, the Japanese women are very conservative when it comes to the top half of their body but you will see plenty of leg in Japan. It gets hot in Japan and you won’t want to be suffering through the streets of Tokyo in rugged pants. Both men and women should bring along at least one pair of shorts.
Sleeved rompers are the perfect Japan travel checklist item for women. They pack up small, are light, and look stylish while still providing comfort.
I never travel anywhere with at least one travel shirt that doesn’t stain easily, is easy to wash, and quick drying. These travel shirts always pair well with shorts or pants. I recommend not going with cotton as they will show your sweat – and you WILL sweat during the summer months in Japan.
Sun hats are not just stylish, but they also keep the sun out of your eyes and protect from sunburn. Bring a packable one so you can easily put it in your luggage. Traveling with a sun hat outside of your luggage is always a pain.
Marmot Minimalist Rain Jacket
In most of Japan, the rainy season lasts from the beginning of June to July, so you’ll want a rain jacket for those times when it pours. This Marmot jacket hits the mark right between entry-level rain jacket and top of the line to deliver a versatile rain jacket sure to keep your dry. When we first got our hands on this jacket from the level below the quality difference was vast. It’s close to a true shell jacket and the 2.5L Gore-Tex material feels durable and waterproof. It’s a great material that holds up the elements with the benefits of breathability.
A jacket like this is for adventurers who will benefit from a jacket that is both waterproof and windproof. Coverage is good too as the jacket features a robust zipper, a thick, wrist straps, and hood waist and hood cinch. For the eco-conscious, the material Paclite Gore-Tex material is created with a recycled fabric face.
Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella
Rainy season in Japan means you may want a good travel umbrella to venture around with. As you probably gathered from the name, this umbrella is exceptionally suited to waterproofing and wind resistance.
It features nine semi-flexible ribs that slightly flex in high winds to help absorb the energy, but will not collapse nor turn inside out when the wind starts howling. This is in part due to the resin-reinforced fiberglass material that has exceptional strength properties, making your umbrella one tough cookie that can be as adventurous as you!
Autumn in Japan
If I’m traveling in the fall or winter there is at least one Patagonia flannel in my bag. Flannels are good ladies travel clothes because they are comfortable, warm, and can be work over and over before they need to be washed. Another nice thing about flannels? They’re the ideal Instagram fashion choice in the fall.
Patagonia Better Sweater
A Patagonia better sweater is the perfect fleece sweater and the perfect Japan packing list item, especially for a mid layer. It’s heavy duty, flexible, and still slimming while still being one of the warmest fleece jackets on this list.
It is a Patagonia after all, one of the best outdoor gear brands on the market meaning it’s high quality (but also a higher price tag).
Yes, they are expensive, but they last for years so I usually buy one every once in a while and ball out when Patagonia or REI have their annual season sale. The better sweater comes in either a half zip up style or full zip up. What I really like about Patagonia products like this is that it looks pretty stylish – even in Japan.
Bring a cute plaid or checked scarf with you. Not just to keep warm, but for photos too. The leaves in Japan turn all sorts of red, orange, and yellow in the fall so having a darker scarf is ideal.
Now that it’s fall in Japan you’ll want to get out your pants. as it is getting chilly. Make sure to bring along a few of your favorite pants. As a woman, I personally like to bring black leggings with me on my travels as they go with everything. They also double as long underwear that you can wear under any long dresses.
I traveled with these Teva boots for the entire winter season last year and loved them. Not only are the comfortable and durable, but they look nice with just about anything and can easily dress up a pair of leggings. These boots are waterproof, warm, and go up to a little below the knee. They won’t work for tromping through the snow for hours but definitely do in a city or if you’re just popping out for dinner.
I’m guessing these boots will last me at least five to 10 years if I wear them every season, and now I have no reason ever to have to spend money on another pair of stylish winter boots. It’s not just me that loves them though – check out the reviews on Amazon! My only note would be the lack of traction in the snow as the hard rubber soles are made better suited for wet cities.
Other Japan Travel Checklist Items
Hardside Suitcase – Delsey 24″ Spinner
Delsey makes my favorite hard side luggage and after five years of travel around the world, they have yet to let me down. Plus their bags look extremely stylish, have heavy duty wheels, TSA accepted lock, and two full packing compartments with tie-down straps and a zippered divider. If you want something different check out our other favorite carry on luggage pieces.
Carry on Backpack
As far as design the Knack Expandable Backpack is one of my favorites in the travel world. Everything about this pack has been well thought out, and I’m impressed by the organization of the pockets and the ridiculous amount of features in such a small layout. Serious kudos to the designers of this pack. There are a lot of travel backpack companies popping up these days, but the vast majority of them are lacking in terms of build quality — not the case with this pack.
Travel Water Bottle
The tap water in Japan is very clean so there is no need to buy plastic water bottles and contribute to our world’s plastic problem. A reusable water bottle is a Japan travel essential. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well and also keeps drinks warm when need be. See all of our favorite water bottles here.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Japan. Most of our photos are shot on the Fuji X-T3, but our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm. A good action camera is the GoPro Hero 7, this one has a stabilizer in it so your footage of you riding will be ultra smooth.
Check out some of the best sellers right now and pick up a copy. There’s nothing better than enjoying a good book under the comfort of a Japanese katsu table. I’ve recently upgraded to the Kindle Paperwhite and absolutely love it. It’s small, has touchscreen functions, and a backlight so that I can read at night without a harsh glare.
We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. You will 100% want some sort of insurance if you are taking part in adventure activities in Japan – you never know what could happen! Make sure whatever insurance policy you take out covers you on the mountain.
Japan mainly uses the Type A plug like North America, but there is generally no socket for the grounded portion. Make sure you find a good universal adapter like the one I have to keep you charged. Otherwise, you may struggle to find one once you land.
This is straw alternative that easily fits in your purse or pocket while traveling. It’s not just a useful travel accessory, but a useful life accessory too. The Final Straw is an essential thing to pack for traveling if you want to cut down on your waste.
Essentially this straw is collapsible and has a small carrying case. You can travel with it everywhere and then never have to take a plastic straw with your iced coffee. The Final Straw is so awesome Time even ranked it as one of the ‘10 Smartest Sustainable Products of 2018.’
This is not only a good eco friendly product for travel, but also a perfect eco friendly products for the home.
Reusable Coffee Cup Cover
This escalates when we travel and we usually have at least a cup of coffee a day. I hate those plastic lids given out and this is the best alternative to a wasteful plastic lid. Plus I love drinking off the silicone top.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun since you’ll likely spend a lot of time outside in Japan. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses; however, we love ours and will never buy cheap ones again
The sun is intense in Japan – even in the winter. Protect at least your face always! If I’m going in the oceans it’s important to me that I’m wearing all natural sunscreen. If I’m only walking around the cities and have no plans for the swimming regular sunscreen is just fine.
Extra tips when thinking about what to pack for Japan
- The Japanese cities are full of great shopping areas, and despite what you may think it’s actually not that expensive to shop here. If you forget something you’ll be able to find it in Japan
- When shopping in Japan watch out for “Asian” fitted items that are much smaller than what you are used to back home.
- ¥100 shops are the same as the Dollar Store back in the US. They can be found in most Japanese cities and is where you can find cheap knick-knack items
- As mentioned numerous times in this article Japanese women tend to dress more conservatively from the waist up. Cleavage and bare shoulders is not something you’ll find a lot of in Japan, but it’s not a huge deal if you wear tank tops. You just might get a few stares from the older Japanese women.
- Japan is a country of four seasons. It gets cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer. Enjoy!
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