Moving to Japan: The Packing List Challenge

On December 26, 2013

This time of year, soon-to-be teachers are gearing up for the big move to Japan. The interviews are done, contracts have been signed, and you’re starting to prepare for a major change in your life. It’s exciting and stressful.

Which leads to the inevitable question of “What do I bring?”

If you’re a normal person, you’ll jot down a list of what you’ll need for the time of year you’re going and stuff it all into your suitcases. But if you’re an OCD, super-organized, control freak like me, you make a spreadsheet.

Like many people, I have too much stuff. WAY too much. I had to narrow it down to the essentials I could fit in just a couple of (okay three) bags. This process is a bit overwhelming, so I did a hard-core inventory and made a list of the Top 100 items I’d need. Maybe this is a lady-thing, but I know a few guys who could use a spreadsheet too.

Japan Packing List

Looking back at this, it’s still too much (I went over the Top 100, obviously) — and I actually ended up leaving a few of these things behind at the very last minute. But giving myself a framework was extremely helpful in narrowing it all down.

Had I to do it over again, I would have brought less clothes and more shoes. Shoes are a pretty real issue for most Westerners here, men and women alike. Even if you can find your size, they might be cheap-looking, or just not your style. I prefer understated style and that can be harder to find in Japan, where kawaii reigns supreme.

I would have bought more underwear that I like. I would have brought more momentos from home. I would have also brought the toothpaste I like (maybe a weird one, but yeah).

The school I work for warned against overpacking, and for the most part, I listened. There’s really only one thing I stocked up on and am super happy I brought.

Deodorant. A year’s supply.

I highly recommend this. Once you’re here you can buy it online at Rakuten… for over eight dollars a pop! Personally, I’m really glad I stocked up.

Whatever kind of packer you are, my advice is to think minimal. Think double duty. Most of what you need you can buy here but it is nice to have some items that you can only get from home.

So happy packing, save travels, and welcome to Japan!


Writer, actor, beauty junkie, smart aleck.
  • Cheri says:

    what does the ‘GB/NB/CB’ stand for? This list is so handy. I wasn’t even thinking of bringing that many shoes but I might rethink that!

    • Cynthia Popper says:

      Thanks! Those stand for which suitcase or bag the item was packed in. Green bag, blue bag… I don’t remember what NB stands for. 🙂

  • Karin says:

    for ladies: tampons.. the ‘normal’ kind are very hard to find here and the ones they have are expensive

  • Anne says:

    Also ladies, shampoo! The stuff made in Japan is all made for tough, wiry, Japanese hair. If you have thin or easily damaged hair the shampoo in Japan will destroy it.

  • Deodorants and professional clothing/shoe (unless your pretty thin and under size 7 shoes, not easily found)

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