40 Things You Must Get for Your Trip to Japan (+3 to Avoid!)
By Skywing Knights // January 30, 2024
If you’re going to Japan for the first time, it can be super intimidating! Especially if you don’t know the language and will be there for a week or more. I’m often asked what I think are essential ‘must bring’, ‘must buy’, or ‘must have’ items one needs to have to make sure their trip to Japan goes smoothly. And well, I finally put a list together and here it is: Everything you should buy/bring that will make your experience in Japan (and flying to Japan) as smooth as possible!
Pre-Japan Trip Prep
Before you even get to Japan, there are a few things I highly recommend individuals purchase for their pre-Japan prep. These include:
1. A Travel Notebook or Journal
Perhaps this is my sentimental side, but I love having a notebook where I write out my plans for each day of my trips in Japan. Granted, I STUFF my days to the brim while I’m there, BUT a travel Journal is ALWAYS useful, regardless of where you go. Before my trip, I stuff my Travel Journal with notes on where I want to go, when things are open, how to get there, etc. as I do my research. Then, I plot out and write out each day’s plan and use it as a reference for once I get there. I also include important phone numbers and will staple in important documents, just so I always have them on hand.
And finally, if I have an impression while traveling, I’ll just jot down the thought or memory briefly, so I can keep it forever. It’s a very special item for me to have from start to finish of all of my trips to Japan. So go on! Get one of these for your trip to Japan!
2. Fodor’s Essential Japan / Fodor’s Tokyo
As a veteran traveler to Japan, I typically do not use printed travel guides anymore. HOWEVER, the first time I went to Japan, I bought a Fodors Guide to Tokyo and it was the BEST purchase. I read through the entire thing and highlighted places I wanted to go, things I wanted to see, food I wanted to try, etc. And as a result, it gave me a great place to start when planning out my first adventure to Japan.
There are plenty of sources online where you can find more information on what there is available to do in Japan (I go over some of those in my blog article Top 10 Japan Travel Apps and Websites here). However, sometimes having ALL of the information is just too much information. That’s why I tend to suggest buying a travel guide first and using it as a jumping off point. And honestly, my favorite is always going to be Fodors. Get the most up to date version and a highlighter – your mind will begin to be filled to the brim with possibilities!
3. Portable Wi-Fi
This is one of those things I always say to order in advance and my go-to service is Wi-Fi Rental Store (linked below). Why? Well, simply put, for the average person going to Japan, renting a portable wi-fi is far CHEAPER and far more RELIABLE than relying on your phone service and springing for their international plan. Trust me, I’ve done the research (across all of the major phone carriers in the US btw). For the most part, unless you have a plan that regularly includes unlimited international data because you travel around the world on a daily basis, Portable Wi-Fi will nearly ALWAYS beat out whatever your phone carrier is trying to sell you. Plus, you KNOW it will reliably work within Japan.
So order a portable wi-fi for rental in advance. I like Wi-Fi Rental Store because you can pick it up at the airport or have it delivered to wherever you are staying. Then, you just slip it in the envelope they provide at the end of your stay and drop it in the mailbox at the airport. Easy!
That said, I suggest picking it up at the airport. Once you land, you can switch your phone to airplane mode and connect to the wi-fi at the airport until you find the kiosk where your wi-fi is located. This service is great though as they provide you a map for where to pick it up within the airport before you go. So you can screenshot it or print it out and include it in that travel notebook too just in case the wi-fi at the airport is acting funky and won’t let you connect. This service absolutely has your back.
4. Tickets to Big Attractions and Shows
You’ve probably heard of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Oh, and a little thing called the STUDIO GHIBLI MUSEUM GASP LETS GO. These are just some of the things you’re going to want to buy tickets for early before you go to Japan. Others may include tickets to concerts or musical/stage performances such as the Takarazuka or sports events like Sumo Wrestling. In particular, the Studio Ghibli Museum is typically sold out in advance, so there’s no way to count on simply ‘walking up’ and going inside. Studio Ghibli Museum tickets can typically be purchased overseas in advance through your. For more information on how to purchase tickets for the Studio Ghibli Museum, among other hot ticket places, check out the links below for details.
Please note, musical/stage performances can be purchased through ePlus and TicketPia. However both websites are in Japanese and you must search for the performances using Kanji and Kana. Not all tickets can be purchased overseas, however, often, you can ‘reserve’ a ticket for purchase, then pick it up and pay for it in cash at a convenience store in Japan, so look for that payment option at check out!
If you miss out on purchasing tickets for the Studio Ghibli Museum, now’s the time to reach out to any friends you have living in Japan. They can likely still get tickets for you about 2 weeks early via their local convenience store. So offer to bring their favorite thing over and do that trade!
Studio Ghibli Ticket Sales have currently been suspended overseas. Use the method in Tip #1 or go to a local convenience store as soon as you land in Japan for your best chance to get tickets.
Flight Specific Items
The 12-14 hour flights are often the thing most people dread when it comes to going to Japan. Here are the items that I recommend you bring specifically for your flights. (Though there will be more you can use during your flights later on down the list too!)
5. This Pillow for Flying
I… really don’t like those C shaped pillows. When my mother gifted me this “pillow”, I was skeptical of it at first. But low and behold, this thing SERIOUSLY impressed me. I was able to sleep far better than I EVER have with any of those C-shaped Pillows.
6. Fine, if you like those C-Shaped Pillows, get THIS ONE.
If you’re a die hard for the C-Shaped Pillows, then get this one, which allows you to stuff it with laundry. If I’ve learned anything from my trips to Japan it’s that I ALWAYS want more space in my suitcases. I also don’t like traditional “pre-stuffed” C-shaped pillows because they always stuff the area behind my neck too much and I end up with an awkward crick in my neck after using them. This version is great as you can use it to stuff your socks or a sweater or a scarf inside or the Blanket that comes with it inside instead. And then you can adjust how it lays so it’s never too firm in a place you don’t want it to be (or you can make it firm all around – you do you!).
7. Baby Wipes
The worst thing with 14 hour flights is that you tend to feel crummy afterwards. And by crummy, I mean… dirty. Like you want a shower. Too bad those don’t typically exist on planes. However for that reason, my carry on always includes a pack of baby wipes, along with a fresh pair of undergarments. Near the end of my flight, I go to the bathroom. There I use the baby wipes to wipe off areas that I feel grimy and gross before putting on a fresh set of underwear and a clean bra. It’s not a shower, but you’d be surprised by how much of a relief it can be!
Not to mention, you can use the baby wipes to wipe down surfaces on the plane in other public areas once you’re in Japan. I like to keep them on me, especially in train stations. While heavily used station bathrooms do have soap, not all of them do. So the baby wipes are great to have just in case after using the restroom in the event there’s no soap to use when washing your hands!
(You can also get travel packs of these at your local drug store!) 😉
8. Phone Mount
Admittedly, I tend to bring a laptop or tablet, so I don’t typically watch things on my phone while on the flight to and from Japan. But if that’s where your entertainment will lie, it doesn’t hurt to bring one of these so you’re not tilting your neck down for 14 hours! However, it is just one more thing and space is important while packing for trips to Japan. So only get this if you really do plan to use your phone as your primary source of entertainment on the flight.
9. This Neck Reading Light
Long flights typically ‘go dark’ pretty quickly. The shades on all of the windows go down and for the most part, the cabin is dark. There are those little reading lights from above, but honestly, I hate those since they’re harsh and can be disruptive to others. These are super useful on the plane for that reason, and they are less disruptive to others. They’re also great for everyday use at home or even at your hotel. If you like to read on flights, this is a must have.
10. A Sleep Mask
On the same note as the above recommendation, if you have trouble sleeping due to lights being on, even if they’re minimal, consider bringing a sleep mask like this one that blocks out all of the light. While typically flights crossing over from the US to Japan are dark for the most part, if you’re particularly sensitive to light and want to sleep on the flight to or from, these can be a lifesaver.
These are what I’d consider pretty standard, particularly for any international flights. But Japan’s an international flight, no matter where you’re coming from. See why I choose to use these when I pack for a trip to Japan.
11. Suitcases by Samsonite
Hopefully you have a suitcase already. But if you don’t, you can’t go wrong with anything by Samsonite. These suitcases are built to last, so while they’re a little pricey, you’ll be able to use them for years, if not decades. A totally worthwhile purchase if suitcases are something that you’re lacking.
12. Duffel Bag
I said it above, and I’ll say it again. LUGGAGE SPACE IS IMPORTANT. But luggage can also be expensive though and often times you’re not going to need 2 checked bags on the way TO Japan. And who wants to pay for a checked empty suitcase just in case you buy a lot of stuff. (Don’t worry, you probably will btw, but that’s a discussion for another time). In short though, you might want 2 on the way back.
My solution to this is to pack a duffel bag in my checked bag on the way there. Then, if I end up buying a lot while in Japan, I whip out my duffel bag and stuff all of the items that don’t need the protection of a hard case (like my clothes, or in my case, fabric lol), into the duffel bag. Doing this can save about $50 each time I go to Japan. And if I don’t end up needing it, then I just leave it in my checked bag from before. No harm, no foul. 🙂
13. Space Bags
Again, it’s all about making space. Space Bags, particularly these, which you roll to get the air out of (thus you don’t need a vacuum), are great for travel to make just a little extra room in your bag. A word of caution though. Use these on your carry on bag. While you CAN use these for your checked bag items, you may end up with ‘too much’ space and then stuff your suitcase so that it’s overweight.
And speaking of which…
14. This Portable Suitcase Weigh Scale
I ALWAYS use this thing. I hate being that person at the airport who over-stuffs her bag (and I do) and then hog up a scale constantly while I try to repack my bags until it’s under 50 pounds. Or worse, going back and forth with my luggage off to the side and back to the scale – it’s such a waste of time. With this, I can weigh everything before I even get to the airport, no sweat. It’s a great tool to have.
15. Make Up Bag
Just… just… if you wear make up, get one. I like ones like this because I prefer to board my flight to Japan and bring it in my carry on. That way, before I land, I can pull it out and use a mini mirror and do my make up. That way I’m not wearing make up during the flight and my skin can have a little reprieve. But I can still look semi “together” once I land. ^^; This bag by Rae Dunn has been a lifesaver for me. I like that it’s large and can fit a ton of make up if I need it, but can squish easily if I need it to. Plus the interior is black so it stays unstained for longer if something happens to open inside the bag without my permission. (For those of my cosplayer readers, I use it for cosplay too and highly recommend it!)
16. Travel Bottles for Shampoo, Conditioner, Bodywash, and Other Liquid Items
If you like traveling with your own shampoo/conditioner/bodywash and they don’t make travel sized versions, grab yourself a set of these. They’re so nice and compact and total life savers so you don’t have to bring all of the bottles thus losing space to them.
17. A Reusable Laundry Bag
I… hate having my dirty laundry mix with my clean laundry. And depending on where you stay, you may or not get any plastic ‘laundry’ bags that you can use to separate the dirty stuff from the clean (ugh!). For that reason, I like to bring my own and this one is great since it just zips right up into a little pouch when not in use!
18. Fabric Softener Sheets
On the same note, if you’re not someone who uses fabric softener sheets, get them and bring them. If you want to do laundry, you might be able to use them in a drier. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY (sort of), throwing these in your dirty laundry bags helps keep the stink down until you can wash your dirty clothes! Love that!
Different outlet types, the fear of your phone dying on you in the middle of a country where you don’t speak the language, and Mario wanting you to help him save Princess Peach? Trust me when I say you’re absolutely going to want these electronic accessories for when you go to Japan. So do yourself a favor and grab these items for your own sanity.
19. Travel Adapter Plugs for US to Japan Conversion (Type A to Type B)
While Japan does have both Type A and Type B Electrical Plugs/Outlet, the vast majority of outlets in my experience tend to be Type B (fits 2 prongs), which can be a problem for foreigners with electronics that need charging and require a Type A outlet (fits 3 prongs). As such, plug adapters are essential to bring to Japan if you are coming from America so that all of your devices always work with various outlets. I like the one linked above because it’s simple and not prone to breaking like some other converters that claim to be ‘universal’. In reality, most ‘universal’ ones are cheap and I find them to be a headache to use. So unless you’re regularly traveling all over the world, these are the best hassle free Adapter Plugs for those traveling to Japan from the United States
20. Power Strip Tower with USB Ports
While having adapter plugs are essential, the biggest pain in the neck is to have to bring dozens of them. For that reason, I like to bring a Power Strip Tower so I can charge multiple things at once and all off one plug – a total win! And, if you tend to pack heavy on the electronics like I do, this tower absolutely will be able to handle all of your charging needs while being pretty dang small and compact. This is also particularly useful for those traveling with tons of electronics. A total must have, especially if this sounds like you! Plus it’s super compact and lightweight, making it easy to fit into your suitcase.
(If you don’t want a tower but need at least a few outlets, you can also simply get a regular power strip with a surge protector! Those work just as well too. Below, I included that option for you as well, so don’t say I never did nothing for ya.) 😉
21. Portable Charger Power Bank
Trust me when I say you’ll likely be using your phone (and portable wi-fi if you order one) like crazy! Whether it’s for browsing the internet, taking pictures, finding train routes, using translation or map apps, you will likely suck your phone’s battery dry pretty quickly while in Japan. I love and suggest you get for your trip to Japan this one. I always use it regularly while there. I’ve never had it run dry on me and I love that it’s lightweight, which is important when you’re walking everywhere. (And trust me, you WILL be walking a lot while in Japan).
22. A Real Camera – Panasonic Lumix G7
I know, I know, everyone has a camera in their phone. But like, no, really, you should consider bringing an actual camera that’s no on your phone. Why? Because Japan is beautiful and you’re going to want to get pictures of things close up and your phone just won’t have the range. I always suggest the Panasonic Lumix G7. It’s incredibly lightweight, easy to use/learn to use, and has a pretty good range with the base lens. Plus it’s one of the more affordable cameras on the market. Just trust me, you’ll thank me later. 😉
23. Nintendo Switch
… yeah I know you don’t want to look like the dork on the plane. But you know what? Those dorks on the plane are entertained, dang it. There’s probably only so many movies that you want to watch over the course of 14 hours. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch is an EXCELLENT way to ‘switch’ up what you’re doing during the long flight (pardon the pun). Will you use it a lot in Japan itself? Probably not. But if you land in Narita Airport in Tokyo (not Tokyo’s Haneda Airport), there is currently a Nintendo Welcome Center. (And there’s a Nintendo Store in Shibuya too). So for those instances, it’s also pretty cool to have a Nintendo Switch on you. So get for your trip to Japan a Nintendo Switch. 😉
24. Noise Canceling Headphones or Earbuds
Whether you’re on the plane or on a train, either of these are just nice to have. Not surprising, I know, but hey, at least I told you and my consciousness is clean. ^^; Personally, I prefer having headphones for the plane, but earbuds for the train. I have found you can never go wrong with anything under the Bose brand. However, they can be pricey (and sometimes their wireless earbuds can be heavy and hurt). For that reason, I also recommend the Apple AirPods. They’re lightweight and while not completely sound proof, they do a pretty descent job blocking out unwanted noise.
Other Things to Have for Use in Japan
You might not need all of these, depending on your pain tolerance and familiarity with using chopsticks. But I have a feeling something in this section will be something you haven’t thought of or will find EXTREMELY useful and helpful while in Japan.
25. Chopstick Helpers
Most places in Japan will have forks and knives as options. But… not every place. And if you suck at using chopsticks (there’s no shame in this btw!), these Chopstick Assisters might be a lifesaver. I also like that these are much more subtle than others you will find on the market. Not to mention, while they come with chopsticks, they can also work with any set of chopsticks that you encounter in the wild. ^_^
26. Your Choice of OTC Pain Relief Medication
….sighs…. If you’re an American, I’m telling you now – pain medication in Japan will do NOTHING for you. Whereas here in America, we’re all about ‘EXTRA STRENGTH’ everything, Japan is all about ‘use only what’s necessary’. As a result, Americans have a high tolerance and need higher doses of pain relievers for them to do any good, which is not what is available in Japan. (Don’t get me started on what happened during my first time of the month over there – I thought I was going to die). So bring your own OTC Pain Medication from home. (And be sure to check that it’s okay to bring your medication of choice into the country! You can find out how by checking out my article How to Check if You Can Bring Your Medication into Japan here.)
27. These Toiletries in Particular: Mouthwash, Toothpaste, Deodorant
This is again one of those…. things where I personally just really don’t like what’s available over there and I’ve heard other foreigners say the same (hey, it’s what you’re used to!). While many people may want to buy these toiletries once there to save on space, just…. don’t. Bring your own toothpaste. Bring your own mouthwash. And please, bring your own Deodorant. The toothpaste and mouthwash will taste better. The deodorant you bring from home will work better on you. (Not that Japanese deodorant doesn’t work at all – it just… idk, something about my stuff from home just always worked better on me, while the Japanese deodorant always worked fine for the Japanese, so I really don’t know. Maybe it’s just a different bit of biology.)
Whatever the case, just… just bring these and save yourself the trouble. Here are two links to Mouthwash and Toothpaste from popular brands here in the US. I’m not going to bother with deodorants because… well, there are so many. Just pack them dang it.
(Remember too, you can likely find travel sizes of these at your local grocery or drug store too!)
28. Portable Toothbrushes
Do I like using my normal toothbrush? Yes. Yes I do. But do I like it getting wet and caked in stuff because it’s been sitting in a ziplock baggy? No. No, I do not. That’s why I like to bring portable toothbrushes with me on vacations, like these. I do that or I bring a toothbrush cover to use to protect my toothbrush. Portable toothbrushes are nice though because I can toss them at the end of my trip. Sure, I could keep using them. But eh, I find they’re better for short term use – like on vacations! Check out the options below, including an electric one if you just can’t go without. 😉
Melatonin is a lifesaver when it comes to helping you adjust to the new sleep schedule. It’s also something I like to bring on the plane if I plan to sleep on the flight. (I don’t like to sleep on the way to Japan, but I absolutely must sleep on the flight back to the States). And who doesn’t like little gummies before bed?
Start with taking just 5 mg of Melatonin as that might be all you need. This is especially true if you’re not used to taking Melatonin. In general too, always start out taking lower doses of any sleep aid. This can prevent you from accidentally oversleeping and missing precious time on your trip for exploring Japan!
If Melatonin doesn’t work for you, consider reaching out to your doctor who can prescribe special sleep aid medications for you. Again, just make sure you can bring them into Japan legally.
30. Jet Lag Remedy
I am ambivalent about these, but if they work for you, DEFINITELY consider bringing them. Being able to up and go once you’re there is a great feeling. Plus it doesn’t hurt to have them once you’re back home.
31. Under the Door Wedge Safety Lock and Alarm
I always make it a point to pack this with me when I travel, especially if I’m not staying in a hotel. While Japan is incredibly safe (it’s one of the safest countries in the world), it never hurts to bring one along. It gives me solid peace of mind.
32. Good Walking Shoes (And NOT necessarily the ones Google recommends)
People say you walk a lot in Disneyworld. I DARE them to compare that to the amount you walk in Japan. Good walking shoes are essential for your time in Japan. But because everyone has a different way of walking, a different foot size, etc., I do NOT recommend simply searching on Google for the ‘most recommended walking shoe’ on the market). Go to a specialty store and get fitted for a good shoe. You (and your feet) will thank me later.
But okay. What if you don’t have a specialty store near you or the time to go to one? While I don’t really want to recommend a specific shoe or even a specific brand, I will say that I’ve had luck with Brooks shoes, for what that’s worth. You can find their shoes on their online store or on their Amazon store if you’re in a pinch. They’re a bit pricey – they’re specialty shoes after all. But they feel great. 🙂
if you like to ‘fit in’ and not look “touristy” when you travel, in general, you will not stand out wearing a sneaker type shoe for most places that you go while in Japan, with the exception of maybe Tokyo or perhaps specific locations where a dress code is expected. Tokyo is an incredibly conservative, but also fashion forward city. If individuals are not going to work, many people dress nicely while out in the city. Sneakers can pass in Tokyo just fine though if you work it into a fashion forward, stylish outfit. Just think ahead and you’ll be fine. 😉 Also, yes stockings are a thing in Japan and people do wear them with sneakers at times.
33. Compression Socks
As I just mentioned, you’ll be likely walking A LOT in Japan. Compression Socks are great to bring for long plane rides in the event you tend to get bloated on flights, but they’re also great to wear at night after a long day of walking. They REALLY can help the swelling go down – and just keep drinking water to flush it all out!
34. Dr. Scholls Inserts
If you, for whatever reason, have to be stuck in a certain shoe NOT made for walking all day, bring a set of Dr. Scholls inserts. You’ll be thanking yourself that you did. You can buy Dr. Scholls at any Walgreens or CVS. I recommend to go to your local drug store in person as often, you can use special machines at the store to determine which would be the best for you. That said, you can also buy them on Amazon on their store below.
35. Heel Protectors
Yep, along the lines of walking for a long time, you’d be surprised how much your ankles can be rubbed raw by the back of your shoes. Thank heaven Dr. Scholl’s makes these gel heel liners too. Bring these in case you start to feel the backs of your shoes rubbing the backs of your ankles a lot while walking. It can prevent you from cutting them up each day!
If you really don’t want to bring these, these are something you can easily find and buy in Japan at the local convenience store (konbini) or drug store in a pinch!
36. Tote Bags (In particular, small ones for trash!)
While in Japan, you’ll notice that there are literally almost no public trash cans… anywhere. After the Tokyo Subway Sarin Attack in 1995, public trash cans became near non-existant in Japan. Instead, everyone in Japan now throws their trash out at the store where they may have bought an item OR they stuff their trash in their bag and dispose of it at home. Since you probably don’t want your trash mingling with other things in your bag, a small tote bag like this is great for keeping your trash separate until you get back to your hotel or the place you’re staying at… and it doesn’t cost you much at all!
37. These Laundry Detergent Travel Packs
I… don’t really like to do my laundry in Japan. Primarily because laundry driers are not always a thing (washing machines are – but most people simply hang their clothes out to dry). However, if you’ve got to do your laundry and you’re not familiar with the Japanese language, just bringing your own set from home is a much easier option. Plus, you use them and then don’t have to bring them back, so you get more space in your bag – a total win!
Buy These While in Japan
Last but not least, here are items you can either only get in Japan or I would suggest waiting and buying in Japan.
38. IC Card
These are a MUST have while in Japan. IC Cards come in several forms, including a digital version now via this app here (On Apple Here and on Google Play Here), but you can also get physical forms which also can work well as little souvenirs (there’s even a special one for tourists that you can return and get some money back on at the end of your trip!). IC Cards are essential train passes that you load up with cash and swipe at the gates each time you ride the train to pay for your ride.
You can purchase IC Cards at any train station at the ticket booth. If your pass depletes, you simply reload it with cash at any train station (and they have English pages to allow you to do this too!). Plus, you can reload before or while you’re on the train platform. I can’t recommend getting one of these enough. They save you so much time and confusion trying to figure out the amount you need to pay for tickets to get from one station to another.
There are a number of IC Cards out there (both physical and virtual), but the most common are Suica and Pasmo, and they pretty much all work across all of the train lines and train operators across Japan. They also work on most busses too and many places accept them as a form of payment (like a debit card) that you simply tap to pay. If you don’t like carrying cash (though Japan is incredibly safe, I promise, but I get it!), loading your cash onto an IC card is a great way to give you peace of mind in that way too. Overall, it’s a must have!!
39. Coin Purse
These little things can be purchased everywhere, and I mean everywhere. While there are a number at tourist destinations, you can also buy them at Hyaku-en-Shops (100 Yen Shops) like Daiso and Can Do as well. They’re cute, they’re little, and trust me, even though Japan is adopting a more contactless outlook on payment preferences, you’ll likely still use some cash… and that means coins.
Lots and lots of coins…
40. These “IcyHot” pads (Kyusoku Jikan)
You can bring these from America if you want to. However, I only buy them when I need them and you can easily buy these at convenience stores all over Japan and in drug stores. They’re another way to relieve sore muscles and feet after a long day of walking!
Things I Do Not Typically Recommend (And When You Should Get Them):
1. JR Rail Pass
The moment you start searching for information on traveling in Japan, you’re going to get ads up the wazzu for the JR Rail Pass. It’s marketed as a ‘quick’ easy way to get around Japan for a cheaper price… but that’s not really true.
The JR Rail Pass comes with several disadvantages.
- You always have to show your pass to the station master before going through the gates to the train platforms as well as when you exit the train platforms (which is far slower than using an IC Card).
- You can not take the fastest Shinkansen (Bullet Train), unless you upgrade, so you may end up losing valuable travel time.
- It’s not always as useful in cities outside of Tokyo and Osaka.
- Often times, you lose money by buying the JR Rail Pass.
How You Can Lose Money with the JR Rail Pass:
That last one is important too. Figuring out if the JR Rail Pass will ultimately save you money is the main thing you should think about when deciding if you want to purchase a pass. Most people think if they take the Shinkansen to and from Tokyo to another city that it will make up for the cost of the JR Pass, but that’s just not the case. (A typical roundtrip from Tokyo to Kyoto for instance is about 14,000 yen, but the JR pass is — yen).
Additionally, the cost of the local trains typically doesn’t amount to much for those visiting Japan, even in cities like Tokyo and Osaka where train usage is heavy. The most I’ve ever spent in one day on a train is 3,000 yen and I was running errands in Tokyo, not spending hours in a few places like you would do while visiting. It’s more likely that on average, guests of Japan will spend at most 2,000 yen a day on the train and more often than not, only 1,500 yen max a day. (And that’s in Tokyo – in a place like Kyoto, you’re going to be using the train even less more often than not).
So… when is a good time to get a JR pass? Honestly, if you’re doing a huge cross country trip, that’s about the only time you’ll likely make up the difference. Even then, you have to keep in mind that you will not be able to travel on the fastest trains.
A handy tool to see if the JR Rail Pass may be worth it for you is located here on Japan-Guide. Use this and only buy the JR Rail Pass if it truly will save you money and work well for your travel plans.
2. Translation Devices / Dictionaries
Translation Devices and Dictionaries used to be a big thing to for tourists traveling to a country where the native and primary language used was not their own. Today though, you really can find all of these things on your phone via apps or the internet. You can see which phone apps I recommend for these purposes here in my blog article Top 10 Japan Travel Apps and Websites here. The other reason I don’t really recommend these things though is because, cities, especially Tokyo, have a lot of things already translated into English. This is particularly true at popular tourist destinations. Tokyo especially though has English just about everywhere and most Tokyoites speak some English. And if they don’t, they can often read and write in it. This is because Tokyo was anticipating a huge influx of foreigners during the 2020 Olympics… which didn’t happen. But hey, at least everything is pretty foreigner friendly now???
So when would you want something like this? When you’re out in the middle of no where OR if you don’t trust technology. Here are some highly recommended ones:
I know we like to be prepared… but umbrellas are very annoying to pack. Even if they collapse, like this one here, they take up space and you just don’t know if you’ll need it. Umbrellas in Japan can be purchased very cheaply though at convenience stores and Hyaku En Shops, which always put them out in bad weather. I suggest leaving your umbrellas behind for that reason, particularly if you’re short on space. You can always throw away the umbrellas you buy after you’re done with them (they’re just that cheap!). So this is something you don’t need to get for your trip to Japan.
That’s it! There’s my list of must haves for your next trip to Japan. Let me know if any of these things have helped you either before or during your trip to Japan. And let me know if there’s anything in addition you bring with you on your journeys! I love hearing about other people’s experiences in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Till next time!