Getting ready to move to another country is an exciting but sometimes stressful experience. Hopefully you've already already prepared yourself by reading my other post, 7 tips about things you should do before coming to Japan. When you come to Japan, you'll need to strike a balance between bringing the things you need and not bringing a bunch of stuff that's just going to collect dust.
Japan has a population of roughly 126 million people and everyone seems to get everything they need. So, if you forget something you can probably find it here. However, it might be hard to find and / or more expensive than what you're used to. With that being said, here is my list of things you will probably want to bring with you when coming to Japan.
Chances are that you aren't going to be paid for a while when you first come to Japan. You can try to get by without spending too much money, but for peace of mind and general preparedness, make sure you bring enough cash to get yourself setup. Keep in mind that I said CASH. Many places don't take credit cards in Japan, cash is king!
You will need enough money to live for about three weeks. Paying fees for setting up services and furnishing your apartment can also take a bite out of your wallet. If you want to get a fancy new phone from one of the big three phone providers (SoftBank, aU, or Docomo), you're going to need cough up about ￥70,000. You can pay for a phone in installments using a credit card but then you'll always be paying your bill with that card. Then you'll have to send money to your account in the USA to payoff your phone bill. If that sounds like too much for a phone, I have my own suggestion about getting a cheap phone in Japan. Keep an eye out for an update later on!
You need something to hold all your things, right? A couple of sturdy pieces of luggage are a must when you're making the big move. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just something that won't fall apart.
Most airlines will let you check two fifty pound bags for free on international flights. A third bag will cost you somewhere around $100 to bring. Remember, just because you can bring all of your stuff with you doesn't mean you should! Really think about your lifestyle and what you're going to use.
When I came to Japan, I brought a big rolling suitcase, a military style duffel bag and a camping backpack. If I were to do it over again, I think just two bags would have been enough. I brought a lot of camping gear that I don't really get a chance to use, but it's nice to have around in case of an emergency!
People in Japan like to travel a lot so you can get some pretty good deals on luggage upgrades when you're here.
3. Medicine / First aid
Finding medicine in Japan poses a few challenges. Japanese drug stores carry remedies for all kinds of problems, but it will probably be different from what your used to.
Everyone has different needs based on their lifestyle, so I would advise looking at the medications and medicines you regularly use and bringing some with you. I brought some multi-vitamins, a big bottle of Aleve, cough medicine (Nyquil and Dayquil), antacids, and anti-diarrhea medicine (recommended if you'll be traveling to places without clean water).
Like I said earlier, there are versions of all of these things out here, but when you're not feeling well, the last thing you want to do is decipher Japanese characters in the hopes that you're on your way to finding relief. Twenty four hour drug stores are also very rare in my neck of the woods. Vitamins are also a lot more expensive in Japan compared to the USA.
For more information on medicine in Japan, check out these two guides about medicine in Japan (post one - post two).
If you already have a first aid kid put together, you might want to bring it. You can also buy one in Japan or save a little money by putting one together with the things you'll need.
4. Personal care items
Personal appearance is a big deal in Japan so you'll always want to look your best. You don't have to be a supermodel, but most people in Japan are well dressed and groomed.
When considering what to bring, think about your daily routine and what you'll need to get by. You don't have a bring a lot with you unless you have a really specific product you like to use and know they don't have it in Japan. You may even find that you like some Japanese products more than products in your home country.
Products like nail clippers, brushes, combs, toothpaste, face wash, lotion, and other personal care items are all readily available in ￥100 shops, drug stores, grocery stores, department stores, and even convenience stores. Keep in mind that ethnic hair care products are not widely available in Japan so if you're sporting an afro don't forget your pick!
5. Everday clothes
This will probably take up the majority of your baggage. We often think that we need more clothes than we actually end up using. Most of your time will be spent working or commuting to work, so find out what the dress code is and bring clothes that are comfortable and meet that standard. You'll probably want to bring along anything you need to wear for any sports or specialty activities you're into (like running, swimming, cycling, martial arts, etc).
In my job, men have to wear shirts with a collar and we can't wear jeans or shorts. It's very hot and humid during the summer in Japan so I tend sweat a lot. I brought a bunch of golf polos and light weight slacks so I can look professional and stay comfortable. I usually wear them outside of work hours, too.
For the winter months, I suggest buying something in Japan. Unless you have a nice down jacket, coat, or something you really love to wear in the winter, you probably don't need to bring it. Japan has some nice winter clothes and accessories that are reasonably priced. I bought some thermal undershirts that are pretty warm. I can easily layer them under my polo shirts and stay toasty on the job. I also bought a cheap jacket from the local Workman that does a good job of blocking wind and insulating against the cold.
You'll only have trouble buying clothes in Japan you're really big or have a non-Japanese body type. For men, anything above a size large in the USA may limit your options. You will be able to get clothes, but the styles and colors you want might not be available. Some stores have a plus size section but the clothes tend to be expensive. There are a specialty stores few stores that have big sizes, so you will be able to get something. Uniqlo carries big sizes on their website that aren't available in their stores. You can also order clothes from Amazon, Target, eBay, and other websites and have them shipped to Japan.
6. Dressy clothes
This is a big one for men. For women, most dressy occasions call for something business casual. Depending on what you did in college, is possible that you've made it this far without needing to wear a suit. Japan is a lot more formal than other countries and you will probably have to wear a suit at least a couple of times throughout the year.
Bringing a nice fitting suit will go a long way. If you only get one, black is recommended. It's been said that every man should own one black, one navy blue, and one grey suit so the last two colors are good choices for a second or third suit. My advice is to go with something that's not too expensive just to get a foot in the door. You don't want to blow a bunch of money on something that you'll rarely use, right?
If you find you need to wear suits more often, Japan makes some really nice ones. However, they can be expensive compared to other countries. That being said, you really do get what you pay for the and quality is very high. Some places completely custom make them allowing you to pick out all of the style options, fabrics, and colors. Another option is to take a vacation and pick up a nicely made custom suit from a tailor in Vietnam or Thailand.
Make sure you get a nice dress shirt, tie, and dress shoes to complete the look. If you're in the Southern California area, I suggest 3 Day Suit Broker (I personally go to the Gardena store). Their suits start at $99 and they have an in-house tailor. They often have deals so scope out the website before you go!
Like clothes, think about your lifestyle when you're deciding what shoes to bring. People walk a lot in Japan so make sure your shoes are comfortable. After all, no matter how pretty your shoes are you're not going to be happy if your feet are killing you! If you have smaller feet, you won't have problems finding shoes in Japan.
For my situation, I usually wear a men's shoe size of 12 or 13 in the USA (about a size 30 in Japan). In most Japanese stores, the highest they go up to is about 9.5-10 (26-27 in Japan). I was surprised that I was able to buy a few pairs of dress shoes that fit me at the local Aeon (formerly Jusco). Despite being a Japanese size 28 they fit me pretty well. These shoes were really comfortable because they were made for walking. One pair got a hole in the sole after a couple of years of heavy use, but the other pair is still going strong! If you're worried about finding big shoes, there are a few specialty shops, but they can be expensive. You can check your size here.
Bring shoes that you can wear everyday. Keep in mind that you are also going to need inside shoes (slippers) at your school. If you teach at multiple schools, you can either have a pair for each school or always bring them with you. They don't actually have to be slippers, just something that you can take on and off easily and have never been worn outside. I bought some cheap slip-on shoes at the local Workman. A lot of other teachers wear Crocs.
You are also going to need something you can wear for dressy occasions. Outside of that, you might need to get specialty shoes or boots for running, hiking, or other sports. Gyms require athletic shoes that have never been worn outside as well. Go with a white sole to avoid problems. I highly recommend either bringing a pair of waterproof boots or buying a pair in Japan. When it rains, you may have to walk longer distances than most people are used to, dry feet will keep you happy! The old school rubber boots or waterproof hiking boots are a good choice.
How long can you live without your phone? A good phone can be a big lifesaver in Japan. You can take pictures, get maps, find out how to take the train, use it for translating, and keep in touch with friends and family. When I came to Japan, I didn't take my phone. Life was a lot easier once I got a good one!
Getting a phone can be a tricky situation in Japan. Most phones from the USA don't work with Japanese carriers. So, even though your phone may not work in Japan, you might want to consider bringing it along until you get a Japanese phone. Keep an eye out for a post about getting a phone in Japan.
WiFi is slowly spreading in Japan, but it's not as prevalent as it is in other countries. Yokkaichi has free WiFi in the downtown area. Many other businesses require you to sign up (often requiring a paper form) in order to use their WiFi.
A cheap tablet is a good alternative to a phone.
A computer from home will save you a lot of trouble in Japan. Computers in Japan are usually more expensive than they are in the USA. Most also have Japanese keyboards.
Before coming to Japan, I decided to get a new laptop. If you're in this boat, think about your needs before coming to Japan. With laptops, the major factors to consider are size, features, performance, and cost. I decided to go with a 17 inch laptop because I usually didn't travel with my laptop and it had a DVD burner (Yes, CD-Rs and DVD-Rs are still used in Japan). It's nice for my apartment, but it's a pain to lug around when I need it for work. I'll probably make the switch to a leaner, meaner ultrabook towards the end of the year.
This is something I highly recommend bringing with you. Routers in Japan have gotten a lot cheaper over the years, but they're still more expensive than they are in the USA.
I've had two different apartments in Japan. Both had wired internet already setup but they didn't have a router. If you bring your router with you, you can set up your wireless internet your first day in Japan versus forking over a lot cash at a retail store (maybe ￥5000) or having to wait for an online store to ship it. Again, this depends on your lifestyle and budget. If you're thinking about buying one in Japan, check out Amazon's top selling routers in Japan.
Most of your friends and family back home are going to want to see pictures of your new life in Japan. Most phones can take pretty good pictures now, so cameras are starting to become niche products.
If you're into photography, chances are you already have a decent camera. If you want to get into it while you're here, some cameras from Japanese company's cost about the same as they do back home.
Since most phones take good pictures now, cameras used for special purposes can be helpful. A camera that can take good low light pictures or a rugged action camera can help you capture those memories.
12. Video games
After a long day at work, you're going to want to blow off some steam. After all, where's a better place to play video games than the country that helped make them famous?
If you are already into gaming, you probably have your favorite system already. Go ahead and bring it if you plan on continuing your hobby.
When I came to Japan, I wasn't gaming a lot since I was finishing up my last semester in college. After living in Japan for about 8 months, I bought a PS4 mostly for the purpose of playing Batman: Arkham Knight. It got mine from the Japanese Amazon site used for roughly $300. Most of the modern systems are not region locked so if you bring your PS4 from Japan you can play Japanese games too. Also, getting a Japanese PS4 will get you access to the Japanese PSN.
Would you like to know more?
These are my tips, but there are a lot of different people's experiences to learn from. The more you know, the better you'll be prepared. Here's another page I recommend checking out. Some of the posts are a few years old, but they're very informative!