9 things to bring when traveling Japan

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Are you visiting Japan for just a short time? Here’s a quick list of things that I think are important to bring to make your stay less worrisome and more enjoyable. If you have any suggestions that I didn’t mention, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

  1. Debit Card and $100 - Many people say bring cash because many places don’t accept credit cards. This is only kind of true. I say bring $100 and your debit card instead. At the airport you can minimize  exchange rate fees by changing only $100 into Yen. This way you’ll have cash on hand and can buy some things from the vending machines and pay for transportation when you arrive. Major stores will take a debit card if it has the Visa or Mastercard logo on it. To get money, you can withdrawal using your Visa or Mastercard from almost any Japan Post Office (no ATM fee) or 7-11 (~250 Yen ATM fee). Very fair exchange rates are set each day by Visa or MasterCard, and depending where you bank you’ll be charged 1% from Visa or Mastercard, and 1% or more from your bank. And you’ll have a withdrawal limit of $500 USD per day most likely. And many major stores will accept credit cards as payment.
  2. Deodorant – It gets hot and humid during the summer, and sometimes public transportation cranks up the heat in the winter. To stay dry, you should bring some antiperspirant/deodorant. I haven’t seen it for sale that frequently in Japan. When I did buy it in Japan I had to go to a few pharmacies until I found a Ban Rollon for about 500 Yen. It’s small and lasts maybe 3-4 weeks. Costco sells Speed Stick deodorant (non antiperspirant) but I don’t think it works very well. I really recommend taking at least 1 bottle of Certain Dri Roll-On Anti-Perspirant which almost stops you from sweating.
  3. Hand Sanitizer – I haven’t seen this for sale in Japan. You’ll be touching a lot of things including doorways, bus or subway handles, money, and then it’ll be time to eat! Sometimes it’s hard to find places to wash your hands. Many bathrooms are missing two things… soap and paper towels. When you go to a restaurant they’ll usually give you a wet towel, but I think bringing a small bottle of hand sanitizer will help you stay healthy and give you a piece of mind.
  4. Handkerchief – There’s usually no towel or air dryer in the public bathrooms, and you might need it to wipe sweat from your face in the summer. Something cheap is fine. When you’re in Japan you can hit the shops and find a nice one for 500 yen or a Burberry or Calvin Klein for 1000 yen or less.
  5. Digital Camera – Sure, Japan is known for electronics and gadgets, but they’re not cheap. I find that many things in Japan cost the same or more than in the US. And all Sony products have only Japanese language menus. When you’re capturing memories, it’s better safe than sorry.
  6. 3 Prong Travel Outlet Adapter – Almost all outlets are 2 prong only. So if you have any 3 prong electronics like your laptop, bring an adapter. You could buy one here, but you’re exploring Japan so why waste time looking for one?
  7. Over the counter allergy meds – Seasonal allergies? Allergic to dust, or anything else? You should bring some Clariton or Zyrtec. It’s not sold OTC here, and the OTC meds are expensive and cause drowsiness.
  8. Aspirin – You should bring a small bottle of aspirin or Tylenol. It costs maybe $1-2 in the US for a travel size. If you need to buy it in Japan it’ll cost you around 700 Yen for 20 aspirin pills. If you need to buy some here, look for “Bufferin” or ask for it by the brand name.
  9. Earplugs and Sleep Mask – I recommend this because walls are thin in most buildings, so it might be hard to sleep at times.
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