A Guide to Packing

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Macks Koontz
May 22, 2023

Okay, so you’re going to see so many things saying to pack light, so this is just to reiterate: pack light. When packing, make sure to look at it from the perspective of when you’re packing up to leave. You’re going to have a lot of souvenirs and extra stuff that you’ve bought, and when it comes to packing, you’re going to want to keep all of that and then if you don’t have room for it, you will have to throw away the stuff you initially bought (or mail it off which is very pricey). So if it isn’t an absolute necessity, it will most likely be in that category.

I brought my backpack, another over-the-shoulder bag, a medium-sized suitcase, and a large suitcase. In the big suitcase, I left about a third of a suitcase of room, but I still had to throw away quite a bit of stuff for it to all fit on my way back. So here are some suggestions on what to pack/not to pack:

What to pack:

  • Comfortable clothing and one or two formal outfits (you shouldn’t need more than a week’s worth of clothes!)
  • A good pair of comfortable shoes, slip-on shoes, and maybe one pair of formal ones if you really want to bring them. I wouldn’t bring over three pairs of shoes unless you are completely positive that you can bring them back (as someone who may or may not have had to throw away 2 pairs of shoes cause they couldn’t fit it in their luggage…)
  • A bathing suit (I only used mine like 2 times, but it’s better to have it just in case, especially because they can be hard to buy here because of sizing and such)
  • Any specialized hygiene products that you need to have (for example, I’m allergic to a lot of deodorants, so I brought 3 of the deodorant that I’m not allergic to)
  • Also with that, I would suggest in general bringing the deodorant you like from home because there aren’t nearly as many options for deodorant here
  • A towel (you only really need one because you will have access to a laundry machine) as well as a couple of washrags (you can buy the washrags in Japan though—that is what I did)
  • A stuffed animal of some kind because it will provide comfort and the pillows we’re given are not the best in my opinion. You can also go to the store and get a cheap one obviously, but I prefer stuffed animals—to each their own.
  • A laptop (you need it for class), and all of the technology stuff you’ll need (chargers, adapter, etc.). I would suggest bringing a portable charger, but it’s not necessary. I personally didn’t bring one and I bought it here for fairly cheap, but if you already have one, I would definitely bring it!
  • Your favorite headphones or just a good pair in general
  • One or two small things that remind you of home or something that makes you happy
  • Any clothing that is specific to the weather during your stay (I went in the spring semester, so I packed shorts and such which were needed, but at the beginning of the semester it was really cold, so I am very glad I brought my hoodie and a couple of pairs of joggers)
  • A camera if you’re into taking photos and stuff :)
  • Gifts for your host family if you’re staying in a homestay
  • A good wallet that will hold yen, not just cards! The wallets here can get pretty pricey even though they are really good quality, so I would recommend just bringing one for yourself. Also a coin purse if you have one! If you don’t, you can definitely find one here for a lot cheaper than wallets.
  • Your debit cards and such (make sure to notify the bank you’ll be out of the country!)
  • Your medicine! Also, make sure to talk to the staff about the procedures for your medicine in particular– if it’s psych meds you might have to get a Yunyu Kakunin-sho or set up a psychiatrist here (you can see my other blog about Psychiatry in Japan for that specifically!)
  • Bring an extra outfit/toiletries in carry-on just something happens to your luggage on the way there!

What not to pack:

  • Anything for the plane you know you won’t or have doubts about using (i.e., don’t be like me and bring two of your favorite books and almost have to throw them away cause you didn’t have room)
  • An excess amount of socks—they add so much to your luggage on the way back, and you can easily find them in Japan. Even if you are really particular about your socks (like me), I wouldn’t bring over a week’s worth. Do bring a lot of underwear/bras thoughmaybe a week and a half’s worth.
  • School materials (like notebooks) because you can find them on and around campus very easily for very cheap.
  • Adding to that, don’t bring a bunch of stationery (like pens and such) unless you will genuinely use all of it. I brought like 3 pencil cases worth of stuff and most of it ended up trashed because of lack of space and I also never used most of it.
  • Anything that is super special to you and you don’t want getting lost
  • An umbrella—they are very accessible and cheap here, and you’ll probably end up throwing the one you used here anyways for lack of space.
  • Any game consoles
  • Any expensive items that aren’t a necessity (e.g., movie players, instruments, etc.)
  • A bunch of accessories you wouldn’t normally wear (e.g., I wouldn’t bring an expensive necklace that you only plan on wearing once)
  • More than one water bottle. Just a PSA that they don’t have water fountains (I did not know about that). Also, if you do need more than one water bottle, they have really cheap ones at DAISO.
  • More than two or three purses/bags
  • Blankets/Bedding Material (they are provided)
  • Kitchen utensils (also provided)
  • A bunch of hoodies/jackets (I would only bring one! It takes up a lot of space)
  • Coat hangers (some are provided and you can also buy them there—it’ll take up space in your luggage you’ll need)
  • Extension cord (you can buy a very cheap one at the conbini and you will probably end up throwing it away, and if you do, you’ll have to buy another one in the states and they are more expensive there)

I hope this helps a little bit! Also, everyone’s packing experience is a little different, so use your best judgment! This is just my experience :)

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Macks Koontz

Hello! My name is Macks and I'm a sophomore at the University of Tennessee majoring in Child and Family Studies with a minor in Japanese. I love learning, hiking, reading, and playing the guitar/ukulele. Studying abroad is super important to me and I am so very excited to be able to share my journey with other people :)

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