When you have decided to live in Japan, one of the first things that may cross your mind is “What do I need to bring?” This is both an easy and tough question to think about. There are obvious things, like clothing, or certain personal objects. There are some things, that even if you can buy them in Japan, you will find your home country may have the better version.
The first thing is clothing, especially if you are larger than the average Japanese person. Large-sized clothing is slowly becoming more available in the country, but it is still hard to find larger sized clothes. There are usually specialty stores, or if you’re lucky, a large section in a close chain store. You can usually tell that the store has a big section when there is some sign with “MEGA” on it. New stores have been opening recently, but only in more populated areas. That means if you live farther in the countryside, or on the outskirts of the city, it may mean you will have to travel further to get to a store that can meet your needs. In Japan, they size S-L, with larger sizes, extra L’s are added. When comparing sizes to US sizes, a Japanese LL is closer to a US L. You can use that to adjust for larger sizes as needed. You may want to bring a lot of clothes with you if you’re larger than the average person. This will help when you search for stores that you like to shop in.
Shoes can be even more difficult to find than clothing. The average size for men’s shoes in Japan is around 26 to 28cm, or a US size 9-11. If your foot is any larger than that, you will have a very difficult time finding shoes. The average shoe store in Japan stops at size 28, and very rarely carry anything over that. Even though most big size stores carry shoes, you may not find styles that you want, or the prices may be more as the shoes are not usually sold. You could buy these things off of the internet, but there is always a chance that the item may not be the right size. Bringing a few pairs of shoes is recommended if you have larger than normal sized feet.
Medication is something that can be a very difficult thing to work with. There are many rules against certain kinds of medication, and what you can bring into the country. Most things will require a doctor’s note from your physician if you need to bring it in, as well as to get more while you live in the country. In terms of over the counter drugs, they are made to suit typical Japanese bodies. Some medicines are very small in size, and with fewer amounts of medication in each box. Some brands can be comparable, and even a few brands have made it over to Japan. If you need special medication, make sure to contact your doctor for documentation.
When it comes to personal hygiene, most products in Japan will not be as strong as their western counterparts. Deodorant is one of the main things that you will find is not as strong as western versions. You may find yourself applying deodorant three or more times a day. Toothpaste is something that is said to be less powerful as well. Most of that is due to smaller amounts of fluoride in the toothpaste. There are western kinds of toothpaste that are close to what you may be used to, but they are also slightly more expensive. Shampoos and other toiletries are comparable to western ones, and some western products are unchanged in Japan as well. You should have an easy time finding products that will work for you.
Another thing you may want to think of is bringing some food or seasonings that you may not be able to find in the country. You can find many kinds of foods and seasonings here, but some may not be in the country or will be more expensive due to import pricing. There are a few stores that focus on import products as well, and you may be surprised by what products have made their way over to Japan. Try to make sure it is small and can travel well, as some things may not be allowed in either.
It might be a good idea to bring some small things from your home, like souvenirs, or small local candies. If you are working in a new company, or teaching, your new co-workers would love to receive a small gift from your home country. It is usually customary for people to bring souvenirs back from their travels. These are usually small chocolates or other snacks. Since you would be a foreigner coming into the country they would not expect you to do this, but it would go very far with your new co-workers. The person you want to make sure gets one is the leader of your department or principal of the school. Once again, it isn’t necessary, but it would win you points at your new job.
When you’re packing, think about what is most important to you when you go to Japan. If you think you will have a harder time with clothes, pack extra, or look ahead if you know your new housing situation, to find stores near you. You can find almost everything you would want or need in the country, you just need to look. Be prepared to pay a little extra, and you should have no problem getting what you want.