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For this edition of Locals Approved Packing Lists, La Carmina – a lover of Tokyo – has assisted in providing a reliable account of a locals view for a packing list for Japan when traveling to Tokyo. Keep reading to find out what to bring on your trip!
Packing List for Japan: Tokyo Travel Fashion Tips
Edited by Chantelle Mallin
La Carmina is an alternative Goth Japan fashion blogger and travel TV host (Travel Channel, National Geographic, Discovery, Food Network and more), she was born and raised in Vancouver but has been living in Tokyo on and off since she was a child.
Her popular La Carmina blog has led to international TV hosting and appearances, including New York Fashion Week and Hong Kong Social Media Week. She’s a Huffington Post Travel journalist, author of 3 books (Penguin and Random House), and presents/coordinates TV shows about alternative culture for worldwide networks.
Thank you for your helpful insight La Carmina!
Tokyo Clothing Style
Japan is known throughout the world for setting the trends of innovative and out there styles. There is such a variety of different fashion styles, cultures and subcultures that it’s hard for even the most dedicated to keep up, keep up to date by following Japanese style and fashion blogs (including La Carmina’s).
Tokyo business dress is quite formalized; ‘salary men’ are expected to wear suits to work. However, when it comes to leisure time, anything goes. La Carmina notes – At the fetish/bizarre party Department H, I’ll often see people take off their office clothes… and put on cyber costumes!
In district like Harajuku and Shibuya, youths express themselves through extravagant street style, such as vintage dolly dresses, all-white face makeup and colourful layers, the hot spots are famous for their animated Japanese street fashion and are the places to be to spot new and inventive fashions.
There aren’t any particular rules to adhere involving dress, so don’t stress. Do, however, use common sense for your packing list for Japan. For example in business situations appropriate clothing would be required. Casual clothing is recommended for sightseeing, however it would be suggested you dress up for dining out and drinks, jeans aren’t advised.
Travel Essentials for Your Packing List for Japan
Tokyo has four distinct seasons, each of which will impact your packing list for Japan. The summers are hot and humid (pack mosquito repellent if your visiting in the summer months, however its quite easy to pick up in local drugstores). The winter’s cold but moderate, rain is abundant, but don’t waste space packing an umbrella, you can pick on up at most convenience stores for about $2.
Think light and small (ish) luggage when traveling to and building your packing list for Japan, the luggage space on trains and in coin lockers is quite minimal and the subway stations have vast pathways and some are without elevators.
As a tourist you’ll probably end up taking the subway and walking a great deal so comfortable shoes are a must, shoes that you can easily slip on and off are also a good call – Japanese customs involve taking your shoes off at the door of homes.
If you’ve forgotten an item on your packing list for Japan or just fancy updating your holiday wardrobe, Tokyo has got it covered. For basic items such as socks, basic accessories, makeup and umbrella check out Don Quixote – a chain of large stores that sell inexpensive clothing, home ware, food and electronics, the most well-known location is not far from the Shinjuku subway’s east exit.
Check out the 100 yen shops (‘dollar’ stores), they are a great find for travellers on a budget, there are plenty of 100 yen shops located around Japan, the largest in Tokyo in Daiso Harajuku in Takeshita Dora, a few seconds from Harajuku Station.
La Carmina recommends that visitors check out Tokyo’s incredible street style boutiques, check out her blog for a guide to that best Gothic Lolita Punk stores in various neighbourhoods.
For full travel tips, check out this 7-day itinerary for Japan!
Japan Climate Overview
- Japan consists of four major islands – Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, and lots of smaller islands, the climate differs from region to region – most parts have four distinct seasons. The country varies from a cool temperate climate in the north to subtropical in the south, generally the summers are hot and humid and winters icy and chilly, June/July sees the most rainfall whereas August to October the most typhoons.
- Northern Japan – Characterised by warm summers and long cold winters with abundant snow.
- Central Japan – Characterised by hot humid summers and moderate to short winters, with certain areas having very heavy snow.
- South West Japan – Characterised by long, hot humid summers and mild winters.
- Tokyo – Characterised by a moderate and comfortable climate all year round due to its position in the temperate zone, the weather is often compared to the East Coast of the US.
Here’s what to add to your packing list for Japan in every season:
Packing List for Japan: Tokyo in Spring
La Carmina says: Springtime is beautiful in Tokyo. Cherry blossom season generally takes place at the end of March, and pink blossoms cover the city. During the day, the weather is warm but there may be rain, and evenings can be cold.
Tokyo Packing List
The spring season runs from the months of March to May. The weather is considered mild and rainfall is relatively low. Along with Autumn, Spring is considered by many the best time to visit the city, temperatures are warm but not too hot, the famous cherry blossoms are out and there are plenty of festivals to enjoy.
Try to avoid (or book well in advance) Golden Week – it is the longest holiday of the year and the time when everyone travels and hotels/attractions are booked full.
The best advice for packing for spring would be to LAYER
The temperature from day to night can vary considerably. This means that, for your packing list for Japan, layering is key so you can easily and or remove clothing depending on the temperature.
Pack a pair of capri pants, your favorite trendy jeans, and various tops ranging from simple tees and tanks, printed blouses, and flowering tunics. Opt for neutral colors so outfits can be easily mixed and matched and a selection of cute, comfortable dresses teamed with light tights. Pack a few dressier outfits if you plan on venturing out at night for drinks, meals or partying, think embellished camis and printed dresses.
Spring features some cooler days, so add a light coat to your packing list for Japan, such as a leather jacket, and cute sweater to add to your outfit if you’re feeling a bit nippy, the temperature also drops cool at night – pack a warmer jacket or fleece to combat this, occasional rain showers will occur, don’t forget you’re an easily storable umbrella.
For shoes, pack comfortable options to adhere to the extensive walking and exploring you’ll be doing. Think chic ankle boots, closed toe sandals, and a pair of sneakers.
Packing List for Japan: Tokyo in Summer
La Carmina says: In old Japanese movies, you can see people sweating and fanning themselves! It’s humid and hot, which is typical Asia summer weather.
Tokyo Packing List
The summer months run from June until August, the season begins with a brief rainy period in June, which some years brings daily downpour whereas other years it doesn’t seem like a rainy period at all. Check the local weather forecast before your trip to determine a clearer forecast.
Generally, summer is hot and humid, meaning conditions are extremely warm and sticky. To combat the clamminess stick to light clothing made from cottons and linens. These are breathable fabrics that absorb perspiration and allow body heat to escape, beat the heat and wear white and light colored fabrics that reflect the sun and keep you cool.
For your packing list for Japan, stick to clothes that will keep you cool in the HOT weather. Bring loose flowing shorts, numerous neutral colored tanks, camis, sleeveless blouse and tees. You may find you need to change a few times in the day to combat the humidity.
A pair of harem pants and a maxi skirt will keep you cool whilst protecting you limbs from the sun’s rays. Add femininity to your travel wardrobe by packing a mix of cute printed cami dresses, which can be dressed up at night for delicious cocktails or an elegant meal.
As for shoes, it’s got to be sandals. Pack a pair that are open-toed and comfortable, as you’ll probably doing you fair share of walking.
Accessorize your summer travel outfits with a pair of oversized sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat to combat the sun’s glare. Don’t forget to pack a small but strong umbrella that will keep you dry if you happen to get caught in a summer shower.
Worth a note – In most places the air-con is whacked on high, bring a light jacket, cardigan or pashmina shawl to thrown on if you become slightly nippy, pack something that can be easily stored in your bag when not in use.
Packing List for Japan: Tokyo in Autumn
La Carmina says: Similar to east coast America cities like NYC and DC – brisk and comfortably chill.
Tokyo Packing List
The autumn season lasts from September until November. The temperatures are pleasant and the days clear, and the autumn foliage creates a sea of beautiful colors across the country. Like spring, autumn is considered a great time to visit Tokyo. The season’s climate is characterized by light breezes and mild but pleasant temperatures with less humidity. Autumn also plays host to many of Japan’s exhibitions, music concerts, and sports tournaments.
The month of September is considered a rainy season in Tokyo, and it is also primary typhoon period – but don’t panic. Only a few typhoons are strong, and they usually end with hard-hitting winds and periods of rain. But be prepared as they can cause disruption to the city’s transportation timetables.
If you plan on visiting during this period, add to your packing list for Japan a light waterproof jacket, an umbrella and quick drying clothes in a blended fabric such as poly-cotton. This way, you’ll get the quick-drying properties of polyester and the lightweight breathable characteristics of cotton. The rain gives you the perfect opportunity to check out some of Tokyo’s indoor tourist attractions, such as the Mori Art Museum and the Museum of Photography.
Again, like spring, think layers (gain inspiration from Harajuku street style). Pack a combination of long but light skirts, cropped trousers, and durable leggings for the bottom, mix and match with button-up printed shirts and blouses, casual tees and flowing tunics, accessories with a colorful cotton scarf to add a pop of color to your outfit.
The temperatures in autumn can change substantially between night and day. Pack a colorful sweater and a light jacket to combat the chill. For shoes, think waterproof ankle boots, durable ballet pumps, and a pair of sneakers.
Packing List for Japan: Tokyo in Winter
La Carmina says: It’s cold, especially for someone like me who grew up on the mild West Coast. You can expect snow and wind, but not to the extent that the streets pile up and subways close down.
Tokyo Packing List
The winter months last from December up until February. The temperatures are cool, around 5 – 10ᵒC, and while snow is scarce, it can happen, which can cause delays and affect the subway. Winters in Tokyo in characterized by chilly and grey days. The wind can be freezing cold and days are relatively short with sunset around 5:00pm.
For your winter packing list for Tokyo, stick to fabrics such as wool, fleece, and polyester that can retain warm air and keep moisture out, helping you stay toasty. Opt for faux fur-lined fleeces and winter style coats (try for ones with a hood in case you’re surprised by a cheeky rain shower), jeans, thick leggings, and fitted trousers to keep your legs cozy. Add a mix of long-sleeve tees, blouses and tunics to complete your look.
As for shoes, pack a pair of thick waterproof boots, preferable with fleece lining. These are an essential in the winter months, especially if you get caught in an occasional snow shower.
And don’t forget accessories. Include leather gloves, a colorful scarf and a wool hat, Japanese accessories are cute and chic – think ear muffs shaped like hearts, pink Lolita coats with bow and faux fur trimmings and animal print gloves.
Tokyo Travel Tips
Tokyo is a buzzing city with plenty to do/eat/drink, make sure to fit in all you can and enjoy your experience to the fullest, check out –
- Yoyogi Park – If you manage to visit on a weekend you’ll be greeted by a hot spot for street musicians and unique fashionistas.
- Meiji Shrine – A beautiful crafted shrine located in Shubuya, it is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shōken.
- Mori Arts Centre – A perfect excursion for if it’s raining, home to the country’s best modern art exhibitions it also includes a 52nd floor observation area with a 360 degrees bird’s eye view.
- Ueno Park – Perfect for experiencing your fair share of Japanese culture it is home to a significant number of shrines, temples, museums and galleries.
- Omotesando – A perfect place for some serious window shopping – referred to as “Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées”!
Tokyo has a world class public transport system to help you get around and explore the city, it is the fastest and most convenient way to travel – however avoiding the rush hour (7.30am to 9am) – if you can – might be considered wise, you can buy a prepaid fare card to use on the trains, subway and buses in Tokyo and Yokohama.
La Carmina says – ‘Be open to new experiences. If you’re on the fence about something (such as whether you should purchase an unusual garment, or try a new food), I say go for it. Get out of your hotel room, talk to the locals, and you’ll inevitable learn and challenge yourself.’
Do you have any tips on what to bring to add to a packing list for Japan? Share in the comments below!
For more Asia Packing lists, please read:
- What to Wear in Dubai
- What to Wear in Hong Kong
- What to Wear in Singapore
- What to Bring to Japan and South Korea
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