Japan has a lot to offer, but some amenities may not compare to your favorites from home. Here are some things you may want to consider bringing with you:
1. Your favorite toothpaste and toothbrush
According to many visitors to Japan, the toothpaste here is notorious for having a different impact and flavors than to those with which they’re accustomed. Japanese toothpaste doesn’t always contain fluoride, and can often have a texture different than what some folks prefer. And while many Japanese kinds of toothpaste are mint in flavor, it may not be the mint you’re thinking of, as flavors are adjusted to fit the Japanese market. However, in most cases, Japanese toothpaste should work just as well in helping you maintain your pearly, white smile.
Toothbrushes in Japan also conform to standards different than what you may be used to, usually having smaller brush heads and softer bristles. Unless you’re not at all picky about your oral hygiene supplies, you might consider bringing enough tubes and brushes from home to last your stay. Some foreign oral hygiene supplies are available at specialty stores, but they come at a cost.
2. Strong deodorant and antiperspirants
Full-strength deodorants, and antiperspirants, especially, are hard to find here at a decent price, as many Japanese people claim not to sweat, or at least to the degree that makes a person smelly. If you’re content with spray-on or roll-on deodorants that may not be as strong as the solid sticks marketed at home, there are a few choices for you. However, if you need a stronger strength deodorant, or antiperspirant (especially in the summer), consider bringing your own.
3. Eye drops (especially for contact-wearers/anyone with allergies)
Japanese eye drops often contain menthol. It’s supposedly included to keep you energized... (it does kind of make sense that the sensation of acid burning your eyes out would trigger a rush of adrenaline). If your only goal is to keep your eyes from drying out without any bursts of energy (and pain), it may be simplest to bring your eye drops from home.
4. Reese’s Cups
An American favorite, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, can be hard to find. Some say it’s because the sweet treat is too sweet for Japanese tastes, others say it’s because peanut butter just never caught on in Japan. If you want to make some fellow foreigner friends in Japan (including some of us here at JCP…), lead your introduction with Reese’s Cups, and you’ll be popular in no time.
5. Big and tall clothes and shoes
A lot of visitors may have no problem at all finding clothing and sizes that fit their frame in Japan, but if you’re taller than average, or have got more to love, you may need to resort to specialty stores in Japan even if you usually don't have to back home.
Some international brands such as H&M will have sizes that are universal across basically every store in the world. However, Japan-based stores such as Uniqlo typically use Japanese sizing, which usually runs at least one size smaller than in the US, for example. (i.e., a Japanese size “L” is closer to a US “M” or even “S.”)
Shoes in Japan are also on the smaller side on average. Many stores do not carry anything larger than a Japan 29 / US 11 / Europe 45 in Men’s and Japan 25 / US 9 / Europe 40 in Women’s. Import and large-size stores do exist but require quite a bit of searching. It’s probably best to come with at least a couple of pairs of shoes you can wear to work and for walking around the city if you have a larger shoe size.
6. Travel adaptors/transformers
Check the electronics you bring with you for acceptable voltage inputs. These are usually marked on a device’s plug or underside. Voltage in Japan is 100 volts (100V). For comparison, the US runs on 120V, but most US electronics can accept inputs of 100–120V. Other regions including Europe and Australia run on 220–240V and these electronics will require a step-up transformer to take Japan’s relatively low voltage.
Additionally, almost all of Japan’s outlets are shaped to accept two flat pins. These are the same style as the symmetrical pins found in the US. The asymmetrical style and three-pin style of plugs found in the US will usually not fit in Japanese outlets, nor will differently-shaped styles such as those found in France, India, and Brazil, among many other countries. Manufacturers and online stores often sell plug adaptors without a step-up transformer. If your device accepts the correct voltage but isn’t the flat-pin configuration used in Japan, only the shape of the pins needs to be adapted.
Lastly, make sure to confirm that your electronics will accept 50 or 60hz input, as frequency converters are very expensive. East (Tokyo) and West (Osaka, Kyoto) Japan use 50hz and 60hz frequencies respectively. Most modern electronics should accept 50–60hz.
7. Cash and Credit Cards
Cash and credit cards are always good to keep on hand. In cities like Tokyo, a majority of large retailers will accept Visa or MasterCard, among other providers. However, be aware that most cards charge an international transaction fee, and will have a higher-than-market exchange rate. We also recommend bringing along Japanese Yen in cash, in case of an urgent need for green tea-flavored Kit Kats, or other emergencies. Check out our post about using money and cards in Japan for more information.