Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What Should I Pack for Japan?

There's one very important thing to remember: If you're moving to Japan, you can't constantly ship stuff from the States.  Although you're comfortable with a variety of brands, realize that people in Japan (and other industrialized nations) have comparable alternatives, if not identical.  It's nice to bring some things--toothpaste, Advil, etc--but at some point they may run out and you'll have to make do.  So I provide this list as mere suggestions at what to pack, and ask you to bear in mind Japan does have most things you need.  You might just want to make settling in a tad more comfortable.

Gadgets and Gizmos
  • Two Prong Adapter
  • Wireless Router
Okay, so you don't actually need a wireless router.  But I can tell you this much: having a wireless internet connection is certainly handy, and trying to set up a Japanese wireless router isn't my idea of 'fun.'  Picking up a cheap, $30 wireless router from Walmart won't break the bank, weigh you down, or take up much room.  I was definitely laughing when I was the only one of my friends who had wireless internet!

Personal Hygiene
  • Deodorant and ANTI-PERSPIRANT
  • Face cleanser
  • Toothbrush
  • Travel toothpaste
Many people say the personal hygiene products in Japan just aren't as good.  Unfortunately, you'll just have to look harder for products that work--shipping U.S. products to Japan is going to cost a fortune over time.  Really, all you want to bring are products which are too personalized or specific to find in Japan (medicated shampoos, etc).  Having said this, anti-perspirant is very hard to find.  Bring an absurd amount.  Six sticks should be okay.  I'm serious.

  • Cold medicine
    • Congestion, coughing, runny nose, etc.  Nyquil is your friend.
  • Ibuprofen or paracetamol
  • Multi-vitamins
  • Specialized medication
Similar to personal hygiene products, many Japanese brands of medication may not be as strong as what you're used to.  Finding good cold medicine is strangely hard in Japan, so a bottle of Nyquil would be a huge help when you're battling a cold and have work in the morning.

Multi-vitamins are very expensive in Japan and there isn't as much specialization, so I definitely recommend it.

Teaching Materials
You'll quickly find yourself creating all your own materials for the majority of the lessons.  Interac, and any ALT dispatch company worth its salt, will have flashcards for you to use, and lesson plans to follow (although you're allowed to deviate, of course).  Stationary and writing utinsels are extremely popular in Japan, too.  In all, I would recommend just one thing:
  • A popular, simple kid's book

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Business clothes
  • Semi-Casual clothes
  • Casual clothes
Unless you're in Hokkaido, Japan has a rainy season.  Research your placement before you go to get an idea of what clothes to pack.  But do not bring winter clothes if you're arriving in the spring, you can use that weight for a lot of other things!  I packed my coat and a jacket, and I plan to buy snow boots, gloves, and sweaters in the winter time.  Don't overdo the business clothes either--you'll probably be wearing the same clothes to different schools anyway, and no one will know you're a smelly bum.

I recommend semi-casual clothes for enkais (work parties), but the amount of clothes you bring versus the amount you buy in Japan is entirely up to you.  Definitely be aware of the sizing difference (at 5' 7" I find all clothes fit me, but tend to be tight in the shoulders).

Shoes take up room and weigh a lot, so if your size is common in Japan, buy new shoes once you get here.  Otherwise, you will need at least

  • One indoor pair of shoes (never worn outside, no scuff soles)
    • These do NOT have to be business professional.  Many teachers wear Nikes with their suit, including the principals.
  • One outdoor pair of shoes
If someone tells you to buy bathroom shoes, laugh at them.  If a school (or any establishment) wants you to change shoes in the bathroom, they will have slippers inside the bathroom for you to change into.

And that's largely it.  Japan is an industrialized, modern nation with one of the largest economies in the world.  You can find most anything you need once you get here... just watch that weight limit on your bag!