What to Pack for Japan in September

Japan Rail

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Japan is at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. And for good reason. From bizarre fashion trends and robot-themed restaurants to ancient temples and snow-capped mountains, Japan is unlike any other destination in the world.

We spent 10 days in Japan in early September, and we had an amazing time exploring Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima.

Here is everything you should know about packing for Japan in September.

What is the weather like in Japan in September?

Imperial Gardens

Though September is considered autumn in Japan, the temperature at the beginning of the month (when we were there) is still summery. Expect hot, humid weather in Tokyo and Kyoto with highs around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and plenty of rain. Temperatures will cool slightly by the end of the month. We lucked out and arrived right after a major heat wave.

Also note that September is peak typhoon season in Japan, though only a few typhoons hit the mainland each year. A typhoon actually hit Japan while we were there and forced us to alter our plans somewhat.

Though at this point you may be scouring the fine print on your travel insurance policy to see if you can cancel your trip, September is actually a good time to visit Japan for several reasons. September sees fewer crowds and offers a better bargain on flights and hotels than some of the more popular months to visit (like during the cherry blossom and fall foliage seasons) and warm-weather clothes are much easier to pack compactly, something that is crucial when staying in Japan’s shoebox-size hotel rooms. All in all, we enjoyed visiting Japan in September.

What to Pack for Japan in September

Japan Rail

First, let’s start with the basics.

Passport

The most important item to pack for any international trip is a valid passport. Without that, you won’t even be allowed on the plane! For entry into Japan, be sure your passport is valid for at least six months and has at least one blank page.

Travel Visa 

Some travelers may need a tourist visa to enter Japan, so check the visa requirements for nationals of your home country. (As Americans, we were able to visit Japan for up to 90 days visa-free, because the USA is considered a visa-exempt country.)

Onward/Return Ticket

You may be asked to show proof that you have a return/onward ticket out of Japan (we weren’t, though).

Travel Insurance

We always buy travel insurance so we have peace of mind that if catastrophe strikes—whether sickness, theft, or a family emergency at home—we don’t have to worry. In our opinion, doing so is simply part of being a responsible traveler. We usually buy ours through World Nomads.

Bank Card/Cash

Despite being a modern, forward-thinking nation, cash is still king in Japan. So you will definitely need to have some yen (Japanese currency) handy.

Local ATMs typically offer the best exchange rate (currency exchange desks in airports are almost always a rip-off). For added savings, open a Charles Schwab checking account before your trip to avoid the withdrawal fees most banks charge. (Just be sure to open your account at least 5 days before you travel to ensure you have access to your funds. We miscalculated before our recent trip to Peru and weren’t able to make any withdrawals!)

Luggage/Organizers

Tofukuji Temple

One of the most difficult decisions you’ll make when packing for a trip to Japan is deciding what luggage to use. These are our top recommendations.

Carry-on Size Suitcase/Backpack

If possible, plan to travel carry-on only. Japanese hotel rooms—especially in big cities like Tokyo—are tiny. They make a NYC studio apartment look like a Versailles ballroom. So storing a large suitcase in your room will make for a tight squeeze. And since the most practical way to travel through Japan is via public transit, traveling light will make everything a whole lot easier.

Sam and I have been big fans of our Osprey Porter 46 backpacks for years, and Sam used his for this trip. (You can read our full backpack review here.)

I opted for a small rolling suitcase, since I was pregnant and not keen on carrying any extra weight! I wasn’t a huge fan of the suitcase I took on this trip. But I have since started traveling with the Away carry-on, and I absolutely understand the hype. It’s the perfect size, looks sleek, and comes with some great extras like a battery pack (perfect for charging your phone on the go!) and a laundry bag. I only wish I’d gotten it sooner.

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are a lifesaver for travel. We use these ones, and I love how organized they keep my bag. I typically use one for my clothes and another one for my socks, underwear, and pjs. I’ll occasionally use a third one for workout gear or beachwear. (They are especially useful now that I often share my suitcase with Claire.)

Day Bag

In addition to a carry-on, we also travel with a small day pack to use while we’re out sightseeing. I took this one to Japan, because it’s lightweight and looks cute. Sam took this one so he could have easy access to his DSLR camera.

(I recently purchased this backpack from Fjällräven, which is great for carrying a laptop. I also use it as a diaper bag while traveling, because it’s a lot more compact and comfortable than the diaper bag I use at home.)

Electronics

Though we try not to travel with too much gear or electronics, packing a few essential items can really make or break a trip to Japan.

Camera 

A trip to Japan is certainly worth documenting. Sam used his Panasonic G85 camera to take photos on our trip (the ones we use on the blog!). I just used my iPhone, since it takes decent pictures, and I always have it with me.

Pocket Wifi Device 

Somewhat surprising for a country that is so modern it has entire dinner shows performed by robots, the Wi-fi in Japan can be pretty spotty. We recommend packing (or renting) a pocket Wi-fi device to use throughout your trip. We rented ours from jrailpass.com and picked it up at the airport when we landed in Tokyo (it cost $76 for a 10-day rental).

On past trips we have used our Skyroam hotspot, but we haven’t been super impressed. It was pretty unreliable in Sri Lanka and wouldn’t connect at all in India, so we didn’t bother packing it this time.

Power Brick 

Another useful item to pack is a portable power brick so you can charge your phone anywhere. We used this one in Japan. (If you have an Away bag, you can also remove the battery pack from the suitcase to use on the go, which is what we did on our most recent trip to Europe.)

Travel Adaptor/Outlet Converter

Depending on where you live, you may need a travel converter/outlet adaptor to use your electronics in Japan. The voltage in Japan is 100 and outlets fit Type A plugs.

We used our North American electronics without an outlet adapter/voltage converter and didn’t have any problems.

Clothes to Pack for Japan in September

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Now, the tricky part! Though it’s so tempting to pack a bunch of extra outfits (and shoes) just to be safe, less is more when it comes to travel clothing. Rather than cramming your suitcase completely full, pack some low-maintenance, versatile items and plan to re-wear them.

2-3 T-shirts

T-shirts are great for a trip to Japan in the warmer months.

Sam likes these t-shirts from Bluffworks, which are designed specifically for travelers. He also loves his Marino wool t-shirt from SmartWool, which is soft, lightweight, and, because it was apparently knit together by unicorn tears, doesn’t smell bad even after a sweaty day of sightseeing.

I packed drape-y t-shirts in solid colors to feel slightly more stylish—Tokyo is a fashion capital after all—and so they could comfortably fit around my expanding belly!

1 Sleeveless Top

Though some parts of Japan—especially outside the major cities—are a bit more conservative, I didn’t feel out of place at all wearing a sleeveless top in Tokyo or Kyoto on particularly hot days.

1 Lightweight Blouse

Lightweight blouses are another good option for Japan, because they are comfortable in the heat and look more fashionable than just an ordinary t-shirt (especially in the more fashion-forward parts of Tokyo!).

2 Pairs of Shorts 

The heat and humidity are intense in Japan in September, so we felt much more comfortable wearing shorts than long pants. I packed two pairs of shorts for our 10-day trip and wore them every day.

1 Pair of Pants

Though we pretty much only wore shorts, it never hurts to have a pair of pants in case you experience unusually cold weather or visit religious sites with stricter dress requirements. I always take one pair of pants to wear on the plane.

1 Breezy Dress

Not only do dresses look classy, but they are also help you stay cool in hot, humid weather. I usually pack one for every trip to warm destinations. (I also use it as a swimsuit cover in a pinch.) 

1 Pair of Comfortable shoes

In Japan, you will likely do a lot of walking, so packing comfortable footwear is essential. I was pregnant and suffering from pretty severe nausea during our trip, and we still averaged more than 20,000 steps per day.

Since you will often have to take your shoes off (especially inside homes and temples), wearing shoes that are easy to remove is a smart idea.

I packed these New Balance sneakers and wore them every day (though the laces were a bit of a pain on days I removed them frequently).

1 Swimsuit

Japan is famous for its onsens (Japanese hot springs), so pack a swimsuit. I wasn’t able to try one out on our trip because I was pregnant, but we will definitely hit one up next time!

1 Pair of Lightweight Silk Pajamas

My favorite pajamas for travel–and even at home–are the gorgeous Lunya silk pajamas I got for Christmas last year. They pack down super small, look classy, and feel so luxurious and cozy after a long day of sightseeing in the heat. I never want to pack anything else.

7 Pairs Travel Underwear

If your trip is longer than one week, packing underwear you can wash in the sink and re-wear is a good way to cut down on bulk. We like the quick-dry underwear from ExOfficios (they sell both men’s and women’s styles). 

6-7 Pairs of Socks

Likewise, pack enough socks for one week and plan to wash them. I like to wear these Nike no-show socks with my sneakers.

Rain Coat / Umbrella

September in Japan is wet, so pack either a lightweight rain coat or umbrella. (Some hotels provide guests with umbrellas and they are fairly cheap to buy in country if you’d prefer to save the luggage space.)

1 Pair of Sandals

After sightseeing in the heat, it’s nice to switch into some sandals to give your feet a chance to breathe. We packed flip-flops on this trip, but you could also take some slightly dressier sandals if you prefer.

1 Pair of Sunglasses

On sunny days, you will definitely want to have some sunglasses handy. Sam likes these ones, because they are not too expensive to replace if they get lost. I packed some cheap ones I’d found at Khol’s a few years ago. 

Toiletries/Fist Aid to Pack for Japan

Kyoto Train Station

My least favorite things to pack are my toiletries, mostly because complying with TSA’s limited liquid allowances always make everything super complicated. But through the years, I’ve found a few products I love for travel. These are the toiletries, medicines, and beauty products to pack for Japan in September.

Clear Toiletry Bag

After having several less-than-pleasant experiences with cranky TSA agents, Sam finally bought me this set of clear travel toiletry bags so I can avoid frustration at security checkpoints. No more cheap zip lock bags or pulling every single thing out of my canvas toiletry case! (Since they’re pretty small, I typically use one for my shower toiletries and the other for everything else.)

Solid Shampoo/Conditioner 

One of the best ways to circumvent the liquid restrictions is to use solid shampoo and conditioner. One bar lasted more than a month when we were traveling in Sri Lanka, so they are great for long-term travel. I get mine from Lush.

I admit I’m a bigger fan of the shampoo than the conditioner, since my hair tends to get fairly tangled and the conditioner isn’t as good at working through the knots. (I let the solid shampoo double as body wash if I really want to pack light.)

Travel-Size Hairbrush 

I have used this travel-size version of my regular hairbrush for several years. It’s not quite as good at brushing out tangles as the full-size model, but it saves precious space in my toiletry bag.

Travel Toothbrush/Toothpaste

We always pack travel toothbrushes like this one and travel-size toothpaste. 

Travel-Size Deodorant

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Your travel companions will thank you.

Disposable razor

I always pack a disposable razor when we travel, and I’ve never had it flagged at a security checkpoint.

Sunscreen

Even in September, the sun in Japan can be intense. Be sure to pack travel-size sunscreen and reapply often.

Bug Spray

Mosquitos can be pretty vicious in Japan. So if you’re a mosquito magnet like I am, be sure to pack some bug spray. (I got roughly 32,000 bites in the ten minutes we spent at the bamboo grove in Kyoto. By the end of our brief tour I looked like I had the chicken pox.)

Sanitizing Wipes

I have gotten sick so many times after flying, that I have become a bit of a germaphobe on airplanes (since they tend to be as sanitary as a public bathroom in a New York subway station). We always travel with sanitizing wipes like these ones, which we use to wipe down the entertainment system, seat belts, tray tables, and anything else we may touch on the plane.

Tide Packets

We always throw a few of these Tide packets in our suitcase to use if we need to wash any of our clothes in the sink. They have come in handy everywhere from Sri Lanka to Prague!

Makeup 

I packed all the makeup I normally wear at home. Tokyo is home to some crazy fashions, so it may also be a good time to branch out if you want to try something new!

Medication/First Aid

Though Japan is a modern country with plenty of medicine available, no one wants to waste time at a pharmacy (especially when dealing with a significant language barrier). So it’s a good idea to travel with some basic medicines. These are the ones I typically pack (regardless of where we’re traveling):

  • Prescription meds. Of course, the most important medicines to remember are any prescription medications you may be taking, even if it’s not one you need regularly. (I recently left a prescription medication at home when we went to Europe and ended up spending a long day at a Slovak hospital trying to track down a new prescription!) Also plan to take enough medicine for a few extra days in case you’re delayed on your return.
  • Sleep aids. If you’re traveling through several time zones, packing sleep aids can help get through the first few days of bad jet lag. (Of course, you should discuss any medicine you plan to take with your doctor in advance.)
  • Stomach tablets. Between jet lag and a drastic change in diet, packing stomach medicine is important. We usually take the chewable tablets rather than the liquid versions to avoid potential luggage catastrophes.
  • Pain relievers. I always pack pain relievers (usually Tylenol or Ibuprofen) when we travel to help with any soreness I might have after long days of sightseeing. (Like I said, we go hard.)

Miscellaneous Items to Pack for Japan

These are some other items you should pack for a trip to Japan in September:

Water Bottle 

The water in Japan is safe to drink, so there is no need to spend a lot of money on bottled water. Taking a reusable water bottle like this one is a great way to cut down on costs and lesson your environmental footprint.

Eye Cover/Ear Plugs

Tokyo is a city that never sleeps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. Be sure to pack an eye cover and ear plugs so you can get a good night sleep in even less-than-ideal circumstances. (I’m a terrible sleeper at the best of times, so these are must-haves for me!)

Guide Book

Maybe we’re stuck in the early 2000s, but we almost always pack a physical guidebook when we travel to new countries. For this trip we used Lonely Planet Japan.

Book to Read

And last but not least, I never travel without a good book to read on the plane, train, or in the hotel room. If you’re looking for a recommendation, check out this post.

Anything else you would add to this list?

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What to Pack for Japan in September

 

 

 

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