Friday, June 24, 2011

Japan- What I'm glad I packed (and what I wish I had packed)...

Now that we're back and reflecting on our 3 weeks in Japan,  I thought it would be helpful to write a post about what items I'm glad I packed, and what I could have lived without.

What I’m glad I brought:
  • Weekender Convertible backpack- A lot of the subways have escalators, but with Japan's power-saving mode, I noticed quite a few of them were turned off while we were in Japan. Thus, with all the transfers, going up/down subway stairs, walking from train station to the hotels, this saved me Darin from holding the luggage and gave us spare hands to carry more bags. However, we definitely learned to pack lighter items in the backpack. While this backpack could fit a ton, carrying 20-25# of weight on your back for long-distances wasn't fun nor easy.
  • Wheeled SPINNER carry-on suitcase- We took our Samsonite 4-wheeled "Spinner" suitcase and another 2-wheeled suitcase, and the 4-wheeled suitcase was so easy to wheel around and took hardly any effort to move. Going forward, I will definitely invest in 4-wheeled "spinner" suitcases. We carried our "heavier" items in our wheeled carry-on suitcases, and it wasn't a pain at all (until we hit a flight of steps with no escalators), but that was far and few in between. 
  • Packing Cubes- These were great- Kept my clothes neat and organized (I put pants/shorts/shirts in large cube, undergarments/socks in small cube) and almost wrinkle-free. Especially by week’s end with all the traveling and packing/unpacking at different hotels, usually my bag is a mess as I’m just throwing things in there just to pack and get out the door. The cubes kept everything neat and organized, and I was able to find clothes easily. 
  • Laptop battery that can take a full charge- I could blog and watch movies on long shinkansen train rides (since most don’t have power outlets)- huge lifesaver for me! Most of our trips were 2-3 hours away so it was just enough time for a fully charged battery on my laptop.
  • Sneakers- Not the most fashionable, but we were able to walk for 12-14+ hours a day. Our feet were tired, but no blisters!
  • Adapter- All of our electronics were 2-pronged, but we brought a 3-prong adapter just in case. Remember- Japan only has 2-prong electronics outlets!
  • Lactaid- So many dairy products I love
On the plane
  • Scarf- Light enough to carry but just warm enough to take the sting of a slightly chilly plane cabin. And cute accessory to boot!
  • Layers, layers, and layers- I wore a thin lightweight long-sleeved tee with a zippered cardigan. Perfect for layering
  • Yoga pants (= elastic waistband) = comfy for long plane rides
  • Hand lotion, chapstick- Airplanes cane be drying, so having some hand lotion and chapstick really helped
  • Tissue paper- I got some Puffs To Go, and glad I had it on hand
  • Neck pillow- Best.investment.for.the.plane.ever. My neck didn't get a "kink" at all
  • Headphones, Y-splitter- This way, Darin and I could both watch a movie together
  • Small pad of paper + Pen- I could jot down notes and feelings in the moment
  • Travel first aid kit- I purchased this in the travel section at Target for $1.00, and am glad I bought it just in case. This is handy since trying to translate medical terms at a Japanese pharmacy may be difficult
  • Socks
  • iPad/Books/Magazines
  • iPhone and iPad chargers (many seats now have USB ports)
  • Blanket!
  • Gum and/or mints
  • Olay or Neutrogena face-cleansing wipes
  • Pen/paper
  • Eyemask
  • Meds (Advil, Immodium AD, Tums)
  • Appropriate clothes- Clothes you can wear in your hometown may not be appropriate for Japan. You don't see halter tops, strapless/tube tops, spaghetti strapped tops/tanks, low-cut v-necks, anything that exposes your skin. All my tops were modest, including my sundresses. You also don't see a lot of bright colors 
  • Extra clothes- We did our laundry at my sister's home in Nakano and she didn't have a dryer (most Japanese homes do not). Thus, we made sure to bring extra clothes since drying times can vary dependent on the temperature- so we brought 10 days' worth of clothes and washed around Day 8/9 so we could enough clothes to last us including drying time. Sometimes, we changed mid-day since we were tired, sweaty, and dirty. Thus, we'd leave in the morning and return around 4/5pm, change, shower, and put on clean clothes to head out for dinner and the rest of the evening... thus, we noticed we were running out of clothes much quicker since we only packed 1 outfit/day. Definitely will remember to pack more pants/shorts and tops next time we go there. Japan does have laundromats which include dryers so that is also an option if you don't want to pack a lot of clothes
  • Lightweight jacket- The evenings were cool and breezy, perfect for occasional rain/drizzle
  • Cross-body bag- Large enough to hold essentials, small enough for trains and not be too heavy; Loved being hands-free
  • Extra camera battery (charged at all times)- Very handy as I could easily switch it mid-day without worrying I couldn't take any more pictures
  • Japanese Yen- We used credit cards anywhere they took it, but mainly used JPY as Japan is still very much cash-based
  • Handkerchief/small towel- Many bathrooms don’t have paper towels or a dryer, so this is a must!
  • Cosmetic case: Eyeglass cleaner towelette, Shout Wipe, Chapstick, Hand lotion, Tums/Meds
  • Olay Face Wipes- So refreshing when feeling sweaty
  • Umbrella- Definitely a must in Japan
  • Watch- Normally I don’t wear one on a consistent basis, but this was really handy to have considering all the bus and train schedules 
  • 2 cameras- Point & Shoot and SLR- SLR was great for taking pictures, and the point and shoot was great for restaurants and shops (as it’s way less obtrusive). We also both wanted the freedom to take pictures as we saw them so we each had a camera on hand at all times
  • Allergy medicine- I only brought enough for 1 Allegra/day, but with my allergies acting up so much while I was in Japan, I should have brought enough to take 2x/day (morning and night)
  • Sharpies, Highlighter- Great to map our route for the day and mark up the maps
  • Comfortable shoes- For us, they were mostly tennis shoes. Yes, we looked like a tourists, but we didn't get any blisters despite the 12+ hours walking per day. Nowadays, some tennis shoes look less like sneakers and more like trendy shoes, so I also purchased a pair to match some of my nicer tops and bottoms with and still have comfy shoes. If flip flops and/or flats work for you- go for it! I am a high-heel fan and didn't pack any (but then again, we weren't planning to go to any uber-fancy restaurants)- if space is tight, pack a pair of nice flats (that may double as a walking shoe if you'd like)
What I wish I had brought:
  • HDMI cable- We brought a laptop filled with movies and TV shows, and if we had this cable, we could have connected it from laptop to the hotel TVs to watch it on the larger TV screen
  • A 2nd laptop- Since I blogged for 1-2 hours when we had some downtime, I know Darin was itching to use the laptop to check his email, etc... 
  • Long LAN cable- Many hotels offered free wired internet, but the cord was so short that I felt restricted to sit at the desk (when all I really wanted to do was relax in my bed and surf the web, write emails, blog, etc.)
  • Ambien/Advil PM- I had such difficulty adjusting to the time zone change that I eventually had to go to a Japanese pharmacy for a sleep aid (another option is melatonin)
Keep in mind- Whatever you forget to bring with you can easily be purchased in Japan.

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