Things to Bring on JET
Getting ready to move to Japan with the JET Program is both exciting and scary. Packing up your life to live in another country is a big step. Many of you have never been to the area you have been placed, so you don’t know what to expect. Some of you have never even been to Japan before. To ease your transition, here is a list of things you should bring to Japan.
Documents: In addition to your passport and IDs, make sure you have any documents you need for JET (tax documents, international drivers license, etc.).
Money: Japan is a cash-based country. While there are places you can use your credit card, there are a lot that only take cash. So be sure to bring as much cash as you can. I DO NOT recommend you bring travelers checks, money orders, or your home country’s currency. This is because exchanging your money in Japan is a pain in the ass. You usually have to go to a bank, and some of them might reject you. You’ll probably need an account with the bank you go to. At the very least, it will make the process much easier. I brought travelers checks and couldn’t cash it in cause most banks in Japan open only on the weekdays, and close around 3:00pm. That means you can never go to the bank because you’ll still be at work. You probably will have to take a day off or have a really cool boss.
Formal clothes: You need at least one set of clothes for formal situations. That means a suit and tie for men, and a professional business wear for women. Also, keep it conservative. For the ladies, avoid outfits that flash your cleavage or really high skirts. For guys, don’t wear unusual colors (standard white, gray, or light blue works well) and have crazy accessories (like a monkey skull necklace or spiked boots).
This is for the super formal events. You’ll have smaller events at your school (entrance ceremony, graduation, etc.) that you can probably get by with more casual and risqué clothing.
*Tip: If you have more than one jacket or blazer (and tie for men), leave your extra one at school. You’ll probably have a locker at your main school (if you have a main school), so you can leave it in there. This is because there will probably be a few events at school where you may need to dress up, but no one told you about it. So it’s good to have a backup. I know my spare jacket saved me a few times.
Normal clothes : Bring business casual clothes for work, T-shirts to keep you cool in the summer, and clothes to keep you warm in the winter. However, unless you live in the boonies, you can probably find a places to buy clothes. There are Uniqlo shops all over Japan, and their sizes are close to western sizes. I bought most of my thermal underwear, cool undershirts, sweaters, and jackets there. The shipping might be a little expensive, but there are many companies than ship to Japan now, so ordering online is also an option. If you will live in a city, you can probably buy all of your winter clothes when you get to Japan.
Good, Comfortable Shoes That Slip On and Off Easily: At school and in Japan in general, you will have to take off your shoes to enter certain buildings or rooms. It will make your life a lot easier if you have shoes that slip on and off easily. Also, for most of you, you’ll probably be walking a lot more in Japan so comfortable shoes are essential.
I recommend buying both dress shoes and sneakers back in your home country, especially if you are a guy or are picky about shoes. If you have big feet (size 11 or bigger) it will a little difficult to find shoes in a style you like. Also, brand name shoes like Nike and Adidas is usually more expensive in Japan.
Medicine: Of course you’ll need to bring your medical prescriptions. However, you may also want to bring a few over-the-counter medicines as well. The reasons for this are two-fold. One, it’s a pain in the neck to get to a drugstore in Japan, and even more of a pain to find what you are looking for. Second, the general consensus is that Japan’s drugs are weak than that of their western counterparts. Many people say the over-the-counter medicine in Japan doesn’t work well for them. Japan also uses a lot of kanpou, or Chinese herbal medicine.
Warning! Many over-the-counter drugs in your country might be illegal in Japan. For Americans, things like Nyquil, Vicks inhalers, products that contain Pseudoephedrine, stimulants and codeine are prohibited in Japan. You can bring a two-month supply of the acceptable over-the-counter drugs with you. For more information, check out the US Embassy’s website in Japan here.
Contraceptives: In addition to any prescription contraceptives it might be a good idea to bring things like condoms as well. Remember the Boy Scout motto, “Always be prepared.”
Vitamins and Supplements: There are lots of vitamin and weight loss, bodybuilding, and protein supplements in Japan. But they might not be as good as the brand you’re used to.
- Antiperspirant and deodorant – Difficult to find good ones in Japan.
- Brand name shampoos, conditioners, and lotions – If you normally use a specific brand, you should bring some with you because you might not be able to find it in Japan.
- Contact lens solution – If you are really picky about contact lens solutions bring it. But there’s a pretty good selection in Japan.
- Make-up – Japan has a lot of places where you can buy make-up. But you may want to bring a supply of your trusted brand just in case you can’t find anything good in Japan.
- Toothpaste – Many brands in Japan don’t contain fluoride. So bring up a few tubes of your favorite brand.
Omiyage (Gifts from your hometown/country): Japan places an importance on gift giving in their culture. You should definitely bring gifts that are unique from your hometown or country to Japan. You want to give a gift to people how really help you out. This might include your caretaker, principal and vice principal at your main school, supervisor, neighbors, etc. This really depends on your situation.
Things from your hometown like liquor, picture books, arts and crafts, specialty food items, etc. will make good gifts.
I brought pictures books of my city along with American picture calendars, candy, key chains, and wine for the “important people.” I also brought cheaper candy to give to all of the staff at my main school. As long as it is something unique to you and your hometown/country, it will be cool. Don’t stress too much about this. Just remember to bring something.
If you have room in your suitcases, I would suggest filling the space with omiyage. You can also get things to give your students as prizes, like pens, pencils, stickers, key chains, postcards, etc. But if you live in a small town, everyone is usually very friendly and may even give you lots of stuff. I know I got lots of fresh fruit, Japanese food, drinks, and a whole lot of other stuff. I had lots of extra candy and souvenirs which I used to express my gratitude to the people how were so nice to me. This is ONLY if you have room to spare in your suitcase though.
Electric Plug Adapters: Electrical outlets in Japan are 2-prong. If your electronic equipment doesn’t have 2-prong plug (The USA uses 3-prong plugs), you’ll need an adapter. You can buy these at electronic stores in Japan, but if you need them right away (laptops, cell phones, etc.), you might want to bring one or two of them with you just in case. You can either get a International power and AC adapter (amazing for electronics, but doesn’t work with high-power devices like hair dyers or curling irons) or a simple universal travel adapter to just change the shape of the outlet plugs (doesn’t covert the electrical charge).
Non-Essentials, But Highly Recommended
Pictures: To decorate your room and to use in your introduction lessons. Pictures also say a thousand words, so it’s a great way to communicate with the people you meet in Japan. Pictures will definitely spice up your introduction in class. You might find a language partner, or teach an adult class. If so, you need some pictures. I highly recommend making a photo book, so you don’t have to bring dozens of individual pictures with you. The photo book also looks very professional. My students thought I was famous because I had my own book. They were very surprised to see that the book I had was filled with pictures of myself!
Laptop or computer: Of course you can buy a computer in Japan, but it will be a Japanese system. That means the hardware and software will be in Japanese. If you can read Japanese, then no problem. But if you want a computer with English software, you should bring one from home. If you near a big city, there are places that will sell English systems, but they are usually not built with the latest technology.
A Good Camera: If you plan to travel around Japan or just want to keep a log of your JET life, a good camera will help you capture all of your memories. If you don’t need to have super professional pictures, a good smart phone like the iPhone 6 can take pretty nice pictures. If you want to take professional caliber photos and have the cash to spend, the Nikon D3200 24.2 MP Digital SLR Camera Zoom Lenses Bundle is one of the best cameras for it’s price range. One of the best compact options is the Sony DSC-RX100M III while one of the best budget options is the Canon PowerShot SX600.
Not Really Needed
Food from home: Food that is heavy is better left at home…unless you really, really need it. If you are close to a city, or living in a pretty big town in Japan, chances are that you’ll find everything you need to keep you satisfied. Many supermarkets in Japan carry things like peanut butter, Tim-Tams, gourmet cheeses, and even chia seeds. But if you have things you need to eat from home, you might want to bring it. Or maybe you want people to try specialty foods from your home. I know a few people from Australia who brought Vegemite to let people try. You can get items like that in many foreign food stores, but it will be expensive.
Do Not Bring
Lots of Books: If you are an avid reader, bring a few books along with you, but definitely don’t bring your whole collection with you. Books are big, take up a lot of space, and are HEAVY. You can get books when you are in Japan or order the online now that Amazon.com ships many items to Japan.