Osaka, Japan in August
There’s just over a week left until World Yo-Yo Contest 2023 in Osaka! Here is our packing guide for some advice and a list of things you might want to bring with you.
Pack light, but make sure there’s room in your suitcase for souvenirs!
Of course it’s good to pack enough clothes for your trip, but you don’t want to go overboard. Many hotels have washing machines, dryers, or laundry services for your convenience, or there may be a coin laundry shop near your lodging. We do not recommend coming with too many bags. Dragging multiple suitcases around on public transport isn’t fun or convenient, and now the shinkansen (bullet train) requires a reservation/fee for large bags (bigger than an airplane carry-on) so it can complicate your adventure. One suitcase and a personal item such as a smaller bag or backpack is a good setup.
You’ll also want to make sure to leave some room in your suitcase for shopping and souvenirs! In addition to yo-yos and goods you might want to buy at the world contest, there are so many cool things to buy in Japan! (If you’re feeling a little extravagant, you can always buy an extra suitcase or bag while you’re here just for your shopping.)
Visit Japan Web
You can fast track your entry procedures at the airport by using the Visit Japan Web service. It’s optional and free, but depending on status of the airport when you arrive, it may help you get through the lines in immigration and customs quicker, and enable an easy Tax-Free Shopping procedure during your visit. You’ll need your passport and flight/travel information, and we recommend filling it out about a day before you depart so it is ready to go when you arrive. Check this page for a walk through on how to set it up.
Public Wi-Fi is not readily available in Japan. If you want to be able to use the internet while you’re out and about, we highly recommend renting a Pocket Wi-Fi device to avoid complications. This page from BoutiqueJapan lays out the situation well with some suggested options for rental and additional info about SIM cards if that’s more your thing. The Invisible Tourist also offers some good advice on the subject. You can of course do a web search for other options too.
Some recommended/necessary items:
This is the World Yo-Yo Contest; it may sound too obvious, but don’t forget your competition yo-yos (or your competition outfit/costume and backup music on a USB drive)! If you’re coming as a spectator you’ll still want something to play with (in areas where it’s allowed, of course 😉 ). It’s also humid here, and though temperature is controlled in the contest venue, gloves are a good bet to ward off string burn.
Japanese Yen, ATMs, and Card Payments
While many places now accept cashless payments (credit/debit cards with a swipe/chip, Apple Pay, etc.) Japan is still very much a cash culture. Many restaurants will only accept cash so it’s good to have some on hand. You can exchange money in your home country, at the airport, or at the airport when you get to Japan, but please check the exchange rates before you go. You may be able to get a better deal if you do it at home in advance.
With some foreign credit/debit cards, and only if they have a PIN number, it may be possible to withdraw cash from 7-Eleven, Yubinkyoku (Post Office), or some big bank ATMs. Be aware of possible foreign transaction and out of provider (ATM that does not belong to your bank) fees from your bank, or ones that may be added on to purchases with your credit card in a foreign locale. It’s good to look up these fees in advance so you know what you’re getting into. It also may be good to inform your bank that you will be traveling abroad so they do not stop your card for “suspicious transactions” and leave you high and dry while you’re in Japan.
Extra tip when paying with credit cards: You may get asked “i-kkatsu barai desu ka?” or “One time (ok)?” or “One time only (ok)?” This is just a quirk of credit payments in Japan, and the cashier is asking if you want your payment on a single pay period or split into more separate payments. If you are asked this, since your credit card isn’t Japanese and you’ll want to limit complications with your bank, just say “i-kai de” or “i-kkatsu de” or “one time ((if they are speaking English))” and your transaction should occur as normal.
The handy transport card that is the best way to get around Japan
The cards listed above (and several other regional ones that were not) can be used as interchangeable transit passes for many trains and busses throughout most of urban and suburban Japan (truly rural areas may not accept them–do your research). If you already have an IC-chip equipped Japan transport pass, bring it with you and charge it when you’re here! The current global semiconductor chip shortage has caused sales of Suica and Pasmo to be temporarily suspended. As of this writing, the Icoca card is still being sold in the Kansai region (where Osaka is) but that could change before you get here (if it’s still available, get yours at the airport just to be safe if you don’t already have one!). Read more about the situation here on Unseen Japan (and how you can set up Suica or Pasmo on your smartphone as an alternative to the physical card, just in case).
Good walking shoes
You’re going to spend a lot of time walking around and on public transport. We highly recommend bringing practical, comfortable, broken-in walking shoes (such as sneakers) and good socks. Keeping your feet healthy is key to a great adventure in a new country. On the other hand, if you’re planning on visiting a lot of shrines, temples, castles and historic buildings, you may (also) want to bring good walking shoes that are easy to slip in and out of. Many of those places will require you to remove your shoes to enter.
A light cardigan/sweater/jacket
It’s hot and humid in the summer, but that also means that trains, indoor activities, shopping centers, and many public spaces are strongly air conditioned. It’s good to carry something with you to keep you warm when the cold air is blasting.
It will be extremely hot and humid outside. Bring clothes that you will be comfortable in in this weather. Sometimes this means you’ll want something light (think shorts and a t-shirt), or you may want to cover up fairly well to keep from getting sunburned. Breathable fabrics are a plus+! Even in the heat, people here do not like to show a lot of skin, so please also keep that in mind if you want to fit in better fashion-wise (you might get looks if you’re walking around in short shorts and showy tank tops, but if that’s your thing don’t worry about it too much). Like we mentioned above, it may also be cold indoors. If you’re dressed in layers you’ll be ready for anything.
Note: Japan clothing favorite Uniqlo is a good place to pick up basics in case you forgot/need anything (their Airism line is also great to layer under other clothes to keep you cool). Please be aware that sizes run a little small, and go from XS or S (US XXS or XS~S) to XL (US L~XL), and you’re unlikely to find anything larger than that unless it’s an oversized/comfy fit. They still have cool accessories though, so it’s not a total loss.
Pocket hand towel or handkerchief, soap, hand sanitizer
Many public restrooms do not provide towels or hand dryers, so it’s up to you to have a small towel with you if you don’t want to walk out of the bathroom with your hands dripping. If you don’t already have a towel they can be bought anywhere in Japan. On that note, many public restrooms also do not have soap! You may want to bring some travel soap with you or alternatively buy it here, but it can sometimes be hard to find as what is available may not be labeled in English. If you’re interested, MUJI carries this handy travel soap in dry film sheets. Travel hand sanitizer gel, spray, or wipes are also good to have. Bring it with you or buy some here (a pharmacy or MUJI has you covered!).
Reusable shopping bag(s)
Disposable plastic and paper bags are no longer free in Japan (except in some rare situations). If you want one, you will have to pay a small extra fee (usually 5-10 yen). If you buy one, it’s good to keep using it as a trash bag to carry with you, as trash cans are very rare to find in public (and in the WYYC venue!) in Japan. You can then empty your day’s trash in the bin in your hotel room, and reuse your plastic bag and do it all over again the next day. In addition, we highly recommend you bring a reusable shopping bag with you to carry any goodies you buy while you’re here, or you can buy them as needed while you’re here. At their cheapest, they’re available in 100 yen shops, but if you want something of better quality and construction, look for more basic ones in convenience stores and nicer, better designs in stores like LOFT and Tokyu Hands (or just “Hands”). This writer and Japan resident personally recommends the Shupatto bag. They can be found in the previously mentioned stores and come in several shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. Their lightweight and convenient design makes them easy to open, they’re sturdy and carry even heavier items well, and they fold down quickly and easily to be stashed in your bag or pocket.
Medical face masks
We are currently experiencing a summer wave of Covid infections in Japan. I cannot state enough that it is VERY crowded here and you may find yourself in situations where you are uncomfortably close to other people. We recommend you protect yourself by bringing and wearing your favorite medical-grade disposable masks. You can buy them here too (pharmacies/drug stores and convenience stores are a good place to look), but you may not find your preferred fit, size, or style so just be aware. N-95, KN-95, or similar masks are rare here. If that is what you need, please bring yours from home.
You’re going to sweat a lot. Don’t expect to find equivalents to your country’s deodorant or antiperspirant. Bring your preferred product with you.
Medications and medical devices
Don’t forget your necessary prescribed medications and/or medical devices. For information on bringing your prescription medications into Japan, please consult this website for full details. (In short: generally, if they are not restricted drugs, you have prescriptions for them, and are bringing less than a one or two-month supply depending on what it is, you do not need to declare them in advance. Please note that some drugs for the purpose of focusing mentally, like ones prescribed for ADHD, are prohibited in Japan without applying for permission. Please check this Q&A if you are not sure.)
If you require period products during your trip and aren’t picky you should be able to get by with what is available here. That said, please be warned that these personal products may not be totally ideal. Pads may be smaller, shorter and much thicker than what you may be used to (and often come with fragrance applied–not great for sensitive users), and there isn’t a lot of variety or availability in tampons. To be safe, we recommend bringing your favorites with you!
An open mind!
This may sound like a cliche, but come with an open mind. Cultural standards, attitudes, food, etc. in Japan may be different than what you’re used to. If you’re open to trying new things and experiences, you’ll probably have a better time. Be adventurous! Try some new food that’s weird to you. Make some local friends at the contest!
Some things you (probably) don’t need to bring!
There may be rain while you’re here, but unless your umbrella is compact and light (or equipped as a sunbrella for blocking UV rays), you probably don’t need to bring one. Worse comes to worst, you can buy a (dare I say) better one here, get a cheap but quality clear vinyl one from a convenience store (400~ yen), or borrow one from your hotel if needed (many provide this service–just be sure to return it when you’re finished). This is of course up to you, however.
Just don’t do it. There are serious penalties.
We know this was a long article, but we hope it may have answered some of your questions about packing for your trip. We’re excited to see you soon in Osaka!
We may update this article in the future with more information.
(Last Update: 2023.8.8)