NOTE: Due to the many comments I received, I have decided to take down the original post and heavily edit it. I have added and changed information. Also, this list of suggestions stems from my personal experience and location in Japan. Please keep this in mind. Everyone’s own experience is different based on many variables including knowledge of the Japanese language (or lack thereof-which was the case of my husband and me) and where you are located in Japan, city or country, etc.
Thanks to everyone who left comments on the original post-I hope this is now even more helpful for those of you who are preparing to move to Japan.
One year ago my life was a flurry of graduations, planning my wedding, planning my honeymoon and preparing to move across the world to Japan.
In short, it was a crazy-amazing-summer.
Karl, my husband, was hired through the JET program. He left for Tokyo four days after we got home from our honeymoon. I stayed in the states for three more weeks in order to provide a smoother transition. While Karl was over in Japan figuring out our new life, I was back home closing accounts, finishing business and packing.
Packing for coming to Japan was…frustrating. Because I really didn’t know what exactly I would need. Even after communicating with former JET’s and reading the JET handbook.
For all you new JET’s and spouses of JET’s: Here is my advice to you.
Things to bring with you to Japan:
- Stick deodorant. They only do spray on here. Although, some people don’t mind it, I prefer my stick deodorant.
- For all you ladies- THIS is a must. I’m telling you. It’s wonderful.
- Cold, allergy, fever, etc. medicine. To get “real” meds that actually do something, you have to go to the doc. You can’t get anything good over the counter here.
- Advice, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc. You can get Ibuprofen here, it is called EVE. They sell it in pharmacies over the counter. However. It costs about twelve bucks for 20 tablets.
A word about meds: Some medications are illegal in Japan. It is worth finding out what is and what isn’t just to prevent possible hassle in the airport. Also-I just learned this-apparently some online companies ship meds to you from overseas. Does anyone have more information regarding this? I am afraid I don’t know much about it.
- Do you like to bake??? Bring your own bake ware. I brought an 8x8 pan with and that was one of the smartest things I did. I use it all the time. Chances are you will only have a regular/small size microwave/convection oven. So plan for that size. (Note: It is possible to find bakeware. Although what I have found here was nothing I was looking for-full size loaf pans and muffin tins. I am sure they are somewhere; I just haven't been able to find them.)
- Top sheets. I can’t find top sheets for our bed anywhere. They only sell fitted as far as I can tell.
- Peanut butter (it is expensive here and I have only been able to find it in small amounts. Even at Costco, I couldn't find any. Also, the only brand I have really seen is Skippy. My husband likes JIF. Don’t ask me what the difference is-I don’t know!)
- Coffee (There is lots of coffee here, but Karl and I really don’t care for any-and we have tried lots! You can get the Starbucks brand though, and that is good but expensive.)
- Yeast, if you like baking-I JUST found yeast for the first time in an import store for a reasonable price. If you like to bake however, I would bring at least a little with you till you gain your footing.
- All the clothes and shoes you think you will need if you have “big bones.” I am a size 11 shoe, and there is no hope for me. I basically fit the biggest men’s size that is typically carried. I am a size 12 pant size-and my inseam in 34 inches. It is virtually impossible for me to find any women’s pants or skirts that fit. My husband is quite tall and also has lots of trouble shopping for clothes and shoes. Frustrating.
Things you DON”T need to bring with you:
- Towels, washcloths, etc.
- Q-Tips, cotton balls, swabs, etc.
- Toothpaste (we were originally informed at one of my husband’s JET orientations that fluoride toothpaste was unavailable-apparently that is false! Thanks for the corrections everyone.)
- Blankets, pillows, etc.
- Typical kitchen ware
- Cough drops
- Toiletry items. Unless you use an extremely specific brand, you will be fine. You can easily find Pantene Pro V, Dove, etc. I have also seen Dr. Bonners soaps, if you like organic and natural.
Places to go to equip your new apartment. This very well may vary across Japan, but these are the places we go in Saitama Prefecture.
Pharmacies: These stores are pretty close to a Walgreens.
- Matsumoto Kiyoshi
Kitchen ware, home goods, etc.
- Cainz Home Center-It's basically like a mini Menards.)
- IKEA-oh yes. They are here. Even the one closest to us is very inconvenient to get to. We do not have a car, so on our trips to IKEA we have to keep in mind that we are carrying everything back with us on the train for one and a half hours.
- Hyaku En Stores-These are everywhere and are basically dollar stores. You can find lots of great kitchen/bathroom stuff for very cheap.
- Costco! (Also has lots of other items, of course. House wares, books, etc.)
- Kaldi Coffee Farm-We wandered into a Kaldi last summer a few weeks after arriving when we exploring a city about 45 minutes from where we live. This is a great import store. They have imports from Europe, the US, all over Asia, New Zealand, etc. Sometimes the inventory does change though so sometimes we have gone looking for something we found before and it wasn’t there.
- International grocery stores-These can be found! I was lucky and found one in a city 45 min away right in the train station. Mexican, Italian, Indian foods, a much bigger and better baking goods section, imported liquor, imported snacks and cereals, etc. Ask the JET’s or other foreigners who live near by where the closest one is-they are bound to point you in the right direction.
- Another great way to get groceries that you might not be able to find in your local supermarket is ordering things online. Here are a couple of great websites that are in English.
- The Meat Guy
- Alishan Organic Center
Most importantly, don’t get too stressed about moving. If you forget something, ask someone to mail it to you.
And remember, this is an adventure-have fun!