jorge's library

studying in japan (8): Packing List

February is usually the season that prospective students receive their confirmation letter. To those of you who passed, congratulations! To those who didn’t make it, try, try, again!

When I got my letter, I was really, really excited. I spent a whole month preparing my stuff. What to bring, what not to bring, those were the questions running through my head. Although I can easily pack for others (lola-trained since I was 10), when it comes to packing for myself, I am usually at a loss. I am essentially a pack rat, if I could, I’d literally bring the kitchen sink.

This is a list of the essentials, as I see it for a student’s upcoming move to Japan:

1.     Clothes – Grad school is pretty casual so be sure to pack some jeans and shirts. However, there will also be a couple of formal occasions you need to attend (such as opening ceremonies, seminars, and conferences), so bring a suit along. I recommend a dark-colored suit as light-colored ones aren’t very popular here and you might feel a wee bit out of place. Women might want to bring something dressy as well, just in case ;-) Also, it’s going to be spring when most of you arrive so it’ll be a bit chilly. Don’t forget your coats and scarves. You don’t need the puffy Michelin-man ones, you can get winter gear here. But also don’t forget to bring some summer togs and sleepwear.

2.     Shoes – I’m not much of an authority on this one. I brought at least 7 pairs with me. But I’m a shoe-whore, so there. Heehee. But bring comfortable shoes for walking. You’ll be doing a lot of it here. Don’t forget to bring sandals or house slippers. Also bring a formal pair to use with your suit.

3.     Toiletries – Most grad school dorm rooms have their own toilet and bath facilities, but for high school, vocational, or university-level people, you’ll likely have to use a common toilet and bath. So bring a toiletry bag that you can hang in the shower. Also, bring along toiletry supplies for at least 2 weeks (soap, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste). If you’ve a favorite deodorant or sanitary wash, bring one with you. Some deodorants are only available during summer. Bring a towel; most dorms provide a change of sheets but no towels.

4.     Food – Of course you can get something to eat here. But if you’re a finicky eater or if you’re trying to conserve your yen, a few cans of sardines or corned beef, as well as sachets of sandwich spread and instant coffee won’t go amiss. At least you can save on breakfast on the first few days. Also, if you think using chopsticks will be a battle, bring your own kubiertos. I’d also advise bringing your own thermo mug. Other tips here.

5.     Omiyage – Don’t forget your sensei’s omiyage. Very, very important! Some tips here.

6.     Filipiniana – Yes, playing cultural ambassador is part of the deal. Some tips here and here.

7.     Pictures – Not only of your nearest and dearest, but of yourself. When you arrive here, you’ll be filling out a thousand and one forms, and you’ll need photos for those. Bring at least 6pcs each of 1x1’s, 2x2’s, and passport-sized photos of you in a collared shirt. Yes, there are photo-me machines here, but do you really want to spend 700yen on 4 photos when it could buy your next meal?

8.     Medicine – Please, if you are allergic to anything, please bring at least 3 months’ supply. Also, I’d advise you to have a handy stash of headache, stomachache, monthly-flux-ache (what do you call that?), cold, and LBM meds, just in case. Ika nga ni Bb. Melanie Marquez, “you can never can tell.”

9.     School records – Have an original copy of everything. You’ll need this when you apply for your university entrance exam. Also bring a file of anything Monbusho-related. Bring a CV as well; it’ll help you fill in those endless forms.

10.  Techie stuff – Japan is the best place to get techie stuff, but if you already have some of your own, bring them along. Take note that the voltage over here is 100-110, so check voltage compatibility. Cameras are a must, or if you’re planning to buy one here, just tag along with someone who has one ;-) Mas ok nga yun---a favorite sayin over here is: "he who has a camera is never in the picture." wahahahah!


Atbp. – If there’s anything else that you cannot live without; be it a folded kulambo on your feet when you sleep, a poster of Piolo, your favorite stuffed animal, or your novenas, bring them. You’ll need a lifeline; something to anchor you and remind you who you are---especially in the first few weeks ;-) BTW, check the maximum allowable weight (20-25kilos I think) and try not to go over if you don’t want to repack at the airport. Also try to do group check-ins, coordinate with your fellow scholars at the orientation ;-)


Have a safe trip! Kitakits sa Japan! ;-)


What do you always bring when you travel? ;-)

true; especially dito where the language is soooo different. you can't even buy advil if you can't speak or read. well, not unless you bring a pic. but most covers are translated too so it may not be recognized.

thanks kg! you too! ;-)