This list is intended to serve as a guide to get you started on packing for your new life. Things to keep in mind when packing are that you have different luggage restrictions to consider (on the international leg(s) to Tokyo, as well as the domestic leg to Saga), and you can buy many essentials in Saga. Prioritize items you absolutely can’t get in Japan, and things that will make you happy and comfortable!
What will I have when I arrive?
- Your BOE should provide basic appliances (microwave, stove, washing machine, air conditioning unit, fridge/freezer) and furniture (bed/futon/shelves/drawers) for your apartment when they contact you. If they don’t, ask them or your predecessor.
- Contact your predecessor and find out what they are willing to sell to you and what they plan to leave for you. However you are under no obligation to buy or take things from your predecessor.
- Also feel free to ask questions in any of the Saga Facebook groups if you have any specific packing questions.
- Many Saga JETs use this Facebook group to buy and sell items. (It’s highly recommended to compare prices before purchasing.)
Before you start to pack
- Confirm how many pieces of luggage you are allowed and what their weight limits are with your Embassy or Consulate, as some airlines only allow one piece of checked luggage.
- Be prepared to foot the cost of any overweight baggage fees. You are responsible for your own luggage!
- Leave a little bit of room in your bag for materials you receive at Tokyo Orientation, as well as for shuffling around when you go to send your luggage ahead to Saga.
- Think strategically about your packing. FukuokaJET has some good tips on that.
- You will not be paid until you have been in Saga for a few weeks.
- The first pay-day is usually in late August (this will be confirmed by your BOE) so bring enough money to cover initial expenses (rent, utilities, transport, food, shopping, etc).
- Make photocopies of important documents (passport, home health care number, BOE address and contact information, etc.) and leave at least one set with a trusted person in your home country.
- You also may not have internet access for a while so it’s a good idea to print out or save any information that you think you will need upon arrival.
- Bring your copy of the General Information Handbook.
International Driver’s Permit
- Even if you’re not planning to drive, just get one. After the summer heat and the rainy season you might just change your mind about biking everywhere. It will also allow you to rent cars and explore Japan more.
- Be sure to check your BOE’s driving policy as it might affect your ability to drive during work hours.
- Bring a laptop. Buying a laptop in Japan can be a hassle when you first arrive and will often mean the iOS and keyboard setup are Japanese.
- Pre-load it with your favorite movies, TV series, music and programmes because in case you have no internet at your home for a few weeks. You may have a lot of downtime!
- Your schools should have at least a shared computer and printer you can use to lesson plan. However, having your own computer can often make preparation of material much more efficient as computers found in schools are often very slow and old, or in some cases, not even provided. You can also prepare materials from home if you so choose.
Materials for self-introductions
- Large pictures and maps: Not all schools have interactive whiteboards or touch screen computers, so it’s a good idea to have some physical pictures on hand for your self-introductions.
- You can, of course, print photos and posters in Japan so load up a USB or CD and save that space. Ask your predecessor about what technology is available.
- Get creative and engage students’ senses: What smells, feels, tastes, and sounds like your hometown? (If you’re homesick you can decorate your apartment with these reminders of home afterward). If you have any traditional clothing from your home culture, it can be a big hit in lessons.
- Small props: Things related to your hobbies, culture, country (flags, money, etc) you can pass around a class.
- Everything you need to know can be found here.
- An overview of what to wear can be found here.
- You will be arriving in the middle of a hot and humid summer which will last for a couple of months before steadily declining into colder months. So bring lots of light-weight weather appropriate clothes and footwear.
- Uniqlo will become your best friend and has all your work (and casual) clothing needs covered at a reasonable price. Their sizes are also slightly more foreigner-friendly.
- Your work wardrobe will depend on your schools – it’s a good idea to ask your predecessor what your schools’ expectations are and pack accordingly.
- In any case bring at least one suit for your arrival, all the self-introductions, orientations, conferences, and formal school events.
- Panty hose and leggings are a must for winter seasons. Sizes here run small.
- If you wear a size L or above back home, finding clothes can be tricky (though not impossible).
- Swimsuit: it will be summer when you arrive and there be beach parties!
- Underwear: Undergarments for women here tend to be super-frilly or ultra-utilitarian.
- Shoes: Sizes above 28 cm for men and 24cm for women can be difficult to find so bring some with you just incase or if you have large feet. Don’t forget summer footwear like sandals and flip-flops.
- Indoor shoes/slippers for work: Bring those that are easy to slip on and off! Bring extra so you can leave pairs at different schools you visit if you want.
- If you have a particular brand you like, be aware that it may not be easily available so bring enough to last a while.
- Toothpaste: Often weaker than what you might be accustomed to. Japanese toothpaste also often does not contain fluoride (neither does the water) and tooth brushes can be smaller than those in your home country.
- Deodorant: Japanese antiperspirants deodorant is not the best. You’re arriving in the summer and will be sweaty for most of the day. Bring as much as you think you’ll need to survive a while and consider having people send stuff from home.
- Sunscreens: Women more often cover themselves with umbrellas and arm sleeves rather than use sunscreen, so the bottles available here tend to be small and expensive. Some sunscreen has skin-whitening agents in it, but once you learn the kanji these are easy to avoid!
- Feminine hygiene products: The selection of tampons is minimal and mostly Japanese brand only. However, you can easily buy feminine hygiene products at any convenience store/supermarket.
- Be aware: Some over-the-counter medicines from home (i.e. allergy pills and painkillers) may be prescription-only here, or the packaging may be different.
- Drugs: Tylenol/Advil/Aspirin/Acetaminophen don’t really exist in Japan. These are good to have handy, especially when you introduce nomihoudai (all you can drink) into your life. Though be sure to check your General Information Handbook about bringing drugs (especially quantity) to Japan.
- Contraception: Birth control pills are available, but specific brands or dosages may not be.
- Condoms: These are sized a bit differently, though you can order Western brands online.
Japan has a wide variety of cosmetics available, but be aware of the following:
- Mascara: Quite expensive especially “Western” brands .
- Nail polish: Very expensive for the amount you get. Brands like OPI can run you triple the price you would pay back home!
- Foundation: Skin whiteners are a very common ingredient.
- Acne/general skincare: Japan has A LOT of skin care. However, finding something that works for you may be somewhat stressful with reading labels etc. So bring a back-up bottle if your skin is sensitive.
- Charging cables for electronics and adapters if necessary.
- Creature comforts/local products (i.e. your favorite tea, hot sauce, and other things that you think won’t be able to get here and will make you feel better when you’re having a bad day.)
Don’t pack! These things are available here
- Heat/Cool-tech clothing and undershirts.
- All your winter wardrobe: It won’t be winter for a few months so you can prepare after you arrive or have things shipped to you from home.
- Books: Books are heavy and take up a lot of room. You will be able to use Amazon for home delivery, or you the many bookshops in Saga and Fukuoka that have English books for sale. Get a Kindle!
- Small electrical appliances: Things such as clocks, hair dryers, speakers.
- School supplies and stationery: These are readily available so don’t worry about bringing these things unless you have something really specific you want to use.
- Teaching materials: Don’t buy textbooks or anything like that. The Japanese curriculum is very strict and prescribed.
- Basic household items: Unless you’re really attached to a particular cooking utensil, towel, or bedding, leave it at home.
- Food: There are foreign food stores in Saga and Fukuoka city centers and online shopping sites where you can purchase things you crave. Arrange for friends and family to send you care packages instead!