Japan is a great place to travel and/or relocate. It is known for its beautiful mountains, cherry blossoms, and ancient traditions. However, it remains to be largely unexplored.
You may think you know everything there is to know about Japan, but this Asian country will surprise you. For example, did you know it has 99% literacy rate? Or that it has an island, named Okunoshima, inhabited only by friendly rabbits?
To help ease your travels to the land of the rising sun, here’s a list of 8 items to carry along:
1. Laundry Hanger
Japan is notoriously short on living spaces, especially in highly populated cities such as Tokyo. Tokyo has been among the most populous city on Earth and the Japanese population here has combatted the shortage of space with ingenious ways to maximize utility in the most limited spaces.
Japanese architect Yasuhiro Yamashita has built over 300 homes, the smallest of which start at 182 square feet. He quotes the Japanese proverb, ‘tatte hanjo nete ichiko,’ which means ‘you don’t need more than half a tatami mat to stand and a full mat to sleep.’
Real estate prices in Japan continue to rise, so in all likelihood, people moving here from other countries will stay in modest homes. This means they won’t always have a designated place to hang freshly washed clothes out in the sun and must rely on a trusted clothes hanger for this. A clothes hanger with wires can be perfect for drying clothes in a small space and save several trips to and money at the laundromat.
2. Eye Drops
Japan has had high levels of air pollution for many years. In fact, it has been a problem for the country’s citizens since the 1960s, when Japan first began its heavy investment in industrial development and economic growth. According to Professor Jotaro Urabe of Tohoku University, Kyushu and western Japan are most affected by pollutants coming from China over the past few decades.
To protect your eyes from dust and pollutants, make sure to keep your eye drops on your person at all times, especially if you’re staying in the city. They can brighten up dull eyes and keep them looking fresh after a long night.
Summers in Japan can be hot and humid. Many public restrooms don’t have dryers, so carry a small handkerchief or a hand towel to wipe the sweat off your hands and face during the hotter months.
It can be difficult to find women’s shoes bigger than U.K. size 6 (25 cm for women) and men’s shoes bigger than a U.K. size 9 (28 cm for men). It is, therefore, best to bring footwear from your own country to be on the safe side. Slip-on shoes can be a great investment because several religious sites such as monasteries or temples in Japan require you to take your shoes off before entering them. An interesting tradition in some Japanese homes entails guests wearing special shoes when using the host’s bathroom.
When in Japan, make sure to use folding umbrellas because the non-folding variety can be a nuisance when traveling by train. Tsuyu, Japanese for a rainy season, lasts from June to mid-July. Do carry an umbrella along when traveling to Japan during this period.
6. Heating Pads
Most houses in Japan have minimal insulation and no central heating. The houses are built to allow maximum airflow to battle the scorching summer temperatures, which unfortunately, poses a problem during the winter months when temperatures can drop to 5 degrees Celsius. One solution for this is using a space heater.
An ingenious method of staying warm all day long, even when outdoors involves the use of heating pads. Not only are they cheap, they keep you warm for approximately 15 hours and can be worn underneath clothes as well. These pads are locally known as ‘kairo,’ which translates to ‘fire inside the pocket.’ They release heat by oxidizing iron, which is one of the main components used in making these pads.
7. Body Pillow
Using these polyester-filled large pillows can be a great way of retaining body heat during winter months. Called Dakimakura in Japanese, these unique items are similar to orthopedic pillows and are often called ‘hug pillows.’
Dakimakura pillows feature elaborate illustrations of popular anime characters. If you want to immerse yourself in a subset of modern Japanese culture, do check out these body-sized pillows, such as this rem waifu body pillow. They are especially popular among Otaku, die-hard fans of anime and manga in Japan.
According to Robert Galbraith, author of the ‘Otaku Encyclopaedia: An Insider’s Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan,’ Otaku initially represented isolated fans, unable to face reality, but the market is now beginning to “recognize the value of such fans.”
8. Language Guide
Japan is one of the most homogenous countries on the planet where 98.5% of the population is ethnically Japanese. If you are not from the country and unable to speak the native language, make sure you are armed with a good English to Japanese (and vice versa) translation book. Most signs in public places are often written only in Japanese and it helps to know the basics when getting around as well.
Whether you are thinking of visiting Japan for a holiday or are moving to this beautiful country, make sure to keep these 8 points in mind for a better stay. Although every country brings with it a new landscape and culture that can take some getting used to, with some help and a little bit of time, anyone can find their feet.