Friday, August 3, 2012

What to Pack - Guest Post from Onaji Sora

Hey everybody, remember I told you about that guest post that was coming? Well it's here! Camille from the blog Onaji Sora who has studeid at Tsuru University in Japan and is currently about to embark on the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program, has written to give those of you heading abroad before me some advice!  On what, you might ask? Well, what to pack! Read on for some wonderful advice! And thanks again and a big round of applause for Camille! Don't forget to check out her blog sometime! She also has a new blog for her JET experience at >>Kousaten<<.

Also, quick update, information on the Forever Photography sponsorship is now available on the Sponsor Me page! Last note before I let her get to it, at the end she mentions omiyage. For those of you who aren't well versed in Japanese omiyage means souvenir. Enjoy!

This is a guest post that I'm doing for Illaura, who will be studying abroad at Japan Women's University. Make sure to check out her blog!

I leave for the JET program this weekend, so I just finished packing myself. This will be my second time in Japan, and although I went during the winter months last year (January through March), I've had to change my mindset a bit since I'll be going into the hot, humid months and will be there for a whole year instead. So here's what I thought about while packing.

Seasonal -- Layering from Winter to Summer

If there's one thing I learned while in Asia, it's that layering works the best. If you have good basics, from tank tops to long sleeves, you can use them year round.

Bring versatile clothing you can wear in any season, since Japan gets all kinds of weather, including all 4 seasons. Japan also experiences monsoons and rainy (tsuyu) seasons.

Really, my best advice would be: Don't overpack. If you're like me, you're going to want to do some shopping over there anyway.

Winter -- Stay warm under layers

One good jacket or coat. You really only need one, reliable jacket. I brought two with me, but ended up using one 95% of the time. It was semi-long, hooded, and reached mid-thigh. If I needed to, I would layer a hoodie under it. Depending on the extent of the cold, I would also wear a thin long sleeve shirt with a tank top underneath.

Leggings and tights. Even if you don't have them or only bring a few with you, you will finds tons of Japanese shops selling socks (from knee-high to thigh-high, simple to lacy), tights and leggings. I bought so many leggings and tights in Japan, even a few simple leg warmers. When it's freezing out, I also layered tights or leggings under jeans.

It's also just a good idea in general to have good, clean socks without holes. Especially because you will be taking off your shoes when you enter people's homes and they will be seen.

That's another thing -- Shoes! If you have larger feet like I do (a US size 9), you won't be able to find shoes that fit anywhere, so bring all the necessary shoes you need. I got lucky and was able to squeeze into an XXL ankle boot when I was in Tokyo, but that was a rare occurrence... and not worth the ¥10,000 in the end. Japanese shoe sizes are in centimeters, and if I remember correctly, the highest size is usually 23-24 cm/US 7-8. Ones that are easy to slip on and off are nice for when you are visiting people's homes. Not necessary, I would say, but I've caught myself feeling like I was holding people up because I had boots that required lots of lacing up. Depending on where and when you're going, you might want to think about boots that are waterproof and can handle the snow.

Keep those shoulders covered! One thing I was warned before going to Japan was don't wear shoulder-revealing tops like tank tops or spaghetti straps. Or at least put something over like a cardigan. I studied abroad in a rural, small town university, so I think it applied more there. People won't necessarily say anything to you about it, but you might get a few stares since it's not very commonly seen. However, It seems to be fine if you're out in the bigger cities and you're young. For more business-like or other formal situations, it's better to put something over it.

Summer -- Layering is still your best friend

Since I'm headed to Japan in August, I've been thinking more about warm weather clothes.
Thin, breathable material, like linens. Tank tops that can be layered under knit tops or cardigans. Cardigans also transition well to cooler, fall weather or as an extra layer in the winter months. If you see a UNIQLO when you get to Japan, they've got good undershirts and other great basics, and even a UV Cut collection.

Thinner leggings or more sheer tights to wear under skirts or shorts. I've bought more flowy skirts recently. Since I'm going to be in a more conservative, rurul area, I got skirts around knee length or maxi skirts.

Another thing I was advised was to have undershirts to wear under your normal shirts. Although it may be hotter, I'm told it's better to have that undershirt sticking to you in that humidity rather than your actual shirt.

In general, I tend to wear long tops/shirt-dresses over tights or leggings, which transition well from summer to winter, as I have leggings of various thickness and I can easily put on a jacket over. They also are just easy to pack because they take up less space. Currently, my two suitcases are mostly filled with those, plus jeans, short sleeve tops, tank tops, 3-4 knit tops, a thin jacket, a cardigan, a blazer and some button up shirts (business attire for JET, but if you're a student, highly unlikely you'll need it), skirts, and my shoes (1 pair each of rainboots, ankle boots, heels for work, and 2 pairs each of flats).

I'm basically all packed... except those omiyage...

Other things to think about when packing

Toothpaste or deodorant, since you may find the ones in Japan may be weaker or just not to your liking. I don't like the toothbrushes or floss in Japan. All other toiletries, shampoo, conditioner, soap, facewash, I just buy in Japan (their hair products are amazing!). Brands you prefer may be available, but they'll be more expensive, like I saw Clearasil, but they were often double the price. Also just be aware that a lot of the facewashes have products to lighten your skin. I had no problems with pads over there, but for those of you who prefer tampons, there are few choices available, and they may be smaller than what you are used to. If you have a favorite cold or flu remedy, perhaps consider that, since it's very different in Japan. I survived by taking anything that looked like it had lots of vitamin C or citrus.

Well, this post ended up being longer than I intended, but I hope it can be a little helpful!


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