Travelers to Japan will have to pack a suitcase sized according to the rules of the airline.
These rules allow for two checked bags, sized 50 lbs and 62 inches, and one carry-on bag, sized 40 lbs and 42 inches. Measuring the width, height and depth of the suitcase (see diagram) will give you the “size” of the suitcase: A + B + C = Suitcase. On top of this, a carry-on item, such as a purse or laptop bag, is OK.
If you have signed an ALT contract, this means boiling down your life into 140 lbs of essential items for the next 12-24 months. The only thing you are certain to need in this time frame is 30 gifts for people you haven’t met yet.
Below are the contents of my suitcases for anyone interested in packing for a year abroad in Japan.
Packed by a young American male, pants size US 34, headed to Kyushu. (Smaller folks can pack less clothing; those with small feet may not need to pack shoes, I have neither advantage).
- 1 very nice suit (for meetings)
- 3 mediocre suit coats (for daily teaching)
- 2 ties (it’s all I own)
- 5 Khaki pants (for daily teaching)
- 7 button-down shirts (for daily teaching)
- 7 T-shirts (for daily living)
- 3 pairs of shoes (One for school, one for city, one for dress: Useful if your shoe size is above a US 11) (I will also have the shoes I wear on the plane)
- 30 pairs of socks (For clean feet; holes in socks are rude)
- 3 pairs of vaguely European-looking thin cotton pants that I would only ever wear in a foreign country (for hot climates)
- 3 pairs of jeans (which I will probably never wear)
- Swim Trunks (Especially if you are larger than a US size 10)
- 1 pullover sweater (layers for cold are better to pack than big, bulky winter jackets)
- Hot pepper from my Dad’s garden, Cumin (and other edibles that may be hard to find in Japan)
- Shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush (so I don’t forget them when I arrive)
- Deodorant (Allegedly Japanese Deodorant is not what I’m used to)
- 1 spare power adapter (Americans: Japan’s plugs look like ours in pictures, but note that the two prongs are the same size. There’s never a third prong. Laptops convert power on their own, so long as it’s a two-prong operation.
- 1 bottle of homemade wine (Omiyage)
- 3 boxes of salt water taffy (Omiyage)
- 3 bags of local coffee
- 3 bags of freeze-dried blueberries
- 20 bars of lobster-shaped soap (Omiyage)
- 10 bags of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (Omiyage)
- 1 Stuffed Lobster (Omiyage)
- 3 entry-level English-language books (Classroom)
- 30 3 small maps of my hometown (Classroom)
- 3 Sticker sheets (Classroom)
- 3 Toy Cameras (Personal)
- 40+ Rolls of Film (Personal)
- A Scrapbook (Personal)
- A photo album (Personal)
- 2 laptop computers (One for non-Vista programs: Thanks, Microsoft!)
- 1 copy of “Essential Haiku” by Robert Hass
- 1 copy of “Franny and Zooey” by JD Salinger
- 1 copy of “Empire of Signs” by Roland Barthes
- 3 Japanese-language books: Learning the Kanji, 501 Japanese Verbs, J<->E Dictionary
I’ll update this as I think of things; and when I arrive, I will amend with a list of things I wish I had remembered.