Backpack Essentials for Better Sightseeing Throughout Japan
There are countless sights to see when you visit Japan, which means you'll probably want to fit as much as possible into your itinerary while you're here. Packing efficiently will help you cross as many off your list as possible.
Based on my own experiences, these are the 10 essentials I would recommend always having with you when sightseeing in Japan so you stay happy, comfortable and exploring for as long as you can:
1. Hand Towel
While clean public bathrooms are very common in Japan, they don't always provide you with more than water to clean your hands with. Having a hand towel will help you dry your hands while also serving as a way to wipe the sweat off your forehead when out and about during the warmer months. You'll see Japanese men and women using them all the time.
2. Sanitizer and/or Soap Sheets
To elaborate on the first point further, not all public bathrooms will have soap, especially in more rural areas. Hand sanitizer in a small bottle will help kill germs in a pinch (also a good idea after using mass transit) but soap sheets are a personal favorite of mine. Just add water (even from your water bottle) and you'll have clean hands in no time.
Last bathroom point, I swear. Now, blowing your nose in public is frowned upon in Japan, but having tissue on hand is also important because some public bathrooms don't provide it, or charge for it. I encountered this at Tenryū-ji Temple in Kyoto. A little packet of tissue means problem solved.
4. ID/Transit Pass Holder
When you arrive in Japan, purchasing a PASMO will probably be one of your first steps for convenient travel on the subway system. Keep it handy with a holder that can also store an ID for easy access so you don't have to dig through your bag or take our your entire wallet.
5. Plastic Bag
The Japanese take great pride in keeping their homes, businesses and public spaces clean. One way they do this is by always being accountable for their own trash. You won't see many public trash cans on the street, so having a plastic bag on you will help you store any items you wish to discard until you spot one. It will also double as wet umbrella storage or a seat cover for that rented bicycle.
Lots of walking can mean lots of blisters. I always carry bandages in a variety of sizes so I don't have to stop moving for long.
7. Subway Map
While smartphones can help with a lot, they aren't infallible. Having a good ol' fashioned map on your hands will help you navigate the many train lines so you can get from point A to point B (and C and D) with limited confusion.
8. Varied Currency
Using cash is more common than credit cards in Japan and many businesses prefer it. Make sure to have plenty of yen in a variety of denominations for everything from souvenir shopping to enjoying the offerings of Japan's amazing vending machines.
9. Basic Japanese Dictionary
Japanese people are very friendly and helpful -- it's a wonderful country to be a tourist -- but not everyone will know English, of course. Having a dictionary on hand will at least get the conversation started if you need help finding a museum or just ordering coffee.
Last but not least, always have a camera. Whether it's your phone or a DSLR, you'll want one for all the incredible sights from temples to street fashion.
Have these things on hand and you'll never miss a moment of your adventure in Japan. For more travel tips and recommendations, be sure to check out my blog, www.100tacks.com!