Japan is stuffed with (mostly) more and better goods than anywhere in the world, but there are a couple of things you should definitely bring with you, if you think you’ll need them:
They do sell something they call “deodorant” but it’s basically perfume. Antiperspirants aren’t sanctioned by the Japanese version of the FDA, so Japanese deodorants just try to cover up smells, not prevent them.
They sell Tylenol and aspirin, but not ibuprofen (Advil). If you prefer Advil, you need to bring it. If you need to buy a pain reliever, here’s what to look for:
Aspirin is labeled バファリン (bah-fa-reen, like Bufferin, with a Japanese accent) or アスピリン (ah-soo-pee-reen, like aspirin with a Japanese accent)
Tylenol is labeled タイレノール (tie-reh-no-ru).
Where to buy it: Standalone drugstore (not supermarket)
They sell various benedryl formulations, but not over-the-counter Claritin. I recommend bringing some along even if you don’t have allergies at home, especially during late winter-early spring, because Japan has a wicked cedar pollen season. (If you don’t live near a lot of cedar trees at home and don’t know if you’re allergic or not, that discovery while on vacation will definitely ruin your day.)
Clothes & shoes
Don’t think it will be easy to pick up a pair of rain boots or a jacket if the weather doesn’t cooperate. The average Japanese man is 5’7″, 138 pounds, and the average Japanese woman is 5’2″, 116 pounds. Because the population is 98% ethnically Japanese, the range of sizes is much narrower than in the West. Off-the-rack women’s clothing corresponds to sizes 0-2-4, and the biggest women’s shoe size is 7.5 (24 cm).
Stuff you don’t have to bring because it’s available cheaply/everywhere
Umbrella – If it starts to rain, you can buy an umbrella for ¥500 at any convenience store, and convenience stores are everywhere.
Tampons/panty liners – Not only do they have a wide selection, they’re actually better than what I can buy back home.
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Jonelle Patrick is the author of five novels set in Japan
The Last Tea Bowl Thiefwas chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist