Hey you! Yes, you.
Are you thinking about travelling or studying abroad in Japan?
Have you already booked your plane tickets? Have you already been accepted to a Japanese University through your Home University? Congratulations! Or are you taking the more daring route and enrolling directly into a Japanese University?
Either way, you will have a fantastic time in Japan.
However, Japan isn’t exactly how Western media makes it out to be. Japan is famous for cutting edge technology, anime and manga, sushi, and chic street fashion. Foreigners love Japan.
Here are some things you should know.
1. Bring deodorant
In general, Japanese people rarely wear [strong] deodorant. The people who do wear deodorant use the product not for its odour cancelling properties, but because it smells nice. Another reasoning is that Western advertisements show that successful people wear deodorant, which is a huge influence in Japan. Most women also tend to either just body spray/perfume themselves or wear underarm patches, which are ever so popular in Japan and actually work, rather than wear [strong] deodorant.
The problem with this is that Japanese deodorant rarely contains aluminium. This is great for the Japanese or other Asians–however, this is bad for non-Asians because we
stink are built differently genetically (to an extent). ;P It just so happens that aluminium helps make powerful, antiperspirant the stuff that you later find as the case behind that retched odour deodorant.
Moral: bring your deodorant.
Do not be “that person” who smells like a fish that has been dead for days. When you pack for Japan, be sure to bring at least pack of deodorant and if you are staying for a long time, bring a decent amount with you.
Whenever I travel outside of Japan to Western countries, I always stock up and bring back at least 10 with me to last a while.
Especially, if you are here for the summer/more humid months, you do not want to be without a good, sturdy, trust-able deodorant.
2. Watch your medicine
You are not permitted to bring several types of medicine into Japan.
There is a huge list of stuff you can and cannot bring that you can probably find with a little Googling or checking out your local Embassy’s website. It is really quite tedious…
In short, you are not supposed to bring more than three months of prescription medicine (including birth control, if you so use it), not allowed to have said medicine sent to you in more than three month dosages, and flat out not permitted to bring other types of prescription medicine (like ADD medicine, such as Adderall–even with a doctor’s note, or certain anti-depressants). Also, no decongestants like DayQuil or NyQuil. DayQuil has recently been allowed through customs more laxly, whether or not it is officially legal or not; NyQuil is still pretty strict on average, though you are able to get it into the country depending on the person you get for customs inspections.
Check before you pack; legally, they can turn you away at the airport for bringing in illegal substances.
Japanese medicine tends to be in far lower doses, for OTC drugs and prescription. The Japanese equivalent of Ibuprofen is far less in dosage than that in other countries. I tend to have to double the dosage if I get a migraine or sports/gym injury just to have a slight effect. Prescription medicines are far cheaper than OTC (with the NHI) ones but are given per required dosage exactly. This means, if your doctor has you take them for “one week” there will literally be only one weeks worth, unlike many other countries which will give you by the bottle or have leftovers and you’ll just store away & take up space with.
3. You might not be able to fit in Japanese clothes
I’m roughly a size M/L, 10-14 Womens (30-34 in Mens) in the USA. I can probably fit into a size smaller actually, but I loath tight clothes with a passion. I’m that person that likes loose clothes and ends up buying clothes too big for me. 😛
But in Japan, for even a “tight” fit, I’m a size L in Japan, and XL for more loose clothes that I normally wear.
This does not only fall into place for girls, but guys as well. Your best bet in Japan is to just go a size, or 2, up and if that is too big, then go down.
If you are a “bigger girl” (chest, waist, and/or hips), you need to realise that Japanese clothes might not fit you [as well as you hoped]. A majority of the stores sell “one size fits all” items that can really mess with someone’s self-esteem.
Though a lot of those one-size clothes are, at least what I’ve seen in Kyoto/Osaka/Tokyo, on the loose/baggy size in recent years, to fit with the modern trends that is falling onto the female Japanese population. So you may find those one-size clothes to be your best bet at times lately.
Though dresses or things that are meant to be longer, might end up being a regular shirt for you…
Don’t even get me started on shoes. My size 9-9.5 feet only fit in XXL sized Japanese shoes and even then they are nearly impossible to find.
4. You might not be able to afford Japanese clothes
Let’s say you’re lucky. You find clothes that fit you in Japan. Awesome. Then you look at the price – $200 (20,000+/- Yen) for a dress. Or $100 (10,000+/- Yen) for a pair of pants.
Living in Japan is expensive. There are discount stores, but they are few and far between. There are some nice ones in Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka but you have to search for them at times. Even stores like H&M and Forever 21 markup their products by 10% – 25% in Japan. Japan is not the place to buy cheap clothes.
Of course, you can find shirts, dresses, pants, etc. for less than $100, but the average price range will be roughly $25-$50 (2,500~5,000+/- Yen). Then there are the ones that are randomly hiked up to over $100. If you plan on buying a lot of clothes in Japan, then stock up on money beforehand or search for discount/thrift stores to save some cash.
5. Get ready to walk
I walk everywhere in Japan. When I’m not walking, I’m biking or taking the bus/train and that ends up in me standing up for up to an hour or more in a crowded small space. I walk to the station, I walk to the grocery store, and I walk to classes. Most of my friends don’t own cars or motorbikes; we all use public transportation. The problem with public transportation is the fact that it does, in fact, require a bit of walking as well–to get to your destination or stop.
Then, when you go travelling, you’re going to walk until your feet are dying. Bring comfortable shoes. Bring lots of comfortable shoes. Japan has a lot of hills and unpaved terrain, so it will get difficult to manage with the wrong shoes.
If you decide you want to be brave and try wearing other shoes that are not made for walking all day, then maybe bring one pair or buy some when you get here to see how it yourself.
6. Watch out for your body image
Japan is a not good place for female body images.
At all. It is a very “visual” society. It has the world’s largest per captia skin care market in the world. They is a heavy emphasis on the way you look. Yes, of course it difficult being “ugly” in any society – but being “ugly” in Japan is especially hard. A lot of someone’s merit seems to be based solely on the way they look. It is quite ridiculous, in my honest opinion…
Most girls are skinny
even unhealthy skinny. They have excellent smiles, impeccable make-up (far too much usually), and tame hair. Advertisements will feature women that are prettier than a Victoria’s Secret Angel or more scantily clad than one all the time. Add that on top of the already higher standards (or lower, depending on your viewpoint) of women and how they should behave and look, it makes for a society that degrades and pressures women into feeling like they cannot be in the presence of others without looking “perfect”.
I know plenty of women, and heard of many more, who will even wake up far before their husbands, boyfriends, and even siblings/family, just to do their hair and make-up because it is “unacceptable” for them to be seen without it even in their own homes.
Sigh, what has society come to…
So, ladies, do not let yourself get put down by the way society is run here in Japan. It is, unfortunately, how things work and cannot be changed by you, but can be ignored.
You are perfect just as you are
and do not let it affect you and your life choices while living in Japan (or anywhere for that matter!!).
You are coming to Japan to have the time of your life and letting yourself be hung up by such trifling matters will only spoil it all and make you miserable.