Japan - April, 2017
Frequently Asked Questions

Packing

We are traveling not as backpackers, nor as wealthy high-end baggage toters. To enjoy this trip as much as possible, we want to strive to find a balance between schlepping heavy bags and spending a lot of time doing laundry.

The ideal goals for packing might look like this:

  • All baggage should fit on board the plane. This means, probably, one bag with rollers for the overhead bin and one "personal item" such as a purse, briefcase, or computer bag
  • This will minimise wait times at baggage carousels
  • It will also minimise chances of bags getting lost, stolen, or rifled through

However, there are legitimate reasons for checking a bag. We can work with this, but we need to know well in advance what everyone's intentions are.

Here are some benefits to consider for checking a bag:

  • Less lifting and schlepping on the plane; travelers with arthritis or physical problems find this especially liberating, but everyone else may also find this more enjoyable
  • Checked bags can be used to carry liquids over three ounces
  • Often the plane runs out of room for carry on and then some people find that they have to check our baggage at the gate so everyone has to wait at baggage claim anyway. If you plan on checking from the start, you are prepared for the process right from the start

Also, whether you check a bag, only do carry on, or do both, make sure all your bags are as light as possible. There are still places where you will have to carry bags up and down stairs (some train stations for example)

 


You will want to plan on using handkerchiefs for drying your hands; most restrooms do not supply paper towels and many restaurants don't set napkins on the table

Japanese think using your handkerchief for blowing your nose is disgusting: that's what tissues (Kleenex) are for.

Electricty in Japan is 100 volts; consider bringing a converter (without a converter, your appliances will run, but with less power)

Consider not bringing any appliances

If you do bring something that needs to be plugged in, be aware that Japanese outlets are two-pronged; if your plug has three prongs you will need an adapter

Note also: you will not need a robe or slippers: every Japanese hotel and ryokan supplies those for use while you stay with them.

 


Here is our trip from the point of view of luggage ...

When we start out in Denver, if you check a bag, you will not see it until you arrive in Tokyo. That's convenient, for sure.

Arriving in Tokyo, if you have checked a bag you will need to wait at the baggage carousel for it to come in.

From the airport to the hotel is easy: all luggage can go in the limousine bus to the hotel.

To get to Kyoto, we will trek to the train station to jump on a shinkansen; arriving in Kyoto walk to the hotel (about 4 minutes).

To get to Hiroshima, we will trek to the station to jump on a shinkansen for a ride to shin-Osaka station where we catch another shinkansen to Hiroshima.

Here is a tour of a typical shinkansen. Next, check out this YouTube video of travel by shinkansen. Check out the size of the luggage racks: really meant for small personal bags.

There is no baggage car nor checked baggage capability. Our JR pass allows us to travel in reserved seats or non-reserved seats (in "ordinary" as opposed to "green" cars (first class)).

If we travel in non-reserved seats we can try and grab a group of seats near the back of the car so we can stack luggage there. If we travel in reserved seats we may be able to reserve seats at the back, but we can't put luggage in seats that are reserved.

In Hiroshima we will walk to our hotel - gotta' schlepp your bag.

From Hiroshima, walk to train track, get on shinkansen.

Shinkansen takes us to Nagoya where we have to change trains to the local train.

In Takayama, the people will assist us in any way necessary to get all our bags to our lodging, no problem.

When we travel from Takayama to Tokyo, we reverse our train travel to Nagoya by local train (Hida Express), then Tokyo by shinkansen.

When we return home, we will take the hotel shuttle bus to the airport. You may check bags in Tokyo if you like. In L.A. we need to claim any checked bags and go through customs but then we can put them on a conveyor belt to our final flight. If you don't have checked bags, you still need to go through customs, and, of course, take your bags with you from the international arrival to the domestic departure gate.

 

To help you strategize what to pack, imagine what you'll be wearing as you move along. Then you can decide what you need to have in your bag. Try to strike a balance between traveling light and keeping down [laundry] expenses. And good hygiene.

Consider taking advantage of a couple of laundry opportunities to save time, although it will cost a little. Your personal strategy may include washing a few things in your room, going to a laundromat, wearing some items more than once or twice, or another set of strategies.

Also, recognize that women have different outfit needs than men, and each of us is unique in other ways, with differing needs and preferences.