Japan Study Abroad Network > Study Abroad in Japan: Essential Travel Items for Students

Make sure you have what you need with you before you depart to Japan for your studies at Language Schools, Colleges or Universities. Here we will try to be as thorough as we can about what you definitely need, what you should probably bring, and some items which you don’t need tp bring as you might be better off buying it in Japan.
Some of these items are counterintuitive and relate uniquely to Japan and Japanese school customs, so read on to make sure you are ready to go!


Documents to bring:

  • Passport (essential) This is a bit of a no-brainer, but make sure you have it with you. Also, it is required by law that all foreigners in Japan carry their passport with them at all time. For this reason we also recommend keeping it in a protective cover to protects it while you carry it.
  • Extra passport photograph (optional): There are circumstance when you need a recent photograph of yourself for official purposes while abroad, such as updating your visa, etc. Of course you can get this done in Japan, but if you have the time before departure or can request two when you get a photo taken for your passport, you may as well.
  • Pen or fine tip marker (recommended): Although a student would likely pack these with them, we recommend to have one on your person for when you board the airplane so that you can fill out necessary landing documents for customs in Japan.


Clothing & Accessories to bring:

  • Full suit & tie for men; Long dress for women (essential) Not only are suits very common in Japan than they are in most other counties in the world, but for students specifically there will be occasions, such as the school Opening Ceremony, Graduation Ceremony, and Holiday occasions as well as other special events where a suit is the dress code or standard. It will also be important at job interviews, internships, and special events which you may not be able to foresee now.
  • Slip-on, running shoes (highly recommended): When entering homes, dormitories, traditional buildings (temples, ryokan, traditionally designed restaurants) and even some izakaya, you will be required to take your shoes off and to put them on again quickly when leaving. Bringing comfortable runners that are made to be slipped on and ideally have a versatile design will save you from holding up the line or being the last person to leave the restaurant.
  • Slippers & houseware (recommended): Unlike most countries in the world, it is customary to wear slippers while at home in Japan. Although this may seem optional, you might wish you had them if you end up living in a shared space like dormitories. On that note, you will also want to bring at least one bottom and two tops for houseware, regardless of your sleeping habits, if you are going to be in a situation where you will share a space with others or travel with friends. Similarly, if you have the space you might opt to bring shower shoes or flip flops for shared shower rooms. Of course all of these items can be purchased in Japan, but you might just need one or all of these items on your first day in Japan, depending on your circumstances.
  • Back pack or brief case(recommended): Especially for students, you will need this right away and you will want to buy it carefully as you will use it a lot for both school, travelling, and possibly as a daily carry-bag. If possible, buy it water-resistant or -proof, as Japan experiences a fair amount of rain.
  • Winter clothes (optional): You may choose to save on space by not packing your bulky items, and this is fine, but when winter comes to Japan, there are times you will want to have a warm jacket and possible thermal trousers if you are going out for long periods of time. That being said, for most people Japan is not as cold as their countries and so you might opt to buy a jacket in Japan when the time calls for it. Also, unless you are going to the northern part of Honshuu (like Aomori) or Hokkaido and/or planning on skiing or snowboarding, you will likely not need to bring heavy gloves or hats. Light gloves, hats and scarves are optional. In any case, the prices for these items in Japan are affordable.
  • Any other staple clothes and toiletries (optional): Although Japan is known everywhere for its fashion and cosmetics, besides bringing the items that you tend to wear the most in your hometown, it might be good to pack an extra bottle of any creams or gels you use (though not in your carry-on bag) so that you are good for a while and don’t need to look for these daily essentials early on during your stay.
  • IC Card Holder(optional): If you are going to commute on a regular basis, you will likely want to purchase an IC Card in Japan. Accordingly, you may want to consider getting a card holder specifically for this purpose so that it ideally doesn’t contain any other cards, so there is no interference with other cards when you tap to pay at train stations or on buses. If you don’t bring a card holder with you, this is fine, as you can buy it in Japan and until then can take your IC Card out of your wallet or purse every time. That being said however, a holder for your IC card is popular in Japan as it not only helps people smoothly access and use their IC Cards without slowing the flow of people, but also helps to ensure you don’t lose or misplace your card.


For daily essential living expenses like food and toiletries that does not include rent, tuition, utilities, and health insurance, you will need approximately ¥50,000 a month to live in Japan. As you will see, the living expenses in Japan are not too much if you know where to look and are keen to save money by cooking at home. In addition to this, you will want to prepare a little extra for the essentials that you are going to buy after you arrive in Japan, as well as for those impromptu nights out with your peers. Based on these projections, it is recommended that you plan 3 months on this budget, which is the period that you will likely not have any income and within which you can find a part-time job.

It is important to have some cash with you for when you first land Japan. Japan is very much a cash-based society compared to many other countries in the world, so to save you some hassle, it is recommended to consider bringing about a week’s worth of cash with you, or perhaps about ¥30,000 to start. Relatedly, you will want to research with the bank in your country what the best method of withdrawing cash is in Japan. One likely friend will be Seven-eleven convenience stores, which are located nearly everywhere in Japan are all equipped with ATM machines that accept most cards from around the globe with reasonable fees. Also, considering the fact that you will need cash with you on a regular basis, you will likely need an option of withdrawing cash that is accessible.

With the support of your student agency or your school, you will be able to open a bank account in Japan, which will become important to you if you begin working in Japan to supplement your expenses of living abroad.


As discussed previously, if you are looking to save money, the best way to do that in most cases is to cook food at home. That being said, Japan is possibly one of the most convenient countries in the world to live for those who live or dine alone, as many of its citizens do, and accordingly have many options available in supermarkets and convenience stores everywhere for ready-made meals at very reasonable prices. For example, at most supermarkets, you can pick up single-serving meals including mini sushi or sashimi platters, donburi (oyakodon, katsudon, curry don), pasta bowls, bento, soba, fried chicken, etc. for less than ¥600, and in most cases even more selection on single-serving meals at convenience stores for less than ¥500. Though the quality of supermarkets will likely be better than convenience stores, the food anywhere in Japan is usually very fresh.

Similarly, the produce and available foods at supermarkets are in many cases packaged for the convenience of a single person or even single portion. Of course the more you are used to cooking at home with local ingredients on a regular basis, the more you will be able to buy in larger portions and save more on costs.


Immediately after arriving in Japan you will be required to apply for and opt into Japan’s National Health Insurance, which covers 70% of all medical bills. The National Health Insurance is mandatory for all people residing in Japan, including those with Student, Work and Working-Holiday Visas, and basically anyone who is not in Japan as a Visitor. The registration process entails going in person to the City Ward Office closest to your Place of Residence and filling out forms, which are usually written in Japanese. Registering your Place of Residence is also something required of you and can be done at the same time as Applying for National Health Insurance, so long as you go to the City Ward Main Office and not the localized offices in smaller districts, where the services provided are more limited.


Materials needed for your study in Japan, including pens, notebooks, can be purchased at 100-yen stores like Daiso or Muji for very reasonable prices. Indeed, Japan is globally known for its stationery, so aside from some essentials, anything that you don’t bring with you can be purchased in Japan conveniently, with plenty of options available. In fact, most of the world’s famous and widely-used brands of stationery and related products are from Japan. That being said, bringing some materials with you to start you off is of course recommended and will save you needing to make immediate purchases for basic equipment.

It is recommended to bring a laptop if you have one. Note that you can find high-quality electronics in Japan, but if you buy an item with a keyboard, it will likely be different in design and tailored to typing Japanese. For everything else in way of electronics, including extra USB cords and adapters, power banks or mobile batteries, hard-drives, you can find high quality and affordable options in Japan in the event you need these during your stay.


Because you will be studying away from home, you may just want to bring some items that help alleviate homesickness, including your favourite cup, blanket, gifted items, or photos.

An important final note: Japan as is the case with many places in Asia has a particular culture of giving souvenirs. As such, we recommend if you have the space in your luggage to bring some small gifts from your hometown or country which can be given to friends, teachers, host family members, or others that you meet to whom you would like to express appreciation for their help, hospitality, or kindness.

Japan Study Abroad Network > Study Abroad in Japan: Essential Travel Items for Students