★ Sticky: Important posts

What to Pack

// This post was originally written back in August. I’ve tweaked it a little bit to update it with what I’ve learned after being here a few months. To summarize:

  1. Layering!
  2. Don’t overpack
  3. And ship the rest of your clothing over later. For example, you’re going to Japan in summer? Have someone from home mail fall/winter clothing to you. Or just buy new clothing as the seasons change. 
  4. You can buy a lot of things in Japan — their clothes are made for the weather and lifestyle there
  5. Unless you have huge feet, that’s troublesome
  6. Think about personal items/toiletries 

Original post below–

This is a guest post that I’m doing for Illaura, who will be studying abroad at Japan Women’s University. Make sure to check out her blog!

I leave for the JET program this weekend, so I just finished packing myself. This will be my second time in Japan, and although I went during the winter months last year (January through March), I’ve had to change my mindset a bit since I’ll be going into the hot, humid months and will be there for a whole year instead. So here’s what I thought about while packing.

Seasonal — Layering from Winter to Summer

If there’s one thing I learned while in Asia, it’s that layering works the best. If you have good basics, from tank tops to long sleeves, you can use them year round.

Bring versatile clothing you can wear in any season, since Japan gets all kinds of weather, including all 4 seasons. Japan also experiences an extra season: typhoon and rainy (tsuyu) seasons.

Really, my best advice would be: Don’t overpack. If you’re like me, you’re going to want to do some shopping over there anyway. You can always buy clothes there, and there clothes are made for the weather and lifestyle there!

Winter — Stay warm under layers

One good jacket or coat. You really only need one, reliable jacket. I brought two with me, but ended up using one 95% of the time. It was semi-long, hooded, and reached mid-thigh. If I needed to, I would layer a hoodie under it. Depending on the extent of the cold, I would also wear a thin long sleeve shirt with a tank top underneath.

Leggings and tights. Even if you don’t have them or only bring a few with you, you will finds tons of Japanese shops selling socks (from knee-high to thigh-high, simple to lacy), tights and leggings. I bought so many leggings and tights in Japan, even a few simple leg warmers. When it’s freezing out, I also layered tights or leggings under jeans. Japan also sells lots of thermal underclothing, tops and bottoms, soon as summer ends.

It’s also just a good idea in general to have good, clean socks without holes. Especially because you will be taking off your shoes when you enter people’s homes and they will be seen.

That’s another thing — Shoes! If you have larger feet like I do (a US size 9), it’s very hard to find shoes that fit anywhere, so bring all the necessary shoes you need. I got lucky and was able to squeeze into an XXL ankle boot when I was in Tokyo, but that was a rare occurrence… and not worth the ¥10,000 in the end. Japanese shoe sizes are in centimeters, and if I remember correctly, the highest size is usually 23-24 cm/US 7-8. Ones that are easy to slip on and off are nice for when you are visiting people’s homes. Not necessary, I would say, but I’ve caught myself feeling like I was holding people up because I had boots that required lots of lacing up. Depending on where and when you’re going, you might want to think about boots that are waterproof and can handle the snow.

Keep those shoulders covered! One thing I was warned before going to Japan was don’t wear shoulder-revealing tops like tank tops or spaghetti straps. Or at least put something over like a cardigan. I studied abroad in a rural, small town university, so I think it applied more there. People won’t necessarily say anything to you about it, but you might get a few stares since it’s not very commonly seen. However, It seems to be fine if you’re out in the bigger cities and you’re young. For more business-like or other formal situations, it’s better to put something over it.

Summer — Layering is still your best friend

Since I’m headed to Japan in August, I’ve been thinking more about warm weather clothes.

Thin, breathable material, like linens. Tank tops that can be layered under knit tops or cardigans. Cardigans also transition well to cooler, fall weather or an extra layer in the winter months. If you see a UNIQLO when you get to Japan, they’ve got good undershirts and other great basics, and even a UV Cut collection.

Thinner leggings or more sheer tights to wear under skirts or shorts. I’ve bought more flowy skirts recently. Since I’m going to be in a more conservative, rural area, I got skirts around knee length or maxi skirts.

Another thing I was advised was to have undershirts to wear under your normal shirts. Although it may be hotter, I’m told it’s better to have that undershirt sticking to you in that humidity, rather than your actual shirt. If you don’t have these, drop by a UNIQLO once you’re in Japan. They’re great for stocking up on basics. I bought a lot of tank tops when I arrived in Japan. If you also buy a few of those knit tops, then you’re set because they cover up your shoulders and are breathable over  tank top.

In general, I tend to wear long tops/shirt-dresses over tights or leggings, which transition well from summer to winter, as I have leggings of various thickness and I can easily put on a jacket over. They also are just easy to pack because they take up less space. Currently, my two suitcases are mostly filled with those, plus jeans, short sleeve tops, tank tops, 3-4 knit tops, a thin jacket, a cardigan, a blazer, some button up shirts, skirts, and my shoes (1 pair each of rainboots, ankle boots, heels for work, and 2 pairs each of flats).

I’m basically all packed… except those omiyage

Other things to think about when packing

Toothpaste and deodorant, since you may find the ones in Japan may be weaker or just not to your liking. Japanese toothpaste also doesn’t have as much fluoride, and their water doesn’t have fluoride unlike back home, so your teeth are more susceptible. I don’t like the toothbrushes or floss in Japan either. All other toiletries, shampoo, conditioner, soap, facewash, I just buy in Japan (their hair products are amazing!). Brands you prefer may be available, but they’ll be more expensive, like I saw Clearasil, but they were often double the price. Also just be aware that a lot of the facewashes have products to lighten your skin. I had no problems with pads over there, but for those of you who prefer tampons, there are few choices available, and they may be smaller than what you are used to.

Well, this post ended up being longer than I intended, but I hope it can be a little helpful!

A pre-departure update

JET departure for the San Francisco group is two days away! This blog will likely not be updated anymore, unless I finally get around to making the rest of the informational posts. But I thought I’d share my new blog for while I’m doing JET!

Also, be sure to check out Illaura’s blog. I’ve done a guest post for her about packing. She will be studying at Japan Women’s University (JWU).

A post-graduation update

Hi all,

I said I would continue to update this blog with more informational posts, but they’ve been far and few between. I graduated this May and I’m quite pleased to say that I have gotten into the JET Program! I will be in Mie prefecture. はい、今回は関西やで!I’m thinking of starting a new blog, but I’m still debating if I’d like to do it through another WordPress blog or another site. But I would like to keep it separate from this one. I will link it once I’ve figured it out! Less than a month to go, and I’m getting more and more nervous!

I also wanted to make this post to say thank you to all of you! I never thought I would get so many viewers or people e-mailing me about Tsuru, or people asking me questions via formspring and twitter. I do hope some of you have decided to go to Tsuru, it really is wonderful and will give you many great memories and experiences. I heavily credit the elementary school volunteering for helping me get into JET, especially the interview. I do hope to get to visit Tsuru again within this year in JET.

I leave for JET on 8/5, but please don’t hesitate to contact me. I may be a bit slower with replies, but I do get to them!

★ Tsuru Apartment Information

Click through for full size image.

Long time no update! One of the things I said I would post was the floor plan of the apartment. This is a sketch I did of the apartment. All the apartments are more or less like this, or flipped.

Hopefully, the futon room makes sense. It’s basically like a little cave where your futon is and you climb up a short ladder to it. And know that there have been many times I’ve almost fallen off when climbing down half-awake! That little “cave” is on top of the storage closet, which is accessible from the hallway. The hallway looks larger on the drawing by the way, but it’s actually a lot narrower.

The main room really is just a big open space. It has a studio or loft feel. My was really open because I had my desk in one corner, sofa and TV against one wall, and the set of storage drawers against another wall. People come over and hang out a lot anyway, so it’s a great area for that.

I lived on the second floor, #204 (if I’m remembering the correct number!), right by the stairs. I had a small blue sofa. #202 had the kotatsu, just the table though, and for some reason not the heater part. And oh, I forgot to add to the list of included furnishings — a small TV.

Paying for Rent

Rent is 50,000 yen a month, utilities, PG&E, water, Internet, yes everything included. You pay this in cash to Takiguchi-sensei every month. You put it in an envelope. It’s rude to give anyone money directly. You’ll notice you always put it in envelope when giving money to someone, and when you go shopping, you always place money down on a money tray.

Before I had my post office bank account set up, I was withdrawing cash from the international ATM on campus, right next to the cafeteria. I forgot the withdrawal limit, but there is one. I always withdrew the maximum amount though because of international fees my bank here at home charged. Also know that the post office bank account and all Japanese banks close after a certain time, and they charge you if you take out money after hours. I’m pretty sure they were closed on the weekends too, or at least on Sundays.

Other things about your apartment

Really close to campus. 10-15 minute walk, maybe more if you are trudging through snow. Be aware that you have to cross train tracks, and you may want to try and beat when the train comes through every morning since they’re more strict about you coming to class on time. I have woken up late before though, and I’ve ran to class in a little less than 10 minutes.

Yes, you do have a heater, which THANK GOODNESS because it was freaking COLD since I went during the fall semester! Yup, you get snow. This never happened to me, but I was told by someone who studied at Tsuru before me to not overuse it. She said Fumi-san will talk to you if your heating bill goes way up. Keep your heater around 23~25C and definitely don’t go 30C, and don’t leave it on all day like my neighbors! And close your main room’s sliding room to keep it warm.

Things nearby. A lot. There are a lot of things in walking distance:

  • 2 grocery stores. I mainly went to Ogino, the one closer. It tends to have better produce. If you go on the right day, you can also get eggs for 100 yen. The other one, I’m blanking on the name, is better for buying meat. They also have a little bakery.
  • Seria, the 100 yen shop. There’s seriously nothing you can’t get here. I got all my school supplies here. If you know the dollar store Daiso, think that, but better and with even more stuff. Just a word of advice, don’t buy soaps, towels, shampoos, etc. there, they’re not great quality. The handtowel and placemat I got were fine though.
  • Welcia, the local drug store. I would get my contact solution here. It’s a bit farther, going away from the school, but very walkable.
  • Post office. It is going away from the school, but also very close by. Way more convenient than the bank.
  • Train station, which I’ve mentioned above, is on the way to school. You’ll definitely be going there a lot!
  • Convenience stores (konbini), bowling alley/arcade, gym, karaoke, many restaurants…

Sitting on the other side of the table

I volunteered at the EAP Japan orientation yesterday. I had no idea that my blog comes up as one of the top results for Tsuru University on Google! I’m flattered that my blog has been of help, and it was interesting to hear from people I’ve met in real life talk about my blog. Expect a little bit changes and cleaning up of the site in the days to come! (I should be doing reading right now, but I’m posting this instead…)

I’m listing off topics here that have come to mind and that I think I should post eventually–

  • [DONE] Apartment info — I unfortunately never got around to taking photos, but I do plan on posting up a drawing of the floor plan. I’ll also talk about rent payment, etc.
  • [DONE] What’s in the neighborhood
  • More on cell phones — Getting them, recharging them, the SoftBank website, etc.
  • Receiving packages
  • What to pack and what to leave at home
  • The campus

If there are any topics you would like to suggest or you would like to ask specific questions, leave a comment or hop on over to my formspring!

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