What I Brought to Japan as a New Student
Disclaimer: This is how I did my packing. I’d like to think that it’s pretty logical, but you are you, so don’t forget that! You have your own tastes and needs, so you shouldn’t be pressured to follow this guide to the letter!
So you are coming to APU. You’ll be living here for the next four years, and if you’re like me, who had never been to another country in his life, you’ll probably want to wrap your entire house in a box and carry it to Japan. Since most of us can’t do that, we’ll have to make do by packing only the essentials for living in Japan—
But, I asked back then, what are ‘the essentials’?
So, I’ve categorized my top picks for packing as a new student coming to Japan. Here we go!
All those school/travel documents you need to travel to and enter Japan.
This means your passport, flight ticket, COE, documents from APU such as your Notification of Admissions Approval, AP House Residence Permit, and Japanese Tobira textbook with accompanying pre-enrollment Japanese assignment (if that was sent to you).
There’s some administrative stuff you have to go through on arrival in Japan, so I also recommend that you keep a pen on you at all times during the journey here.
Allegedly, it makes the world go round. And it may be exchanged for goods and services.
So what does this mean for you? It means you don’t need to bring that much luggage, despite coming to live here for four years, because you can buy whatever else you need once you arrive.
Also, getting your money exchanged into yen before coming to Beppu will save you a lot of time and headaches after you get here. Some students exchange at airports or banks back home, some exchange after getting to Japan. Ultimately, you will have to make this choice. But just know that bringing US dollars or any other currency means you will have to find an exchange machine (which are relatively difficult to find in Japan), or find a bank (which often have limited business hours) to get your cash changed into yen.
In my case, some of the money I had was in electronic form and accessible via a debit card, but of course, I brought physical moolah, and kept it in multiple places during travel, like an obscure pocket somewhere in my jacket, in case I couldn’t use my debit card in Japan for some reason or I lost my wallet.
As for how much you should bring, read the "Handbook of Enrollment Procedures". It’s actually a useful book, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring it with you as well.
Food, drinks, spices, sauces from home.
I practically brought an entire kitchen’s worth of sauces and spices with me in my luggage, because I (correctly) guessed that once in a while I would miss food from back home, and this way, I could cook something comforting whenever I felt like it. It was fun to be able to share dishes from home with my new friends at APU too.
However, items in this category should be kept to a minimum, because you can probably purchase most of what you need in Japan.
Also be careful not to bring any items that are not allowed through Japanese customs. Do your research on this if you aren’t sure.
Health Care Items
Basically, if it pertains to your well-being, it’s in this section.
This include medicine that prevents you from getting sick. You know what medicine is necessary for you.
Of course, you can get medicine from hospitals, clinics and pharmacies here in Japan, but doing it in Japanese can be tricky when you first arrive, even with a friend in hand, so that’s why I am recommending it here.
Also, Band-Aids. They’re not rare or expensive or difficult to get, but having one at hand is far more convenient than bleeding all the way to the convenience store.
Again, make sure you aren’t bringing anything that is illegal in Japan. This goes for amounts of medicine too. It’s very important to keep this in mind, and be sure to get information from your local Japanese consulate or embassy if you have questions.
Memorabilia, mementos, hobby-related items—basically, things that you can’t live without.
If you can’t get them in Japan with the same kind of quality you have in your home country, then it’s in this category. If you even suspect that you can’t get this in Japan, it falls in this category as well.
For me, English books (specifically fiction) fall into this category. To find a large selection is at the very least a two-hour bus ride away in Fukuoka. So this is definitely something I brought myself. You can borrow some from the APU Library or buy some new and used ones in APU’s on-campus convenience store, but the selection is quite limited.
Oh! On the subject of books—definitely, definitely bring your own Japanese-English dictionary. Electronic dictionaries are extremely popular here but expensive, and paper dictionaries can be difficult to find.
Final tip: If you choose to live with a roommate like I did, try and bring something small as gift from your home to give to them. It’s a nice gesture and great conversation starter.
“Get a Good Night’s Sleep” Items
Pack everything you’ll need to sleep at night properly. Headphones, pillows, blankets—if you need it to sleep at night, then it goes in your luggage.
APU does provide sheets, a blanket and a pillow in AP House, but it might not be to your liking. You’re going to stay here for at least six months without having the chance to return home, and if you can’t sleep during that time…well, I’m not a doctor, but I do not think that’s healthy.
What I personally packed was a body pillow. I can’t sleep without one at night, so I compressed one and shoved it into my luggage. It took some space, but considering how difficult it is for me to sleep without it, it has definitely been worth it.
Clothes/kləʊ(ð)z/noun[plural] A1. Things such as dresses and trousers that you wear to cover, protect, or decorate your body. (Cambridge Online Dictionary, Cambridge)
Keep clothes to a minimum – it’s one of the best ways to cut down on luggage. This is because you can always buy more socks or t-shirts or whatever you need once you’re here.
There’s one exception to the rule—that’s regarding winter clothing.
(By the way, this is a bigger deal for those of you coming to APU in March for the spring semester, because it’s still quite cold in Beppu then. For those coming in September, it will still be hot here, so necessity of winter clothes won’t have quite the same urgency.)
I come from Indonesia, which is close to the equator. So if you’re like me, then you likely have never seen snow before, unless you cheated by going somewhere else in the world. In that case, bring a winter jacket or two so you can survive the cold. They’re large and can be a hassle to fit into the luggage, but in my experience, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
Some people choose to buy jackets once they get here, which is an option too because they are widely available. But they can be more expensive than your home country’s prices (depending, of course, from where you come from).
Laptops (and all associated materials), notebooks, and other things like that.
You can buy a laptop here, but remember, all Windows laptops have a Japanese OS, and English Windows OS aren’t typically available in local stores. Plus, Japanese keyboards are slightly different to the one you are used to.
Make sure that you have enough space for all electronics and the chargers, and don’t forget that you may need adapters for Japan’s electrical sockets (you can buy them here as well, but since they’re relatively expensive, you can save some money just bringing them from home).
If you’re an APM student, actually, no matter which major you are, I would recommend bringing a calculator if you already have one so you don’t have to go to the trouble of buying a new one.
In the end, I hope that you keep in mind during your packing process that your health and comfort reign above absolutely everything else.
As for things like how you should prepare mentally, you can read a blog I wrote on dealing with culture shock, or if you’d like to know what else you can expect in the journey from your home to APU, you can read this older (but very much serviceable!) guide.
That about covers it for my tips on packing. Safe travels here, and I’ll see you on campus!
Kilameida Irwantoro is a 2nd Year APS student from Indonesia. If he’s not hanging in a game center or the school library, you’re likely to find him typing away in McDonald’s. He dislikes small talk and prefers to talk at length about Plato, or the latest episode of whatever anime he’s watching at the time.