Last we left off I outlined the four key points of developing your packing plan; “How long will I be staying?”, “How available are replacement items?”, “What will I need?”, “What else can I fit that I want?”. I will expound on them further in the following paragraphs.

We’ll take the first question to begin with, “How long will I be staying?”. This question is the most important one and for good reason, it will determine how much you will need to take with you. There is really only three main answers for this question; less than a week, about a week, and two weeks or more. If you are packing for less than a week more often than not you will only need about three day’s worth of clothes, which can be fit in a piece of luggage quite easily. If it is about a week, just bring a week’s worth of clothing, it will pay off in the long run.

If you are going to be in Japan for two weeks or more, which is what I would expect if you plan on doing study abroad in Japan, then pack at least two week’s worth of clothing. The types of clothing depend on the person of course, but bring enough where you won’t have to do laundry every 4 or 5 days. Also if you are staying for more than two weeks you should also make space for other things besides clothing, such as any electronics you plan on taking with you (I will detail this choice a little more in Part III of this series). A quick note, I am a 21 year old male so I make my recommendations on clothing and shoes from that point of view, I realize that those of the female persuasion may require a larger amount of both. ^_^

The next question, “How available are replacement items?” is an especially important one as it will be the deciding factor on the amount of anything that you plan to bring with you. For instance, if you wear shoes that are size 9 (mens) or larger you should bring several pairs of shoes with you simply because you will have a hard time finding any replacements if you wear yours out. The same goes for clothing, the average Japanese person is not that large so if you are a larger person (horizontally or vertically) you will naturally have a harder time finding replacement clothing, so plan accordingly. The same goes with English language books, dvds, etc. Japan does not have a very large English speaking population so finding entertainment in English may be difficult, take what you think will suffice for the length of time you will be overseas.

The third key question is, “What will I need?”. I know it seems like common sense but seriously it is easier to pack with the bare essentials and then whatever else you want, than the other way around. Having too much to begin with then narrowing it down will be harder on you than starting with what you need then expanding from there. Obviously clothing is a necessity, I would also recommend at least three pairs of shoes. Do not, however, bring an electric alarm clock over to Japan. There are two reasons why I say this; first, you can easily purchase an alarm clock once you get to Japan; and second, it will not keep time correctly because Japan runs on a different electrical frequency (which is what clocks use to keep time) although other two pronged electriacl items should be fine. Other than that, like I said, keep it simple the need stuff first.

After you have covered what you need, you should have space left for what you want, which leads us to the final key question, “What else can I fit that I want?” The key piece of information is how much space do you have left? It is easy to fill that space once you have it, but making the room first is the hard part. Obviously you can only pack what you want into your luggage if it will fit, keep that in mind, although it is okay to overstuff a little bit. ~_^

After you have finished packing it is time to make sure that everything still meets the size and weight limits set by the airlines, just measure you luggage with a yardstick and weigh it on a household scale. It may not be perfectly accurate but close is good enough as long as it is under the limits. If one of your bags is over the limit (most likely weight wise) just re-distribute the contained items until everything is under the limit. It is a lot easier to do this at home rather then at the airport creating a bottleneck for people wanting to get on.

So this time I went through, in detail, my strategy on planning to pack. Next time I will give you direct examples of what I plan on taking with me on my flight to Japan, until then!

The Art of Packing, Part I
The Art of Packing, Part II
The Art of Packing, Part III