Packing for Japan or anywhere really. Four international trips last year, three the year before and before that. I’ve gotten really used to big packing. So let me share some tips and learn from my mistakes. Hopefully I stick to these rules well since I’m leaving for a month in Japan in a few weeks!

This is a guideline for most airlines which means you can have two checked bags and two carry-ons. If you have different requirements always check and tailor to those.

Not theme packing or considering each piece

A lot of times people say to make a capsule collection of clothing when packing. Based on some theme or something. I like the idea, I do. If anything polyvore and pinterest are great at compiling them. But it doesn’t seem to work for me in real life and it’s mostly geared towards normcore or minimalist. Two things I have realized I am not. And even if I try to do with with my own closet, I do not feel like that capsule person 24/7.

So instead I stick with a few rules.

BIG RULE! Can everything you pack be worn with two other things or more you pack. Is that printed skirt good with more than one top? And as you do this you may find yourself relying on one item more and more. So just play around with it and see.

I’m a big fan of drawing out all the items I plan to pack and doing this check. See my silly drawings of this in the Getting back to Gal post.

Other rule: Bring one coat/sweater cardigan/trench during Spring/Summer/Fall make it go with everything else. Wear it/carry it on the plane. Coats are big suitcase killers. They’re both heavy AND take up space. If you need to bring 1 coat and 1 jacket. But really they’re chunky.

Other rule: Sometimes its better to bring separates than dresses because it’s easier to wear a separate two days in a row. Or just multiple times that week.

Other rule: Consider shoes. Shoes are heavy. Shoes need to be walked in miles everyday. Pick three including the ones you’re wearing to travel. If it’s only a week you get two. (more on this below)

Bringing too much clothing

Too much clothing? You regularly hear people complain they didn’t pack warmly or cooly enough (solve that at uniqlo or GU for cheap), but too much clothing? 

You’ve packed your coordinates and then immediately throw out most of the ideas when you arrive to Japan. You’ve bought new clothes and you probably want to wear them immediately. All your packed clothes seem dull when you see the new releases at stores. Or a good vintage find. You’ll despise most of what you’ve packed. I do this every damn trip.

I swear I’m packing the chicest looks every time. I feel top-level stylish. I arrive. Buy things. Ignore what I packed in my suitcase.

If you’re planning on clothes buying pack much less than you need!

I’m really trying to break my habit of this. And its important. You’ve got to stay a few pounds under your suitcase weight limit so you can bring all the cute stuff you’re buying back.

This is a trick I like to do. I get on the scale and weigh myself, and then weigh myself holding my (fully packed) suitcase. Subtract and you’ll get a better and more accurate weight number than just putting a suitcase on a scale. 7 lbs under is smart, 10 lbs under is genius.

Not considering the trip home

This brings me to sub mistake:  Pack less. You’ll have so much less to worry about on your way home. Packing to head home can be the most stressful part of your whole trip. 

Shoes are a big offender. Wear your heaviest pair of shoes to travel and pack only 3 or less. 

Bring an expandable bag. An eco bag or zip tote you can flatten. If it’s an eco-bag most long-haul flights accept that people coming home are bringing presents. If it looks shopping-like it’s most allowed WITH your carry-on and purse. Or you can shove your purse into the eco bag.

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My recommendation is an adjustable shoulder strap duffle bag. Especially a collapse-able one like this with soft sides and light-weight nylon (so it wont take up weight in your luggage). You can find them for $15 or so on eBay or amazon.

If you’ve got a little extra even after that bring it along in a shopping bag. Yes you’re fudging airplane rules, but I’ve never been told no. Especially since a lot of people are carrying these because of duty-free shopping. You’d be amazed how much you can fit into a shopping bag.

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Shopping bags are a great way to skirt weight rules.

Carry a large carry-on. Put your purse in it. It can work as a second luggage. You can fill it up at the end of the trip with excess items.

If you have preferred status on airlines usually you can get on first and secure your storage. Most long haul flights have ample storage so it’s not such a pickle.

I usually end up on the flight home with my large carryon and my duffle bag and a shopping bag. Never been told no.

Worrying too much about cute and not enough about comfortable

Long-haul flights cause your belly to store bad bacteria and lack of sleep can cause water retention.  New food to your system and you can have some digestive issues. All of these can lead to a lot of bloating. Also studies have shown the sleep deprivation can help you pack on the pounds even without the water issue.

Or you want to go to the all-you-can-eat Sweets Paradise or indulge at q-pot.  Or you had a really good time last night and drank too much at nomihodai.

While you’ve feeling like it’s time to put your body into the sea and let it be with the rest of the whales, wear something comfy and cute. 

A little bit uncomfortable is okay, but have some back-ups.

Also fitted clothes can be an opposite problem. Sometimes the extra walking and busyness can lead to lots of weight loss and you’re in baggy items. So let elastic be your friend.

Suggestions: A lower heel or platforms or sneakers, an elastic skirt, forgiving jeans. Babydoll and a-line dresses are making a comeback this season. Or just a big cosy sweater dress or sweater + skirt to hide in.

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Low heel options are available for every style

Allergy & Stomach medicine

Allergy medicine is my big recommendation. The pollen, mold and other allergens are different in Japan. You may just find out you’re allergic to ginkgo pollen. Zrytec and Claritin and such are prescribed medicines in Japan or at much lower doses if over-the-counter. The flu-like symptoms of allergies can knock you out for days if you don’t prepare beforehand.

I shared earlier why your belly may be upset. And when you’re stomach is bad you don’t need to go hunting to a drug store, you need relief now. I usually pack pepto and a digestive tea. 

Not researching adapters

Universal adapters are cheap. But unnecessary and heavy if your MacBook or laptop or hairdryer is only two prongs US-style. Most of the time you can leave them at home if you’re US or Canada, but have to bring them maybe if you’re from certain European countries. Here’s a quick on travel adapters in Japan

Not packing food

Pack food in your carryon. Pack snacks: nuts etc… This goes in my eating healthy post I’m going to make, but maybe the first night you arrive in Japan you’ll wake up at 2:00am wanting to eat. You can easily snatch it out of your carryon. Your belly will thank me when it has something from home to eat. Again your belly may get messed up, best to have something from home to ease it into foreign food. If you buy bulk snacks from home and put them in snack bags you’re also saving money.

Make everything travel sized and don’t buy travel size

I just buy hairspray in Japan because it saves me from buying a travel one in the US. But switch to solid soap and just pack that. Get cheap travel bottles, don’t buy travel sized items. Travel sized items are usually more expensive and you can make your own of your favorite products instead of having to settle for what’s drugstore travel-size brand.

A while ago I invested in the “GoToob” brand and I really like them. They’re silicone, haven’t leaked for me, and are dishwasher safe. I usually bring 3-4 of them: shampoo, conditioner, lotion and face mask (for the plane). You can find cheaper options on eBay just search “silicone bottle”.

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Bring plastic grocery bags or gallon sized bags

Plastic bags can help you store liquids in travel. You can also use plastic bags to store shoes in your luggage. Shoe soles get dirty and you don’t want that dirt on your clean clothes or just floating off in your luggage. I usually bring shoe dust bags but really plastic bags work just fine. They weigh nothing, take up very little space and can really help you manage the mix of your luggage. If you’re in a bind, hotel shower caps work great for covering shoe soles.

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These sure-zip ones are perfect for packing lots of liquids.

I hope you’ve learned from my mistakes and have now become a smarter packer!  :wink:

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I went to Kumamoto, Japan (熊本) on my way back from Kagoshima a few years back. Kumamoto recently has had a big tourism boom thanks to local mascot Kumamon. Admittedly I was swayed by the Kumamon boom and decided to check out the city.

I found Kumamoto to be a small friendly city full of great local food and kind people. Its a city dominated by the largest castle in Japan Kumamotojo (熊本城), and has a large garden complex, Suizenji (水前寺公園) as well. Transit is by car of tiny street cars and the city felt like a large neighborhood. Every seller was kind and an old lady stopped and complimented on my Mariju nails. It was only a day trip, but I’d like to go back maybe during koyo and sample their ramen.

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Kumamoto Castle

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Lovely walk inside Kumamoto garden

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A cute matcha store

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From the top of Kumamoto Castle

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Shrine inside Kumamoto garden

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Cute giftshop outside Kumamoto garden featuring Kumamon

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The super convenient and cute light rail of Kumamoto

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Yomogi Ikinari Dango, a Kumamoto speciality of sweet potato and azuki bean.

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The great interesting flavors of Kumamoto’s own gelato. I got tomato. It was tasty and ate it while looking at Kumamoto castle.

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A frozen Ikinari dango eaten with the Kumamoto castle ticket

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Kumamon souveniers I bought for my friend Alice.

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Citrus stand inside Kumamoto gardens.

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People gearing up and me eating another Ikinari dango.

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Karashi renkon: The lotus roots, holes filled with the Japanese mustard mixed with miso paste, is battered and deep fried. It’s one of the most famous local dishes of Kumamoto.

It was suprisingly tasty!

I had such a lovely day trip I keep suggesting to my man to visit there again. He’s not very swayed but I promise Kumamoto is definitely a great stop if you’re heading to Kagoshima, Fukuoka or Nagasaki.

Why so long no posts Mitsu?

So your girl Mitsu made a post about oh woe I was going to quit blogging but blogging is important and we need more words and such and so forth and forthwith… Then what do I do after two measly posts? Take a damn break. Every blogger is hypocritical, every damn one of us.

Well I got older and somehow that meant a lot of busy birthday time and then my man got a job. A job that is in Atlanta. A job they decided they wanted him to start right away at. Houston to Atlanta sounds like no big deal since it’s still the South but America is just damn big. It’s 800 miles away or the equivalent of London to Stockholm or Tokyo to Kagoshima. Atlanta being a place I’ve never even visited before (unlike London, Stockholm, Tokyo and Kagoshima oddly…). So we had to drive out there find an area we like and a place we want to stay for at least a year… in two days. Madness!

But we did it and my new place will be awesome and maybe I’ll even post decorating and we’re slowly moving there so posts will stay hectic. My twitter is a billion times more updated on real life stuff and instagram is semi-updated. I also promised to post a place of my Houston digs on twitter so if you’re a curious bee you may want to check?  I need to edit pictures for the book review/summary but expect two posts of that soon(ish). Other than that lazy blogger is real life frazzled so give me some time.  :peace:

Himeji Castle sakura (姫路城 Himeji-jo) was a last minute choice after the big mountain trek to Takeda Castle. I looked at hanami-walker which is an overly complicated guide to sakura viewing in Japanese. However it’s got great information on light-ups (night viewing) and festivals. I saw that there was a light-up at Himeji Castle and since it was on the way back to Osaka we decided to make a detour. Himeji Castle has a great website in English if you’d like to visit.

 

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Himeji Castle’s mascot is Shiromaru Hime (しろまるひめ). Or White round princess. Silly, but cute and even with her own website: http://www.shiromaruhime.jp/. Her cherry blossom accessory really shows well known Himeji Castle is for their sakura.

Note: Himeji Castle is currently being restored so it may not be the best photo op, but the grounds are lovely especially during sakura season.

EDIT: It just reopened!  Ellie says they will have even more celebrations this year! Yay

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Himeji castle #fromwhereIstand thanks discount shop G.U. for the cheap pants and shoes together 1,400 yen or $12 good enough for a hike.

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Weeping sakura last longer so you’ll often see them in bloom while the “pink snow” has started.

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The pink snow is the best! End of the sakura season is so underrated.

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Twilight heading to the Himeji Castle sakura light-up

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Like snow, but not cold and PINK. Perfect.

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The actual light-up inside the main grounds was cool AND FREE!

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For light-up locations in Japan (sakura and koyo season) they use dedicated spot lights that make the colors really POP.

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Even at the end of the Himeji Castle sakura season the light-up was still great.

Himeji Castle Omiyage!

Compared to other Japanese castle mascots (list) Shiromaru Hime is a true winner. Thankfully Himeji had lots of omiyage to buy to show off your Shiromaru Hime love.

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Sadly both strawberry to show off the strawberry over sakura love but they look tasty.

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Himeji City also has its own mascot and it’s Kuroda Kanbei or just “Kanbei” (官兵衛). It’s based on an actual historical guy named Kuroda Kanbei (english | wiki).

Himeji Castle in Hyogo is a really nice visit and very convenient from both Kyoto and Osaka. There’s also a Hello Kitty cafe that I wish I knew about earlier.  Himeji Castle sakura are really lovely even at the end of the season so if you’re in need of a short trip from the Kansai area, take a look.

Need more sakura? All the sakura posts on the Doll here

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Osaka sakura at Osaka Castle and the Kyu-Yodo River (旧淀川 Kyu-Yodo gawa) cherry blossoms show off all I like about sakura season. The cherry blossoms are free to enjoy and these types of events always seem more for everyone. Also it’s a stretch of land that’s nice but becomes absolutely gorgeous in Spring. It draws a lot of people out and especially on weekends and everyone is having a good time. Free and for everyone, proletariat sakura!

I know there’s such beautiful photos of tons of sakura creating a pink universe for Japan, but they’re everywhere. Sometimes just in basic places: a lone old sakura tree in a schoolyard, a public park, or in someone’s garden.

Atashida and I decided to have an impromptu hanami and the Kyu-Yodo River was perfect for it. Then I went back last year to enjoy again. Two years of Osaka sakura in one post!

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Sakura and Osaka castle! The grounds are free to walk around in so you can spend zero and enjoy.

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Although not as plentiful as summer or fall festivals a few food stalls pop up around hanami viewing spots.

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Some people get really serious to reserve a spot for hanami.

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And some people just pull up a bench and enjoy the view. It’s definitely a whatever you feel like atmosphere.

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From the river the view is spectacular and tour boats traverse the area filled with people on weekends.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lots of boats traveling down for Osaka sakura

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People waiting in line for the boat tours.

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There were even different types of sakura on the river.

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I can’t find out what this cherry blossom flower type is but I love the double color.

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Last year I went back and it was on a weekday past the prime sakura viewing season so the river was mostly empty except for joggers. Working out through sakura season must be nice!

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Falling sakura on water are so pretty.

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Last year the leftover Osaka sakura were so nice. We were there in early afternoon and everything was reflecting and peaceful.

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The quick gets at a local Sunklus conbini for the hanami. The drinks are Kirin’s special sakura can beer and a peach chu-hai. Those dango say 3-color dango but they’re actually known as “hanami dango” and they’re special to the sakura season. The candied apple was an actual candied apple with a hard candy shell. I thought I would lose some teeth eating it.

Osaka sakura aren’t as fancy as its neighbor Kyoto but it’s a lovely free time to have.

Travel savings tip: I recommend to people especially during sakura and koyo season to stay in Osaka. You’ll get a better hotel deal and travel to Kyoto is only 10 mins via shinkansen or an hour via regular train. Kyoto hotels book up months in advance and the ones left over are usually very pricey. Osaka hotels can be around 7,000-12,000 yen a night ($65-110) for a good location and a decent place. Plus Osaka has a lot of shopping and food options especially at dinner time compared to Kyoto.

Estimated cost of travel day, because I like to show that traveling Japan doesn’t have to be expensive:

Travel: We stayed in Osaka but used transit to get to Osaka castle. About 500 yen roundtrip rail pass unnecessary. 14 day rail pass is around $30USD a day.

Lodging: My hotel was 7,400 yen a night in Osaka.

Food: Breakfast was bakery breads and canned coffee 500 yen, Lunch was Kushi katsu at Daruma around 1,400 yen, refilled bottle of waters (free), dinner was a splurge at Kani Doraku crab for 2,500 yen.

Total spent without lodging or travel: 4,200 yen or $39

Total including everything (food, lodging, travel): 14,000 yen or $126 for two people: 18,000 yen or $160. I also bought some Donki eyelashes and makeup for 5,000 yen.

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