I recently posted some useful advice about the next few steps for JET and becoming a new incoming ALT. I know I touched on the subject of packing when I stated that over packing clothes is a rather useless endeavor. What about everything else?
Here are some tips on things you should think about packing:
Above and beyond anything else you will be sure to need is our friend Mr. Deodorant. Japan is hot and humid for most months of the year. Be sure you are ready for it by packing a few extra sticks. You already packed a few? Well you will want to pack a few more. You are going to sweat. It is going to come flowing out of you like rivers some days, so it’s better to be ready.
Japanese deodorant just doesn`t cut it for most ALTs I have spoken with, myself included. It also only comes as a spray on option. Someone once said its like spraying on a slightly cented water. For some it works but for most of us sweaty, stinky, monsters it can’t stand up to the task of saving the world from our stink pits.
If you are worried about armpit sweat stains I recommend using something that is more natural and has less chemicals in the deodorant. I have been using Arm & Hammer deodorant and it has been working great! I have also had no issues with stains in any of my clothing types.
Snack foods you know you are going to miss.
I for one have been doing just fine, I love Japanese food and the snacks the country eats. Other ALTs have often gone crazied with hungry because they want something like Mac & Cheese. I recommend packing some of these little snack foods to tied you over. It not only will give you a little piece of home, but also help you relax when transitioning into your new Japanese lifestyle.
Things like peanut butter are possible to find, but most often it comes with a price. There are many foods that are hard to find at local stores, like good cheeses, but they are around. A person just has to be willing to search high and low for it. I recommend finding stores that sell foreign goods. Place se like Costco could be your best friend, there they even sell greasy large American styled pizza.
Regardless you have been warned!
If you have large clown feet, you are going to want to pack some shoes.
I am about a size 8, sometimes a 8.5 sized shoe in the united states. In Japan I wear about a 24.5 sized shoe. Anything larger than that, good luck. You are likely not going to find a shoe in your size. Men`s sizes tend to run larger, but not to the scale they do back in the United States. I am assuming the same can be said for other countries, but I’m no expert.
Brushing teeth is a big deal, but the toothpaste is weak.
If you like that strong minty fresh flavor and a toothpaste that really foams up, Japanese toothpaste is not for you. They also have limited options for the types they have. I personally like to use a tooth paste with a whitening option, I drink a lot of coffee. As far as I have seen Japan does not carry much with that option.
Paler than the snow? You are gonna want to bring some foundation.
I have a fair completion and can’t find a shade that matches my skin tone. The sun does seem a little stronger here and I have tanned, but still the color tones are a little off when I try to go shopping for foundations. I have asked family to mail more to me and had no troubles with any of the mailings. I have also found some foundations while I traveled in Korea.
The sun is a strong one, Sunglasses and sun screen will be your friends!
I wouldn’t go crazy over packing this stuff, but having something on hand when you arrive is a good idea. Japan is crazy for anything that will block out the UV rays of the sun. Woman often are covered head to toe to try and stay away from the sun. Umbrellas are not only used for a rainy day here, many people keep them on had to use as shade.
New incoming JETs will have to deal with summer heat and sun even in August. Just something to think about.
Clothing is good, but shopping is even better.
Many ALTs, at least my perfecter, are expected to dress nice but I never had to wear a suit to school daily. While you will need a suit or two for special events, the likely hood that you will need to wear one daily is minimal. Nice blouses, polos, and button up shirts are a norm. Jeans are not common, but some ALTs get to wear them. Black or kakie pants are more common.
If you are worried about what to pack or wear as a teacher be sure to ask your predecessor. If you are going to be placed in a new area as the first ALT for that school, ask the ALTs in your prefecture or even your superior what the expectations are for dress codes.
Pack what you need, not just the things you want.
I am one to always over pack, even if it is for a overnight trip. Many people are the same way but remember this: There are ample opportunities to go shopping. Japan is not a struggling third world country. Though some areas of the country still feel like they haven’t been upgraded since the 70’s, living in the country is not difficult. Something that you want is obtainable somewhere in the country. There is Amazon in Japan, no need to pack everything and the kitchen sink!
While this list is simple and in many ways mostly common sense, remember that Mr. Deodorant is and will always be your best friend! You can’t buy that friend easily while working in Japan. If not your family and friends back home should be nice enough to mail you something you might need or have forgotten. There is about a months worth of office desk sitting when you first arrive, trust me there is time.