What should you bring if you are moving to Japan to teach? – Manly Edition
This is not a list of general travel pack items. So there is no camera, good walking shoes, etc etc etc on this list. It is specific to teaching in Japan and what I have found that I needed while living here and mostly what I had packed to get here. This post is geared towards men, my wife is writing a companion post for women. Here is another post from a fellow blogger: Preparing for Japan – Introvertjapan.com
Japan is very modern but in many ways can be very old fashioned as well. There will simply be things that you have to get used to. One of the best parts about living overseas is doing things differently. When you pack try not to get too caught up in turning the Japanese stuff into American or Western things, it will lighten you load physically and mentally. Sure there will be things you miss but for everything that you miss there are probably two things here to find out that you like.
cash – American banks will stick it to you every chance they get a with a fee for use outside of the US. You can avoid this by carrying a lot of cash on your person. Japan is almost entirely a cash economy as well so it’s good to have lots of folding money. Carrying lots of cash is also dangerous so be smart about where you put it and hide it. Also we were able to get a credit card that doesn’t charge fees for international transactions. However a majority of your transactions in Japan will be in cash. Until you have a Japanese bank account you will need get cash from you American bank.
bath towels – bath towels here are different. I don’t like them. They are ultra thin so that they dry quickly. If you like a plush bath towel pack them up. I have found plush bath towels here but they are ridiculously expensive.
hand towels – Japanese don’t use paper towels, everyone carries around a hand towel. They are very cheap here but why spend money when you already have a couple at home.
sheets – sheets are expensive and they pack flat. It’s just an expense you wont have to incur if you pack them.
power strips – You will need more plugs than are available in your apartment. Power strips are available in Japan but they will not have a grounded plug slot. I would recommend bringing them from America. I brought 3, one for the kitchen, one for the desk and one for the bedroom.
grounded plug (three prong) to two prong adapaters – Japan uses the two prong 110v. You can pick these adapters up at Home Depot or your local equivalent for about 80cents each. I would bring one for each power strip you bring.
an e-reader of some sort – English books are very hard to find in Japan. iPad’s are expensive here.
dictionary and phrase book – this is obvious if you don’t speak Japanese.
etiquette book – The Japanese have very strong feelings about etiquette and personal conduct. Get to know the ins and outs before starting a job. Trial by fire is not the best way to learn etiquette rules. Shana read Etiquette Guide to Japan by Boye Lafayette De Mente and found it very interesting, plus it’s available in the Kindle store.
rain gear – waterproof backpack, probably waterproof shoes, rain pants and jacket. It will be the worst day of your life when your suit, computer and shoes are all soaked through from a たいふん（taifūn). If you will be getting a car when you get to Japan this is a bit of a moot point.
school shoes – a brand new pair of shoes that haven’t been worn at all. They can be comfortable athletic shoes, chuck taylors or dress shoes, it doesn’t really matter. They just have to be indoor only shoes. The custom of removing one’s shoes when entering a home was applied to entering a school. So you switch to your “indoor” shoes, which can be the same kind of shoes as your “outdoor” shoes. Most of the teachers wear their suits with tennis shoes. You will think it looks weird, but nobody notices. You will be standing in them all day, so get something comfortable. Sizing maybe hard to find if you have larger feet though. I have been able to purchase shoes but my options have been very limited.
omiyage – Omiyage (おみやげ)is Japanese for souvenir. It is considered very thoughtful and polite to bring a gift from where ever you come from. Cookies, crackers or sweets with your hometown on them are perfect. Students will also get a kick out of “prizes” like stamps, coins and stickers with some of your homeland national regalia on them
laptop computer – schools will vary significantly for what technology will be available. I am very glad I have my laptop. If the schools have a computer for you to use it maybe ancient or very slow because it was the computer that no else wanted. There are always exceptions but I wouldn’t bet on it. Get a laptop before you go.
video/audio out cables – If you have a laptop it can be a great addition to the class for an interactive lesson. However the school will not have a cable to hook it up to the TVs on campus, which are equipped with HDMI inputs. Bring your own.
thumb drives – These are a necessity to print things out at school or pretty much anywhere. They are also very small, you might as well bring what you have. You can get by without a printer here in Japan as most of the convenience stores have copy and print center inside of them.
wireless router – as mentioned in a previous post; getting a Japanese router is a hassle, expensive and you will likely not be able to set it up. Bring one from home.
back up hard drives with all your home country entertainment – personal preference here but I have all my iTunes with me on a hard drive so it doesn’t use space on my laptop.
formal clothes (suits, ties, dress shirts etc.) – Men dress very formally at school. Suit and tie with a jacket all day. Even in the blistering summer. Sometimes they switch to short sleeve dress shirts but bring some suits. If the principle or other teachers think you look unprofessional it is unlikely that they will tell you. They will tell your boss so as not to embarrass you. Sizing is tricky in Japan since they measure everything in centimeters. If you are living in a more rural area your access to clothing choices will be limited by what stores are close by. Tailored suits are available but the shirts will run you between $40 to $70 US.
hair stuff – Guys, if you are not fluent in Japanese get your hair cut before you leave and take really good pictures of the fresh cut. This way you will be able to show a picture to the hair stylist if you are having trouble getting them to understand the cut you want. For hair gel, I brought a couple different kinds from America. The younger Japanese men like to style their hair aggressively. You will be able to find pretty much any hair product here that you need. If you have something you really like go ahead and bring it but if you forget, it wont be a problem to replace it.
gym clothes – In junior high particularly you will play sports with your kids after school. Bring a couple sets of gym clothes to play basketball or volleyball with the kids. Baseball, tennis and other equipment are worth just picking up when you arrive at the used items store. They are not expensive and its not like you’ll be playing professionally.
regular clothes – Japan’s climate can vary wildly from incredibly humid and hot to snowing. Check where you are going to be living and pack accordingly. Japanese fashion is a bit of a departure from the casual American look. It will be hard to dress like you do at home outside of shopping at stores like GAP, H&M, and UniQlo.
teaching supplies – Most of the schools will have a lot resources for you to use from a supplies stand point. Markers, pens, paper, and staples will be in abundance. Flash cards that are companions to the text book will most likely be at the school. If you are in elementary school you will probably have to make a lot of flash cards and games. Junior high will be less intensive with the focus on writing and reading as well as speaking and listening. The 7th graders at my school have better penmanship than I do.
american children’s books – I would throw a couple Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein books in your luggage or have them shipped over. They come in very hand for activities and are great if you just want to read to the kids. Junior high students may not really enjoy the Dr. Seuss. You can find a small selection in the American book shops but the prices will be outrageous.
strong quads, glutes and hammies – You’ll understand the first time you use a squatter toilet.
Don’t bother with bringing these:
cell phone – Its unlikely that it will work with Japan’s towers. Even if it does you’ll have a terrible time getting someone to make it work.
food – As much as you might miss your favorite snacks while in a foreign land getting used to Japanese food is an important part of the experience at school. More than likely you will eat with the kids and have to eat what they eat. No pack lunches in Japan.