Moving to Japan (or to any country, for that matter) requires serious planning. One of the considerations with which many new JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) employees wrestle is attire. Here are some considerations.
- Are you Japanese sized?
- Have you ever lived in extreme humidity or cold?
- How much do you bring in July when you move to Japan?
- What to keep at the office?
Japanese sized people have more options while living in Japan and don't need to pack as much clothing as their larger counterparts. Larger people (like me) have to think a bit more precisely about what to bring, since purchasing there in Japan will prove problematic.
TIP #1 : Bring the following with you if you are not the general size of Japanese people. Finding your size may be a battle you can't win once you're on the ground in your small town.
- Inside Shoes - These are the shoes you'll keep at the office and wear only inside. They don't need to be leather soled "western style" dress shoes. Rather, they need to be inconspicuous shoes that look nice. Some schools are totally fine with athletic shoes. You'll see all types when you begin your days at the office: slip-on leather shoes, open toe sandals, athletic shoes, etc. I'd suggest getting a black pair of simple shoes from an inexpensive store like Payless, Aldo, Shoe Warehouse, etc. Don't break the bank or stress about style. It's all about function. Ladies, don't bother with heals. Purchase flats. Don't forget to get a pair that will allow you to comfortably wear thicker socks in the brutally cold winter, since your office may only have a single gas space heater. That's common in Japanese schools.
- Thin Rain Jacket - You'll be arriving in monsoon season which means there will be plenty of rain and humidity to keep you feeling wet and sticky. I suggest grabbing a super thin jacket that you can fold into itself if you need to store it when you get on a train during the rain, etc.
- Weather Proof Shoes - Consider bringing a pair of boots/shoes you can wear in the rain (since you'll be walking or riding a bike in the rain quite a bit). You can wear these in the summer and winter. Galoshes may be a solid idea, since you can pack them easily. (aka: stick them in your suitcase and stuff each boot with socks and other packed stuff)
If you are moving from a place like Seattle, New Orleans, London or Chicago you'll already be prepped for the extreme weather you'll encounter in Japan. However, if you are departing for the JET Programme from climates like Los Angeles or San Diego, you'll need to think about the clothes you'll need to bring that you may not have.
Summers are humid in Japan. We're talking jungle hot. Winters are damp and cold. Both extremes are amplified by fewer opportunities to enjoy centralized AC or heat. Additionally, you'll be on foot and bike more than you are now. That new, consistent exposure to the elements will drive home how hot or cold it is.
TIP #2 : Bring hot weather gear with you when you move to Japan. Have family or friend ship the cold weather gear in September. See below for more specific considerations for battling the elements.
- Short Sleeved Dress Shirts - This goes for gals and guys. You're JET programme posting will most likely have you in an office that will not be considered "cold" or "cool". What's more, you'll be in hallways and classrooms that won't have AC. Guys, leave all but a few of your long sleeved dress shirts at home. Donate them to Goodwill. Purchase short sleeved button-up shirts. You'll be able to find anything you need at TJ Max, Ross, Old Navy, etc. They will help keep you cool on those brutal hot days walking to school and will totally serve you well when you wear a sweater or sports jacket over the same shirts in the colder months. Ladies, you'll want to avoid sleeveless shirts, but fully adopt the short sleeve option.
- Bandana / Handkerchief - This is the best kept secret for JETs. Bring handkerchiefs or bandanas to keep sweat at bay. Also, have a back up for public restrooms. Most do NOT have disposable paper towels. This will be true in public restrooms of any kind in the small towns. (that includes restaurants too)
- Antiperspirant - You'll be able to find deodorant in Japan. However, you will almost NEVER find antiperspirant. Don't take the gamble if you wear the stuff in your home country. Come with a few of them and then have your family send you more later as a care package.