Destination Guide | Tokyo Japan

What to Bring/Buy

Bring important keepsakes with you to make a home. These might include family pictures, a favorite Afghan or children's furniture. Obtaining correct sizes in Japan is difficult. Therefore bring Western-sized furniture like appropriate clothing, a bed, cosmetics and toiletries. Japan operates on the metric system. Therefore suitable measuring equipment is a must. Examples include rulers, measuring tapes, thermometers, cup and spoon measures. It is also advisable to bring familiar brands of vitamins and over-the-counter-medications for minor pain relief and fever control. Include cold relief to your stockpile. A supply of baby formula is a must. Some brands are not available in Japan.

Required Personal Documents for your Japan Arrival:

Come prepared with the right paperwork, otherwise there could be delays. Necessary papers are:

  • A proper tourist and/or work visa stamped in your up-to-date passport before arrival.
  • Medical and dental records such as x-rays, checkup reports, inoculations, etc. for the entire family.
  • An International Driver's License and your current driver's license.
  • A copy of your marriage license, copies of educational diplomas and certificates of technical proficiency.
  • 5-10 passport size photos in both black and white and color.
  • Children's school transcripts.
  • Copies of each family member's birth certificates.
  • Previous year's tax records.
  • Insurance policies.

Unaccompanied Baggage Claim form obtained on flight and completed in duplicate.

Household Appliances and Electric Goods

Tokyo uses a 50-cycle, 100-volt alternating current. If you wish to use your appliances in Japan, please ensure that your applicances are compatible with Japanese voltage. If they are not compatible, then you will either have to run them on transformers (which are heavy and expensive), or buy new appliances. For example, appliances from the US such as irons and toasters will work, as will kitchen appliances with motors, but at a reduced efficiency. Appliances such as microwaves are available in Japan, but are smaller in size and capacity.

If you are bringing an appliance from a European or other country operating on 200-240 volt currents, you will need a step-up transformer for use on Japan's 100 volt current. These are available at general electrical stores and in the electronics district, but are often quite more expensive than purchasing a new Japanese appliance.

Western appliances are included in most apartments. Be aware that American appliances are much larger than European ones, and this may be a factor in you housing choices. Japanese washing machines, dryers and refridgerators are often not as large as even the smaller European models, and styles and features do vary.

While almost all residences marketed to expatriates have ovens, a large number have Japanese or European ovens (Japanese ranges may have only one or two burners or hot plates), which tend to be substantially smaller. Christmas or Thanksgiving turkeys, large roasts, and wider cookie trays will not fit in these ovens, so if these are a part of your life, do consider accommodation with American appliances.

AM radios from the States can be used in Japan, but Japan runs on a different FM band, and some adjustments are necessary if using a US television in Japan. We recommend that you buy or lease a Japanese television after you arrive, and ensure that it has dual voltage multi-system capabilities, so that you can view tapes from any country. NTSC-formatted videotapes can be used with Japanese VCRs, however PAL-formatted ones require multi-system units. Be aware that Japanese DVDs are classed as Region 2, so if you wish to view them you will need a player that is either a multi-region player (which we recommend, so that you can view DVDs from your home or indeed any country) or a region 2 player.

When purchasing electronics and electrical appliances in Japan, ask for manuals in English. If these are not immediately available from the retailer, make sure before you buy the product that they can be obtained from the manufacturer. One option is to buy household appliances or other items from foreigners who are leaving Japan. Notices for these can be found in English language publications, and in locations catering to the expatriate community, such as the Tokyo American Club, Nissin Supermarket, and National Azabu Supermarket.

Classifieds in Tokyo with Kids
Classifieds in Metropolis
Tokyo Notice Board

Furniture and Furnishings

Bringing your own furniture and furnishings depends on your allowance. Western style furniture can be purchased in Japan, although it is expensive and often the dimensions differ to those with which you are comfortable. Many companies prefer to provide leased furniture for the duration of employees' stay. Japanese furniture is readily available, although it tends to be smaller than that which you are accustomed to. Larger Western-style beds are available from some foreign bed companies, but they are expensive. Used furniture can often be purchased from departing foreigners and can be found advertised in English publications and places which are often frequented by the foreign community. Modular build-it-yourself furniture is also available in a variety of stores.


Japan has a temperate climate and so has four distinct seasons. Summers are long, hot and humid, so lightweight cottons and linens in light colors are the most comfortable. Polyesters may be very uncomfortable in summer. Winter, though relatively dry, sunny and comfortable, can be bitterly cold at times, so heavy coats are recommended. As we already mentioned above, Japanese clothing tends to be dimensionally different Western clothing. Men and women tend to encounter these issues. One option is to use mail-order catalogues from the States like L.L.Bean, Lands' End, Talbot's and Victoria’s Secret, although an additional 30% for shipping and customs duty can be added. We do suggest that women bring a supply of underwear and hosiery. It is very important to bring comfortable shoes, especially if you wear larger than a US womens 7 1/2 (which corresponds to a slim-lined, 24.5cm-length foot in Japan). You do a lot of walking in Japan, so comfortable shoes are a must. Since many homes and some offices have a "shoe off" rule (street shoes are removed at the entrance), shoes and socks are visible. Bring house slippers and warm socks for winter, if you prefer not to go barefoot in the home.

Medicines, Cosmetics and Toiletries

Settling in will be much easier if you have a few months supply of your personal toiletries, cosmetics and necessary medications. It is advisable to bring prescription drugs sufficient to last until your next flight home if possible, as even after you find a doctor in whom you have confidence, some specific medications are not available in Japan. All drugs must be declared at customs and it must be stated that they are for personal use only. Hormone replacement treatments, oral contraceptives and other birth control devices are not widely available.

Although many similar OTC (over the counter) and prescription medications are available in Japan, they may be as much as ten times as expensive. Often they are in weaker, smaller dosages compared with Western products. OTC medications are packaged in Japanese, so ingredients and directions may be hard to read. A wide range of both Japanese and foreign cosmetics are available, however at much higher prices. If you dye or perm your hair (DIY semi-permanents are not available), or have a favorite shampoo or deodorant, bring that product with you. If you wear glasses, bring a backup pair in case of loss or damage. There are good eye specialists who speak English in Tokyo and lens craftsmanship is excellent. For contact lenses bring a good supply.