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Planning A Trip To Tokyo For First Timers

Posted by Edward Wang on
Planning A Trip To Tokyo For First Timers

Now that Japan has finally opened its borders after closing them down for the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have begun planning a trip to Tokyo's beautiful and fast-paced city. 

If this is your first time in Japan, you have an exciting journey ahead! Exploring Tokyo is a bucket list experience for many people from other countries. 

Of course, you’ll want to make the most of it; there are a few things you can do to learn and streamline your trip to Japan. One good way to prepare is to ensure your bag-packing game is spot on. This is the bag that you’ll carry with you on your adventures trekking through Tokyo, and as such, there are certain essential items it should contain.

Ready to have a great first trip to the land of the rising sun? Read on!

Step 1: Choose The Right Bag

Before you can start packing, you need a bag to pack stuff in. But what type of bag should you get? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. 

Here are a couple of points to consider to determine what type of bag would suit your needs best. 

Think about your goals for your trip. 

Your goals for your trip are a big clue as to the bag you should take.

What does your itinerary look like? Sticking to Tokyo? Going to multiple cities by train? Going to a few but flying?

After you figure those questions out, there is another set of questions to ask yourself. Do you plan on exploring every nook and cranny on foot? Maybe sticking to the subways? Maybe trains to the other neighborhoods? Or maybe taxis to specific spots in the city?

If you plan to do a lot of walking, you will want to pack a carry-on bag and a lighter one.

For carry-ons, try the Max Backpack or the Forge. Both bags are great choices.



Choose a lightweight sling bag like this DAYFARER Active Sling that is enough to hold your essential items, such as your passport, COVID-19 vaccine card, and money. 

The sling design will also allow you to keep the bag close and within sight, so there’s less of a chance that someone will try to steal it or pull something out of it. 

Another suggestion for a lightweight bag is one from our newer collection, the Lite collection from Bellroy. If you need a packable and lightweight bag in the form of a backpack, try the Lite Daypack


Are you booking a hotel, bunking in hostels, or staying with a host family or a friend?

The place you’re staying can also significantly impact the bag you need to carry.

If you’re staying in a hotel or with friends, you can keep your clothes and bathroom essentials in your room and only carry a small bag with essentials around the city, like your money and passport. If you’re in a hostel, since these rooms are typically small, you may want to pack light and take only the most necessary items from the home so you can keep them all in the same bag.

Another reason for packing all your belongings in the same bag is if you plan on hopping from one lodging to another. It will be easier to transport your stuff if you don’t have a lot of luggage to pull around.


The Max has a laptop slot for 17 computers, and the x-pac material is resistant to weather issues like rain and snow. Plus, space for clothing and other necessities. The side water bottle pocket is hidden, so you don't have to worry about slipping out or repurposing it for other uses. 

The Forge, on the other hand, is a bag that can expand from 20L to 30L. It also has many compartments to divide your baggage. Clothing, toiletries, and electronics can be easily divided. If you're going to work as well, this bag can convert easily to work mode via briefcase or should bag. Leave your stuff at the hotel, pack your work stuff, and go.


Step 2: Take an internationally run flight if you can.

Some domestic airlines fly internationally. The problem is that the experience is like any other domestic flight…except it stretches over 13 hours long. When flying airlines that were meant for international flights, Delta, Nippon Airways, China Airlines, ANA, and so on, the experience will be way better. Roomier seats, footrests, and personal TVs are on the back of each chair. What was incredibly cool is that, aside from blockbuster films, the TV also came with dozens of documentaries on Japan. They would have been great to watch on the way there.


Step 3: Pack the bare necessities. 

When traveling somewhere for the first time, people tend to overpack. We encourage people who travel to focus on traveling as lightly as possible. Leave empty space in your luggage for all the souvenirs and excellent Japanese fashion items. The worst thing is that you arrive and use none of the items you’ve brought and have to buy another piece of luggage to carry everything you bought back home (Ahem, we didn’t have that happen before).  

Some TO BRING items:

  • Laptop (If you’ll need to work)
  • A few days of clothing that can be interchanged 
  • Charger
  • Wired earphones (for the plane)
  • Neck pillow
  • Lightweight rain jacket. You will not need warmth; you don't want to get soaked if it gets windy.
  • Water bottle
  • Click here for more!

Some NOT TO BRING items:

  • Too much clothing
  • Playing cards
  • Speakers
  • Soap 
  • Umbrella
  • Easy toiletries (Toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, etc)


Step 4: Get a JR Pass if you plan to leave Tokyo.

Much fanfare for foreigners has been made of the Japan Rail (JR) Pass. For about $250, you get a pass to access any JR line in the country for seven days, including several shinkansen (high-speed) trains.

If you can’t bring yourself to spring for $500 on the 14-day JR pass, you can use the Tokyo subway for the first few days we are there and then activate your JR passes on the day it is time to visit Kyoto. 

Tokyo subway fares are incredibly cheap (in the $2 range) and easy to get from electronic ticket machines, which all have English menu options. With such low prices, it’s hard to justify a JR Pass traveling around Tokyo. However, a 7-day JR Pass conveniently costs about the same as a round-trip ticket to Kyoto. In conclusion: it’s only a great deal if you’re planning to travel outside of Tokyo, and not so much of one if you’re not.


Step 5: Pick up a Pasmo Card

Pasmo cards are IC cards rigged up for prepaid users in the Tokyo metropolitan area’s subways, trains, bus lines, and streetcars. They are easy to get hold of and use, and their coverage is excellent: they work on both JR (Japan Railways) and private train lines in and around Tokyo.

Just visiting Japan and looking to keep things simple? The Pasmo Passport is for you. Literally—it’s a Pasmo card that can only be used by visitors to the country, not residents or citizens. Like a standard Pasmo card, the Pasmo Passport offers users access to the Kanto area’s subways, trains, and so on. Still, unlike a normal Pasmo, it also gives users unique access to discounts for some attractions, restaurants, shops, and accommodation options.

How do I get a Pasmo Passport card?

You’ll need to show your passport to be eligible for a Pasmo Passport, and purchases can be made only with cash. The Pasmo Passport costs US$13.44 * for adults, and a special children’s version is available for youngsters under 12. You will need to keep the Reference Paper with you whenever you use the card to show participating shops, restaurants, and so on that, your card is valid.

The Pasmo Passport is only valid for 28 days, and, unlike the ordinary Pasmo, it can’t be handed in for a refund. Happily, the ultra-Japanese design (featuring Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters) means that it makes a sweet souvenir.

Where can I get a Pasmo Passport card?

The Pasmo Passport can be purchased at selected stations, including Tokyo, Ginza, Ueno, and Shibuya, as well as at the Keisei Skyliner kiosks at Narita Terminals 1 and 2 and the Haneda Airport International Terminal’s Keikyu Tourist Information Center. You can see a complete list of purchase locations for the Pasmo Passport and their opening times here.


Step 6: Bring Cash and a way to get more.

There are still many places in Japan that take cash or even coins. While there are places that take credit cards, many do not. Many stores simply aren’t equipped to take cards and usually have a sign out front on rare occasions. Luckily there are ATMs at 7-11 and the post office, many of them throughout Japan. Also, bring along a Credit Card that can be used internationally without fees and a debit that can withdraw without fees. 

Also, since everything from 1 yen to 500 yen (about $5) are coins, I highly recommend bringing a coin purse with you; you’ll need it. After realizing how often I took mine out, I wasn’t surprised that coin purses are one of the most common souvenirs at tourist shops.

Many places have coin machines where you can also buy fantastic souvenirs for friends and family. Instead of having them jingle in your pocket, keep them in pouches, so you know where it is when you need them.


Able Carry Joey Pouch

A Joey (that’s a baby kangaroo) — This little guy will take cards, keys, and other small knickknacks. The Joey works as an add-on for the Daily or a standalone carrier with an XPAC shell, Hypalon detailing an external card slot, and a key loop. 

Chrome Industries Small Utility Pouch

Our Utility Pouches are tough as hell and keep your gear organized and protected in any situation. Organize your bag and protect your small stuff with Chrome's durable utility pouches.

Alpaka Zip Pouch Pro

Stow your cards and cash quickly in a compact pouch. Designed for those who want to carry as little weight as possible, the Zip Pouch Pro has secure storage space for frequently used items such as credit cards and banknotes. With an extra pocket for coins or smaller things like your spare SIM card, you'll find room for business cards too!

As a bonus, it has three external slots for additional space to carry a small torch, lighter, etc.


Step 7: Convenience stores are your friend.

What’s cooler than the highly advanced toilets with self-lifting heated seats? That would be their convenience stores. Where else can you get a filling, semi-nutritious meal for about $5? From their all-encompassing selection of everything to their easy-to-use ATMs to their friendly staff who will go out of their way to understand your terrible accent to the food they WILL heat for you right then and there. 


Step 8: Do A Packing Test Run

As a final step before you go on your trip to Tokyo, do a packing test run on your bag (or bags).

By test run, we mean you should pack your back with every item you plan to put in it. Do this several times until you know exactly how everything should fit. 

There are a couple of reasons why you should do this. First, knowing where all your belongings are positioned in the bag after you’ve packed will help you stay organized. It will allow you to quickly pull the thing you need out without digging for it. 

Second, it will help you when you reach Tokyo and must repack your bag. You’ll know exactly how everything should be placed so it fits nicely and snugly.


Need More Travel Gear For Tokyo? UrbanCred Has You Covered

From bags to pocket tools to little felt organizers that hold all your cables, UrbanCred has all the travel gear you need to make your trip to Tokyo as organized as possible. This way, you can spend less time worrying about the state of your belongings and more time enjoying this incredible city.

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