Japan: the packing list (as long as your arm)

My fashion neurosis is now in overdrive. I'm leaving for Japan on Friday and after weeks (yes weeks!) of deliberation, I think I've finally figured out what's coming with me.

Usually on a trip like this, I would be very practical and pack what I needed for sightseeing and hiking, and maybe dress it up a bit around the edges. But when I’m heading for world's finest fashion nation (sorry skylurker, even better than France!) I have to bring my A-game.

It starts and ends with the shoes. They need to be comfortable. They need to come off easily indoors. They need to be as smart and formal as possible. I’m packing three pairs.

1. Hiking boots - for outdoors and acting basic.
We're planning a few days hiking between city visits, so they need to come with me. The big challenge is always to work gear into my holiday wardrobe and make them worth their weight without sacrificing style.

I've had these boots for over twenty years and they’re still going strong after walking the Inca Trail and the West Highland Way. The classic leather style (hard to find these days) makes them slightly easier to style. Not easy to take off indoors but I like to think they look pretty smart with bright skater laces, and for this trip I've chosen acid yellow/green (inspired by Angie's genius combination of cognac and citron.)

To go along with these, I am packing:

  • Arcteryx hiking pants - Not bad for gear. Nice material, nice cut.
  • Two button down shirts one Uniqlo +J, one Paul Smith (not pictured.) A good way to smarten up the hiking pants and boots.
  • Mamut Gore-Tex anorak (not pictured) Honestly, I’d rather not take this at all. Velcro! The horror! I can’t be without it on the side of a hill in a rainstorm though, so in it goes.
  • Uniqlo compact down jacket - Their best product ever. Incredibly useful and actually rather cute.
  • Three stripy long sleeved tees. They can make anything look stylish.
2. George Cox creepers - for urban cool.
These are a cult item in Japan apparently. They tick all the boxes, being smart, comfortable and easily slipped on and off.

These look brilliant with:

  • MMM x H&M oversized pants. Wide pants are trending in Tokyo at the moment, according to my sources. Not as impractical as they look. Fab with a stripy tee and...
  • Convertible bomber jacket, made by me. A great team player and a good counterpoint to the hiking boots.
  • Crash pants ByBrown - My favourite trousers, can wear them cropped or full length. Good with all tops and play nicely with the hiking boots when paired with…
  • Leather and wool jumper, made by me. Completes the olive/cognac/citron combo.
3. Trippen Dream booties - for dressing up.
I need something dressier than the creepers and these really up the ante. Not so easy to slip on and off, but not so difficult either. Improbably comfortable, these wear like sneakers even with the platform.

These open up more dressy possibilities such as:

  • White shirt dress, made by me after an avant-garde classic by Issey Miyake. Has to come along. Boho-lite with hiking pants and boots, minimal urban cool with all black.
  • White plisse midi skirt, vintage. Another item trending in Tokyo. Chic and ladylike with the Trippens and Breton shirt, downtown cool with creepers and leather jumper and surprisingly workable Harajuku style with the Issey shirt, convertible bomber and hiking boots, if I can work up the nerve.
  • Multicolour short sleeve knit from Cos. Great with the skirt, in case I want to make like a gangsta and flash some ink.
  • Taffeta bomber by Back. Not a duplicate, more of a complement. White needs black and this is dressier than the compact down jacket. Lightweight, packs tiny. I may swap this out for my pagoda shoulder blazer, space permitting.
  • Black silk blouse ByBrown, not pictured. Perfect with black pants in case I need to get really fancy.
And that’s it. I think I’ve covered all bases, things mix and match fairly well and it should all fit in a small suitcase, along with underwear, socks, swimwear, one or two tees and a couple of scarves and hats. Weather forecast says highs of around 20C/68F, so I'm thinking I'll be warm enough with layering.

Breaks down like this:

  • 3 pairs of shoes
  • 3 pairs pants
  • 3 jackets
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 mid-layers
  • 3 long sleeved tees
  • 2 button down shirts
  • 1 silk blouse
  • 1 shirt dress
  • 1 fancy knit

If you’ve even read this far, (thank you for your patience with my overthinking!) I’d really value your opinion. This is a pair of shoes and several garments more than I’d normally pack, but I don’t usually go from very casual to very dressy in a single capsule.

What do you think? Am I being over-ambitious with the dressy choices? Can you spot any gaps? Should I try to make room for the blazer instead of the second bomber?

Thanks for taking the time!

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • replied 5 years ago

    I did read the whole thing, and with a great deal of interest - and admiration:)  How long is your trip for? And how can I too own that Uniqlo quilted number?  

    And 20C warm enough?  Ha - I'd be packing shorts too at those temps :)

  • replied 5 years ago

    I think it all looks perfect! I love your own made unique pieces along side other bought ones. You're going to look very stylish.

  • Astrid replied 5 years ago

    Sounds and looks all fantastic. I love the hiking boots with the bright laces! I think I'd take the blazer instead of the second bomber jacket if you have room.

  • skylurker replied 5 years ago

    I'm concerned by the shoes :
    1-one of them, the creepers, have not been really road-tested, have they? And there was doubt on the sizing. Maybe take the other pair of creepers you're sure to be comfortable in?
    2-the hiking boots look unsuited to walk in 20°C in a city : I'd run warm. Maybe pack a 4th pair of shoes?

    I don't see the everyday bag you'll have to schlepp around everywhere?

    That's for the practical side.
    As for style, I can't judge, considering the backward country I come from, you know ;)

  • Sara L. replied 5 years ago

    I love packing posts!  I think you've covered all the bases and the only change I would make is the blazer over the second bomber. I think it would give a different vibe.  However, you know your style preferences and potential outfits better than I, so I could be wrong.

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    Looks great apart from the creepers. Not broken in yet. I vote take another pair of shoes. 

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Sorry, forgot to mention, we're travelling for three weeks! Thanks lisap!
    FYI, Uniqlo do loads of these lovely compact down jackets. They're so useful, everyone should have one. Mine's a little different from the one in the picture, more or less the same shape with a classic quilted design. Do they ship to where you are? Maybe cut a deal with someone south of the border?

    Astrid, Sara: 
    thanks! I think you may be right but the blazer is contingent on the dry cleaner correcting the mess they made of it before I travel. I'm not holding my breath.

    DianeG: thanks! There's a weird significance to bringing my Issey knock-off along on this trip. My enthusiasm for Japanese fashion goes back to the Vogue patterns of the '80s, of which this was one. Do you remember them?

    skylurker: yeah, the boots will be warm so I'm hoping I'll only have to wear them when hiking or travelling and not too much around the city. I do have a lighter pair which I've been considering, but decided on these (better shoe, better condition etc). Might review that.

    Angie: the creepers, on the other hand, have been worn extensively this last week, around town and in the house. I'm actually finding them more comfy than the others. I'm pretty sure they'll be OK. 

    And I never said backward. More like Olympic silver after a photo finish ;)

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    Okay. As long as you think that your feet will be happy, it's all good. 

    Can you launder clothing while you're there? I'm assuming so. 

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Angie: I sincerely hope so! I don't think I've ever done a trip this long without one or two laundry runs. Dealing with the local launderette is all part of the travel experience!

  • Astrid replied 5 years ago

    Then I think the bomber is just fine! And I would stick with the tried and tested hiking boots if you plan to do some real hiking. Yes they might be a bit warm at times, but with 20ºC highest temperature not too warm to forgo the benefits they have on a hike.

  • Style Fan replied 5 years ago

    Great packing list.  I find my Trippen boots to be extremely comfortable and that is saying a lot.  I have problem feet.
    Sounds like you have done some amazing hikes.

  • Sadie replied 5 years ago

    Where are you hiking? Most of the hiking I have done in Japan is pretty urban (the Japanese women have worn street shoes, even high heels, on the hikes I have done).

  • merwoman replied 5 years ago

    You look and will look amazing in Japan!! Beautiful clothing choices!  Once the sun goes down, nights will be coolish - so good idea to have layers. I picked up several heat tech undergarments from Uniqlo while in Japan.  They take up virtually no space at all. Most of the larger subway and train stations will even have a Uniqlo shop.

    I'm a bit (hah understatement) directionally challenged, so I packed a small compass and found it very useful. Sometimes ya just want to know which way is north!

    Have an awesome time, and I'm looking forward to your travel posts!

    Keep safe, sue

  • shevia replied 5 years ago

    Fascinating. One of the most interesting packing posts I have read - sort of a style analysis and packing post in one. I can't wait to read your observations about Japan. 
    My main focus would be foot comfort and warmth (I run cold.) Seems like you have those bases covered.

  • Firecracker replied 5 years ago

    I like how you've organized everything according to footwear. That's how I pack, too, from the feet up. I have no experience with travel in Japan, so I will just say I really admire your travel style. Your list represents a coherent capsule that will mix into a lot of fantastic outfits.

  • viva replied 5 years ago

    I was thinking exactly what Firecracker said. Organizing around footwear makes such sense to me -- the outfits, the types of outings, etc. I am definitely doing that next time. Although I only wish it were for an exciting trip like Japan! Have fun!!!!

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Thanks everyone for all the feedback! I think this is about right for weather and all casual/dressy requirements. Still need to make a call on the blazer though. 

    Re: the creepers. I put in a mile or three running errands in them this morning and they are indeed excellent urban hikers. Nonetheless, I'm now considering the others as it's mild today and my feet are a now little warm in thick socks... ho hum. 

    Sadie: we're doing Koya-san and possibly a couple of days on the Kumano Kodo if we can make the itinerary work. Failing that, a few day hikes in the south west. And you reminded me of the girls I saw in Darjeeling, who were skipping around the rough trails of their rocky neighbourhood in kitten heeled sling-backs. Absolutely heroic. 

    merwoman/sue: there will definitely be a trip to the world's largest uniqlo! I'm expecting to stock up on some HeatTech while I'm over there. I may throw a blanket scarf into the bag to keep warm. 

    Firecracker, viva: makes sense to start with the shoes eh? Once again, we are in agreement.

    shevia: I'm going to try and keep a diary on this trip. I'm hoping Mr Edge will act as street style photographer. I suck at that.

    StyleFan: yes, I will say it again. Trippen make the best shoes on the planet IMO. Material, fabrication, comfort, style, ethics... All boxes ticked!

    Astrid: thanks for the wisdom. You're right about hiking in a good pair of boots.

  • Sadie replied 5 years ago

    We did Koyo-san in May and it was absolutely beautiful- we came upon some young monks chanting that gave the place an other-worldly feel. I was very comfortable in sneakers- the patch were very easy to walk on (and the hilly area had stairs). I am really looking forward to hearing about your travels- and your selection of clothing will be loved by the Japanese!

  • Joy replied 5 years ago

    I envy you this trip. Your packing list looks fantastic. I would take a pair of black or brown shoe laces for the hiking shoes in case you feel too conspicuous with the citron ones. I am looking forward to news of your trip and photos. Our son who lives in Tokyo was back on a visit last week. He was stocking up on dark wash jeans and dress shoes this trip.

  • Beth Ann replied 5 years ago

    Sounds like your set!  I hope you have a marvelous time exploring and observing.  I'm going to take your word on the Trippen shoes! 

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Sadie: thanks for that photo! Looks amazing. Still taking the boots though. Mr Edge has been teasing me today with links to more challenging hikes around Hiroshima and Kyushu. Looking forward to some beautiful walking in the autumn splendour. 

    And thanks for your kind words on my selection. Dressing nicely on this trip feels like the highest mark of respect I can pay the fashion culture I so admire.  

    Joy: conspicuous? Moi? :D But I'll pack a pair anyway, in case of breakage. Colour me surprised that your son buys his jeans back home - Japanese denim is legendary! Then again, perhaps he prefers to rock the American version to remind him of home. I'd understand that too.

  • Jen W replied 5 years ago

    Your trip is bringing back great memories of our time in Japan in the fall of 2008.  Japan is hands down my favorite place to visit.  I'm so glad you will be stopping at Uniqlo and picking up some HeatTech pieces.  My concern for you was another layer while hiking.  Granted, we were on Mt. Fuji the last weekend of the season and a storm came through, but we needed our layers there and even hiking much lower elevations around Kyoto in September.  And then on the other end of the spectrum is the humid heat.  That beautiful shirtdress in 12 should be perfect!  I can't wait to see photos of your outfits in the wild!  Have a wonderful time.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Jen W: thanks! I'll be sure to pack an icebreaker! Wasn't sure if I'd need it, but I'll pop it in anyway. 

  • Sal replied 5 years ago

    No packing or fashion wisdom- but have a fun stimulating stylish drlicious trip!!

  • Joy replied 5 years ago

    Approprio, my son loves Lucky jeans. They fit him very well. He has Japanese denim too but wanted something different. He also bought some colored buttondown shirts for work and colored socks to wear with them. He says he can't find the shirts in Japan.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Honestly ladies, can't thank you enough for the help here. Final capsule has a few adjustments:

    • Instead of the GoreTex, I'm taking the Raindress. This is a better all round waterproof and I'm pretty sure it'll be fine for low altitude hiking. It has the added advantage of Not Being Gear.
    • The blazer is back from the cleaners in time. The second bomber is out.
    • I swapped a long sleeved tee for an Icebreaker base layer. Thanks Jen W for the reminder!
    • Late additions are a couple of lightweight knits to make up the numbers in tops. Dressier than the tees. 
    Lastly, Angie, I have to thank you for the best piece of packing advice I could possibly have: "you will never be overdressed in Japan!" It really motivated me to sweat the details. I think this may be my best holiday capsule ever. 

    And I quoted you at Mr Edge this morning to persuade him to pack his delicious Strenesse suit.

    Cheers everyone! Next stop Tokyo!

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    Great, Liz! Have a wonderful time. 

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