Updated on June 14th, 2023 by Okinawa Hai
Every year, millions of people travel from all over the world to visit Japan, but only a tiny fraction of those people make it to Hokkaido. That’s a shame because Japan’s northernmost island has a lot to offer travelers. From the island’s famous hot springs to the snow-capped volcanoes and world-class hiking, there is plenty of natural beauty to explore.
In order to fully enjoy your visit to Hokkaido, it’s important to be properly prepared with the appropriate travel essentials. Below you will find a packing list of must-have items for Hokkaido, as well as how to dress for the weather, what NOT to pack, and FAQs.
What to Pack for Hokkaido Vacations
When you travel long distances, packing light and compact goes a long way to making your trip stress-free. These essential items help make for a more enjoyable trip. I wouldn’t travel to Hokkaido without them.
1. Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are the secret to fitting all your travel gear in one bag. This set has five different sized cubes, so you can easily organize all of your clothes and other gear to fit in a small space, and they also make finding things in your bag much easier. They even come with two bonus laundry bags which are ideal for storing dirty clothes or shoes.
2. Personal Item Bag
This bag is perfect for travelers who want to avoid having to worry about checking an extra bag. It’s the ideal size to use as a carry-on for your flight and can be packed away when you don’t need it. It’s large enough to serve as a primary travel bag for ultralight travelers, or you can use it to transport your souvenirs back home while checking your primary luggage.
3. Windproof Travel Umbrella
Believe it or not, I’ve taken my travel umbrella everywhere, from the Arctic Circle to the Amazon Rainforest. Other travelers sometimes laugh until it starts to rain. This umbrella is so sturdy that it’s survived monsoon rains and tropical rain squalls, and it’s still going strong. It got regular use during the typhoon season in Hokkaido when rain was a daily occurrence.
4. Jet Lag Relief
Most tourists have to fly a long way to get to Japan. Even for experienced world travelers, jet lag can be brutal. These natural jet lag relief pills help you to recover quicker after landing, so you can fully enjoy every minute of your vacation.
5. Travel Sized Toiletry Bottles
My wife hates relying on hotel shampoo and conditioner, but her regular bottles are too big to bring on the plane. These toiletry bottles are the perfect solution since they are small enough to make it through security, and can be filled with any liquid products. Since they’re reusable, they help prevent plastic waste, too.
6. Luggage Strap
These luggage straps can serve many purposes, but I mainly use them to keep my luggage secured when it’s being loaded on the plane and to quickly identify it at the airport. They are rated to handle up to 400 pounds of strain, so your luggage should be no problem!
Travel Safety Essentials
I’ve always taken safety very seriously while traveling, which is why I’ve been able to safely visit many places where tourists rarely venture. These items always help me to stay safe no matter where I go.
7. TSA-Approved Luggage Locks
When traveling, I like to keep my bags in sight, but that’s not always possible. I use these luggage locks to keep my suitcases secure when they’re loaded in the baggage compartment of a plane, train, or bus, or even in some hotel rooms. I also like to use it with a small cable to secure my bags to a stationary object.
8. Japan Travel Insurance
Today, international travel has become safer than ever before, but smart travelers make sure that they’re ready for anything. If you miss a flight or suffer some kind of emergency, travel insurance can save you thousands of dollars and a lot of headache. Faye is great because there’s no paperwork, and you can use their app to handle unexpected situations quickly and easily.
9. Neck Wallet
Compared to places like the USA, theft is almost nonexistent in Japan. But I like to wear a neck wallet to keep my passport, IDs, credit cards, cash, and other small valuables all together in one convenient place. With this neck wallet, I never have to worry about losing my wallet in a taxi or store, and the RFID protective lining helps prevent e-theft.
10. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
When you travel internationally, there are several issues that can arise while using the internet, such as getting locked out of secure accounts or getting hacked. Using a VPN service like NordVPN helps prevent all that. It also offers password protection and secure browsing, and it blocks ads and malware, so you don’t have to worry about the dangers of using public wifi.
Travel Safety Essentials
Hokkaido is world famous for its natural hot springs, which can be found all over this volcanic island. In this part of Japan, most towns and cities have a communal bathing area, and there are also a number of natural hot springs in the wilderness areas.
11. Quick-Dry Travel Towel
When you’re traveling all the way to Japan, every ounce of weight in your bag counts. Unlike a regular bath towel, which is bulky, heavy, and takes ages to dry, this travel towel is perfect for both international travel and trips to the spa. I don’t always trust the cleanliness of spa towels, which is why I prefer to bring my own. This one packs down very small for travel and dries off in minutes!
12. Kimono Robe
In Japan, swimming suits are banned in most communal bathing areas, but once you get out of the water, it’s nice to have something to wear. A Kimono robe is perfect for lounging around the spa areas, and it’s incredibly comfortable for resting in your hotel room, too!
13. Cooling Towels
One of my favorite things to do in Hokkaido is use the sauna, which is often free for guests at a hot spring resort. But it’s easy to overheat and get light-headed, which can feel pretty scary. This cooling towel is the perfect way to cool off and prevent heat exhaustion. Just wet the towel and apply it to your face or neck for instant relief.
14. Hanging Toiletry Bag
When you’re at the spa, it’s really nice to have one place to keep all of your personal toiletries, medications, and cosmetics. This is my favorite hanging toiletry bag since it’s so well built, and it has waterproof pockets that isolate any accidental spills.
Hokkaido is world famous for its snow, which is perfect for skiing and winter sports. Since Hokkaido is home to several world-class ski resorts, no winter trip to the island would be complete without hitting the slopes. Here are a few items that you should make sure to pack before you head for the mountains.
15. Travel Waterproof Backpack
When you plan on spending a lot of time in the snow, you need a rugged, waterproof backpack to keep your gear dry and protected from the elements. I’ve taken my Earth Pak waterproof backpack to mountains all over the world without a single drop of water ever finding its way inside. This pack will last for many years, and it’s great for water activities too!
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16. Thermal Leggings
I’ve learned the hard way that base layers are the key to staying warm in frigid environments. When you wear a proper base layer, you don’t need to bulk up with as much insulation in order to keep yourself warm. These thermal leggings give your lower body lots of freedom of movement, and they double as excellent travel pajamas.
17. Rechargeable Hand Warmer
This rechargeable hand warmer is a serious upgrade from the old-fashioned disposable ones. Not only does it work better and lasts a long time, but it can even double as a backup power bank to help keep your electronics charged on the mountain. It’s also much better for the environment.
18. Beanie with Headlamp
When you travel a lot, you learn to really appreciate multi-purpose gear. This beanie has a built-in light, so it not only keeps your head warm but it can also function as a hands-free flashlight. That way, you don’t have to worry about packing an extra headlamp or fumbling with your phone’s flashlight. You’ll never be caught unprepared in the dark.
Hokkaido is a world-class trekking destination. The island has hundreds of miles of trails, including paths to the summit of Hokkaido’s famous volcanoes and even a route crossing the entire island! If you are into outdoor adventure, Hokkaido is the right part of Japan for you.
19. Hiking Pants
When you spend a lot of time hiking, proper clothing can make the difference between a fun adventure and a miserable trip. These hiking pants are comfortable, breathable, and lightweight – just what you need on the trail. They’re also convertible from long pants to shorts, so you don’t need to pack extra clothing for different conditions.
20. Packable Daypack
Unless you plan to stay overnight in the wilderness, a large trekking pack is a little too much for most travelers to carry all the way across the Pacific. This daypack is ideal for excursions around Hokkaido, but it folds down and packs away when you don’t need it. That way, you don’t have to check an extra backpack on your flight.
21. Comfortable Walking Shoes
There’s nothing worse than hiking long distances with the wrong footwear. These shoes are one of the best proven affordable hiking shoes on the market, and they’re backed up with over 16,000 glowing reviews on Amazon. My wife has been hiking in these shoes for the past three years, and they’re still in excellent condition after dozens of treks.
22. Water Bottle with Built-in Filter
When you’re traveling around the world, it’s always a good idea to have at least one or two ways to purify water since you don’t always know if it’s safe to drink. This sleek water bottle has a built-in filter that removes chlorine and other contaminants from your water. It’s also BPA-free and dishwasher friendly.
23. Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger
I rely on my phone as an important tool for navigation, communication, and safety while on the road. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get caught out with a dead battery and no power outlet. This tiny power bank takes up almost no space in my bag or pocket, but it can recharge my phone twice. I now carry two of these whenever I travel.
Other Hokkaido Packing List Items Not to Leave at Home
- Travel Backpack
- Travel Blanket
- Travel Pillow
- Travel Journal
- Japanese-English Dictionary
- Body Wipes
- Aloe Gel
- Travel Toiletries Kit
- Shampoo Bar
- Travel Laundry Detergent
- Portable Electric Kettle
- Travel Food Containers
- Tablet Cover
- Electronics Bag
- Dry Bags
- GPS Watch
- Slip-on Shoes
What to Pack for the Weather & Different Seasons
Spring – March, April, May
In Hokkaido, spring is usually cool and wet, and freezing temperatures are common early in the season. For spring trips to Hokkaido, you’ll definitely want to bring a waterproof raincoat, and to help deal with cool temperatures, you’ll want insulating layers such as a light down jacket. It’s a great time of year for hiking, so comfortable walking shoes are essential. In March, average temperatures range from the high 20’s F to the mid 30’s F, and by May, average temperatures range from the mid-40s F to the mid-50s F.
Summer – June, July, August
Summer is my favorite time to visit Hokkaido. This time of year, the weather can range from bright sun with warm temperatures to grey and heavy rainfall. In order to protect your eyes when the sun is shining, make sure to bring sunglasses. For those rainy days, don’t forget a travel umbrella. Since you’ll probably spend a lot of time outside, an activewear-style shirt and shorts are essential. If you plan to hit the beach, don’t forget to pack a sarong. In the summer, average daily temperatures range from the mid 50’s F to the low 70’s F.
Fall – September, October, November
Fall is an excellent time of year to enjoy the natural beauty of Hokkaido. The temperature drops significantly, so pack insulating clothes like sweaters. A solid windbreaker and comfortable hiking pants are also very useful. In early fall, average temperatures range from the high 50’s F to the high 60’s F, but by November, they drop down to the mid 30’s to 40’s F.
Winter – December, January, February
Hokkaido is a popular winter destination due to the cold, crisp weather and high snowfall. Winter in Hokkaido can get surprisingly frigid compared to the rest of Japan, so make sure to pack warm gloves, as well as a proper winter coat. Warm base layers are essential to stay comfortable this time of year. In the winter, average temperatures range from the mid 30’s F down to the teens.
What to wear
In Japan, traditional culture is still very important, so it’s polite for visitors to wear modest clothing. Although there is no official dress code for tourists, locals rarely expose skin in public. Hokkaido is further north and more affected by the North Pacific weather systems than the rest of Japan, so warm clothing and waterproof outerwear are especially important. Japanese people love to dress formally, so if you like wearing proper attire, the cities of Hokkaido are great places to dress up! Don’t forget to pack shoes that are easily slipped on and off, and bring plenty of extra socks since shoes are usually not worn inside.
- Slip-on Shoes
- Hiking Shoes
- Moisture-wicking Socks
- Moisture-wicking Underwear
- Kimono Robe
- Hiking Pants
- Long Sleeved Shirt
- Kimono Dress
- One Piece Swimsuit
- Knee-length Skirt
- Slip-on Shoes
- Hiking Boots
- Button-up Shirt
- Down Jacket
- Winter Coat
- Base Layers
What NOT to Bring to Hokkaido
Too Much Cash
Japan is a very modern country, and credit cards are accepted just about everywhere. You’ll also find ATMs all over, so there is no need to bring more than a small amount of cash for emergencies.
Modern fabrics have made bulky and heavy clothing irrelevant. Try to pack lightweight, athletic-style clothing that stays fresh longer and doesn’t weigh down your suitcase.
Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. Crime is extremely rare, especially towards foreigners, so there is no reason for you to bring weapons.
Like many Asian countries, Japan is hard on crime and drugs especially. Japanese society is extremely negative towards any kind of drug use, and you won’t be able to get them into the country anyway. Even CBD oil can get you into a lot of trouble.
Plants or Animals
In Japan, it can be an extremely difficult and expensive process to import live plants and animals. For that reason, it’s best to leave your pets at home and buy fresh fruits and vegetables inside the country.
FAQs About What to Pack for Hokkaido
What type of luggage should I bring?
Many visitors to Japan bring roller-type luggage. That’s fine if you plan on staying in the cities, but if you plan on doing much camping or hiking, it may be a better idea to pack your belongings in a travel backpack instead. You can always use a personal item bag to bring home souvenirs or carry extra supplies.
Should I bring a swimsuit to Hokkaido?
In Japan, nudity is actually enforced at most spas and public swimming pools. However, if you plan to visit the beach, it’s a good idea to bring a swimsuit. The ocean in Hokkaido is quite cold, so consider bringing a wetsuit if you plan to spend a lot of time in the water, and remember that it’s considered appropriate for women to wear a one-piece swimsuit instead of a bikini.
What clothing is appropriate in Japan?
In Japan, conservative clothing is the norm. There isn’t a strict dress code for foreigners, but it’s considered polite to dress similarly to the locals to respect their culture. That means for men to dress semi-formal and for women to wear knee-length skirts or slightly baggy shirts and shorts instead of tight-fitting clothes. You’ll often be expected to remove your shoes when you go inside, so bring extra socks and change them frequently.
Can I easily obtain travel essentials in Hokkaido?
If you’re used to traveling in third-world countries, then you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by Japan. The cities are clean, the trains run on time, and you can find almost anything you need in most towns. If you forget a travel item, it shouldn’t be too difficult to buy a replacement locally.
Do I need to bring my own ski gear if I plan to ski?
Hokkaido is world famous for the perfect snow and excellent skiing. If you plan to ski at a large ski resort, you can easily rent your equipment from the lodge. However, if you plan to ski off-trail on one of the volcanoes or in a remote area, you should either make arrangements to rent gear ahead of time or bring your own equipment.