Plan Your Visit

What to Bring

When visiting Japan's national parks, packing lists should reflect your itinerary, the local environment and seasonal weather. Whatever your plans, bear in mind that trash cans are typically nonexistent, so bring everything you need to face the elements but be equally prepared to take it all back to base. Stores that accept credit cards are still relatively scarce in Japan—and even rarer as you leave the beaten track—so be sure to bring enough cash to cover your whole trip.

Simple sightseeing trips and short hikes don't require special gear; essentials such as water, sunscreen, bug repellent, an umbrella/ raincoat if necessary, and a bag for your trash will suffice. Wherever you go, it's a good idea to opt for sturdiness over style when it comes to footwear. Unless the area is explicitly described as being accessible (often referred to as "barrier-free" in Japan), you should expect to encounter exposed tree roots, rough or slippery paths, and steep steps—even in well-manicured spots.

Challenging hikes and multiday treks require more thorough planning and packing. At the very least, you should have proper clothing, shoes, and a waterproof bag containing a first-aid kit, flashlight or headlamp, and an extra day's worth of food and medication to deal with unforeseen circumstances and emergencies. Temperature and weather conditions can change rapidly during the day, so bring warm and/or waterproof layers. Depending on the area, you may also need a walking stick or bear bell. Check ahead of time to see if toilets are available along the trail. If they aren't, consider purchasing portable toilets known as keitai toire—sealable, odor-eliminating bags designed to carry waste and toilet paper.  

Mount Daisen

For multiday treks, draw up your packing list depending on whether you plan to camp or stay in mountain huts and lodges. These shelters typically provide everything you need for a good night's rest, including meals (for a fee), but it's best to research facilities ahead of time. Useful items for a hut- or lodge-stay include earplugs to shut out snoring in shared sleeping areas, a towel for the (gender-separated) communal baths, and thick socks since you generally can't wear shoes indoors. 

Camping at Mount Kirishima

If you plan to camp, you'll need to carry a lot more equipment, including a tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear, lighting equipment, matches or lighter, and water purification equipment. Also, bring a well-stocked first-aid kit, extra food and medication, and navigation equipment. It's prohibited to build fires in Japan's national parks (unless otherwise indicated). Small camp stoves, however, are permitted. 

Facilities that focus on activities such as skiing or water sports typically offer rentals for everything you'll need. Ski resorts typically have warm clothing, boots and related gear; scuba-diving facilities offer wetsuits and related equipment; and many camping grounds hire out items such as fishing poles and barbecue grills. These facilities primarily cater to outdoor activity enthusiasts who have no room to store specialist gear at home. (One rental-related caveat: If your clothing or shoe size falls outside Japan's relatively limited standard range, it's better to bring your own items from home.)