In the last post we discussed the theory behind packing and some common sense steps (Research, Inventory, Weeding) for cutting back on how much you’ll take. Now we’ll get to the nit and grit on different methods of packing, how much you’ll actually need to take abroad (no more and no less, trust me), and I’ll try to get into as much detail as I possibly can in regards to Japanese culture.
So let’s get to it! Let’s talk packing essential number 1: Le Suitcase! 🙂
A suitcase is a suitcase is a suitcase, right? Well, depends on the kind of travel you’re going to take up… and for long-term travel, especially when living for extended periods of time (years) in a foreign country. A suitcase should only be purchased if it stands up to the L.E.D.D. test:
Is the suitcase (while empty):
EASY to transport/store?
And, do the DIMENSIONS fit the flight allowance?
After doing some preliminary research, I found that most airlines offer 62 inches (L + W + H) with 50 lb dimension and weight limit for all checked baggage on international flights. Domestic flights may vary but we won’t worry about those just yet. And so this is where you really want to take advantage of lightweight luggage: when you’ve only got 50 pounds, you have to make them stretch the extra mile. Remember, even though we’ve already done our clothes research and inventory, weeding in a large part correlates to the baggage allowance and also on personal choice. What goes for the ultra-minimalist will not be enough for the pack rat traveler. It’s all about striking a balance in packing, which we’ll go over in the next section. So this brings us to types of luggage and knowing how to invest in a nice set that will last you out for as long as your passport is valid (generally about 10 years worth). Brand name luggage sets can run in the hundreds so knowing where to look will bring down the price to an average of $150 versus department store price of $300 upwards. Generally, there are two types on the market these days: polyester/nylon (soft) and polycarbonate/plastic (hard) shelled suitcases, although I’ve heard of leather and canvas material being used as well.
Pros: Cheaper, weigh less when frames are made of aluminum or fiberglass. Those with thicker weave patterns make for more durable soft shells. Expandable.
Cons: Not as durable so do not store fragile items or electronics in these cases. Wheels do not rotate (compare model to the left and the polycarbonate down below). Check for quality of stitching before purchasing. Only one packing compartment = less space. Needs to be cleaned more often because fabric case will trap odors and particles more than a hard shell case.
Pros: Polycarbonate is more durable and weighs as much or less than soft shell suitcases, have rotating wheels, and two packing compartments: main on the right, secondary to the left.
Cons: Scratches and water stains will show more readily. When cleaning a polycarbonate, drying the case right away is essential to maintaining its aesthetics. Check that if comes with a zipper for expanding space between the main and secondary packing compartments.
In summation: essentially it comes down to what you prefer in a case and for me, having used both extensively, the polycarbonates win hands down every time. I was able to find an amazing set of two in a beautiful dark navy blue at Costco. They’ve been taken to Japan and Mexico, roughly handled, shoved, and rolled. Still, they look and function as well as if I had bought them yesterday (even though they have their share of minor scratches).
- 1 set formal business attire (as in the works) – MEN: the suit, neckties, dress socks, business shoes. WOMEN: skirt or pants suit with business jacket, pantyhose, dress shoes.
- 3-4 sets of business casual for work (or if you’re really confident about your mix and match skills, just 3 will suffice) – button up blouses/slacks or skirts.
- 3 sets of casual, daily wear (upgrade to 4-5 sets if you know you won’t be able to find your size readily abroad)
- 1 sweater for autumn
- A week’s worth of undergarments (underwear/bras/socks)
- 1 pair of pajamas
- 1 extra pair of shoes (preferably comfortable running shoes; walking can be brutal if you are not used to mass transport and being without a car longer than a day)
- Travel size toiletries (trust me, you don’t need anymore)
- TAKE TWO STICKS OF YOUR FAVORITE ANTIPERSPIRANTS. That should last you the year and one really humid summer.
- Electronics as necessary (laptop, camera, tablet/Kindle)
Ship winter clothes in a box if you can’t find anything in your size abroad. Otherwise purchase on site as the locals will always have the best winter clothes for their type of winter weather. The ULTRA-minimalist will cut this list down to half 😉 Pajamas? Who needs pajamas? Clothes? Pshaw, I’ll just wash this every day. Satirical dramatization, of course 😉 The people responsible for posting this article have been sacked (just kidding). If you follow these guidelines you will only use one polycarbonate suitcase.
Time and again, the world seems to be divided, perpetually, into two field camps: Them v.s. Us, Allies v.s. Axis, Lannisters v.s. Starks, Team Edward v.s. Team Jacob, coffee lovers v.s. tea lovers… and so the story goes. Packing has it’s own version and the two main camps stand as charged:
Rollers v.s. Folders
Now before you get your knickers into a figurative twist (corny pun intended… literally), keep in mind that both methods should be used. Not all fabric types can withstand the strains of tight rolling, but that being said, you should be rolling more than folding. The reason being that: rolling saves you more space than folding.
TIPS: Make sure that while rolling, you do so as tightly as possible to minimize bulk. For business suits/formal wear: FOLD, DO NOT ROLL. For jeans, you want to start from the legs up after folding lengthwise down. Blouses and clothes made of more fragile material should just be folded. Make sure to line suitcase with your rolled clothing as best as possible to maximize packing space. Heavier items should be packed closer to the wheels for balance. Just use general common sense physics when in doubt 😉
Basically the same fold one finds in department stores. To protect fragile clothing, separate each layer with plastic. Not necessary but can be done to minimize wrinkles.
Et voila! Packing a suitcase and maximizing on space has never been easier. It just takes some practice and lots of creativity to fit everything into one piece.
As for Japanese office culture: they are much more formal than their American counterparts. No casual days at work and everyone has a place on the status ladder that depends on a variety of factors such as their age, where they graduated from, and how long they have worked for that one company. Your office mates will more often than not be like second family and in some cases you will find yourself going out for drinks with them to maintain good rapport and colleague solidarity than you will be spending time at home… there were nights when my first host family’s dad would stumble in at one in the morning. As a foreigner finding your niche is important and might be difficult. I’ll find out more about this once I begin working in Japan but from my experiences as a student at my host university, it was so hard to fit in as ‘one of them’ instead of as the somewhat cool foreigner friend (a.k.a “other”).