Best Backpack for Japan Travel

The best backpack for Japan travel is 40 liters, or smaller, and waterproof. The style and brand are not that important. Instead, I suggest focusing on comfort and practicality.

Bag and Backpack Manners are Important

Overall, the Japanese are very concerned about how their behavior affects the people around them. Japan is the land of etiquette, and how you handle your bag or backpack is very important.

In a survey done by Nippon.com, wearing backpacks and large shoulder bags on trains was the number one most annoying behavior among commuters, followed by noisy conversations.

The issue of bags on crowded trains is such an important matter, that the Tokyo Metro has been making manner posters on the topic since the early 2000s.

Tokyo Metro Luggage Manners

There is no issue with the backpacks themselves. The main complaint is that of irritating encounters with passengers that keep their backpacks on while riding crowded, rush-hour, trains.

If wearing a backpack, it is considered polite to either turn the bag around and wear it in front, take it off and put it on the luggage rack, or hold it in front of you. As demonstrated in the video below.

Our Experience with Large Travel Backpacks

Back in the early 2000s, Becki and I traveled the globe with our huge 100 liter backpacks. We took them to South and Central America, Europe, India, China, and Southeast Asia without any issues. Everything was fine until we embarked on Japan.

Shawn in Shanghai 2005

Shawn in Shanghai 2005

Because wearing a bag or backpack on a crowded train is seen as rude to other passengers, these large bags quickly became a nuisance while traveling around Japan.

We would have to constantly take off our massive bags, carry them onto the train and hold them in front of us. Once at a station, we’d have to carry them off the train, wait for a clearing and then hoist them back onto our backs. Transfers just made this even more of a hassle.

What’s the Best Backpack for Japan Travel

Our favorite backpack is a small 40 liter, or less, day pack. Our favorite brand is The North Face. They’re comfortable, strong and waterproof. We’ve had several of these backpacks, and every single one has lasted several years.

Bex Backpack on Nakasendo

Becki hiking the Nakasendo trail 2019

Your backpack should be comfortable because you will be wearing it almost all day. I always look for a backpack that is lightweight and has a back with some sort of ventilation system.

You’ll also want the material to be pretty durable. You don’t want your bag ripping open, or a zipper busting while you’re out and about. A good quality build is important.

Shawn with Backpack

Shawn & Becki with tour group 2019

Also, it rains quite a bit in Japan, so you’re going to want a backpack that will keep your belongings dry. Even when using an umbrella, my backpack still manages to get soaking wet. Which is why water resistance is a must!

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this article. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We have no association with the companies or the products reviewed. These are our own opinions of top travel products.