Summer is almost here and if you're part of the JET Program, you're likely preparing and trying to figure out what to bring and what to expect when you arrive. While there are a lot advice-givers out there (forums in particular), I'd strongly suggest that you take what is said with a grain of salt. Usually the advice you hear is limited to that person's particular experience.
Prior to arriving in Japan, I heard a lot about what Japan didn't have, only to later find out most of that wasn't true. It may have been true for the person who told me, but that depends on where they were/are living, what their situation is, how much Japanese they know/speak/read, what they do in their free time, who they associate with, etc.
Japan also changes quickly in different ways and so you might be surprised that there are more options of whatever than your predecessor or someone else might have known about.
Some people are more knowledgeable in certain areas, especially if they've gone through certain experiences themselves. Stay as open-minded as possible. And I strongly encourage you to seek out truth for yourself. Someone might state something as fact, but they may not know otherwise--it's a fact to them, but not necessarily to Japan.
Not just expats, but plenty of Japanese people might not even know, depending on the topic. For example, I tried for months to find a farmer's market in my first city, and no one (expats, Japanese) seemed to know about any or how to go about finding them. Some of my coworkers insisted that there weren't any around. But I happened upon one while out exploring on my bike a few months later, and then learned, on my own, how to find them.
So, keep an open mind and explore Japan for yourself. Ask questions, always. Be gracious when advice is offered--and please don't hesitate to ask for it!--but keep in mind that you might find it to be different down the road.
With that said, here are some posts to help with your preparations (regardless of how or why you're moving to Japan):
What to Pack for Japan -- A comprehensive list, which includes many of the links below in each relevant section. Please read this before packing or deciding what to bring or leave behind. You can find more posts in the "how-tos" link above.
- HOW TO: Find (good) deodorant in Japan
- Japanese Deodorant: What's in it, What best, and What you think
- HOW TO: Find the haircare you need
- Help for Curly Hair in Japan
- HOW TO: Find a hair salon in Japan
- HOW TO: Find ibuprofen in Japan
- HOW TO: Find Tylenol in Japan
- Contraception in Japan: Getting an IUD
- A guide to birth control pills in Japan
- Contraception in Japan: Condoms, IUDs and Calendar-based methods
- A guide to sanitary napkins in Japan
- A guide to tampons in Japan
- how to find skincare in Japan
- A Guide to Toothpaste in Japan
- Where to find vitamins & supplements
- HOW TO: Find Allergy-Friendly Food in Japan
- The Ultimate Guide to Reading Food Labels in Japan
- how to look up train times (in English)
- HOW TO: Survive without a car in Japan
- About Cycling and Biking in Japan
- A Guide to Laundry Detergent in Japan
- A Survival Guide to Mosquito Repellent in Japan
- HOW TO: Find anti-itch, insect bite medicine in Japan
- HOW TO: Use an Air Conditioner in Japan
- HOW TO: Find a laptop with an English keyboard
- More Resources to Find a Laptop with an English Keyboard
For more how-tos and information about living in Japan, see the "how-tos" page above.