This is the time of year when JETs will begin to find out details about their placement. Location, location, location. In Tokyo or Osaka everything is available from Tony Roma's to The Gap. In Tottori, there isn't even a Starbucks. Before I got here to Tottori I was notified by my pred through email only once, and it was as brief as brief can be. He literally emailed me the last weekend before I left for JET orientation in Tokyo. I was a wreck waiting around to hear from him.If your pred wont respond to emails and doesn't contact you in a timely way then bug the BOE. You are moving to a foreign country and you deserve to know what you can expect!! Be polite, but explain that you didn't hear from your pred yet...nudge, nudge.
Although JETs are supposed to leave the apartments empty mine came full of everything under the sun. From Hello Kitty Christmas ornaments, to books about the legal system. I didn't want half the stuff my pred left. Make sure you agree to what they are leaving and get specifics. My pred was too lazy to clear out the space so he left me with a bunch of junk to clear out myself.
The biggest favor you can do yourself is to ask your pred to give you a specific list and then figure out a way for you to buy the stuff you want. If you are in a city like me there are shops everywhere, so you may want to set up your flat in your own way. However in the true inaka having some stuff to start will help you out big time!
When I packed for JET I was really worried and tried to pack my entire life into 2 large suitcases, 1 carry on and a back pack. I overpacked. I brought ridiculous things like tape and paper clips. Don't forget you are moving somewhere where you have access to everything you would at home, it will just be different. You can buy shampoo, deoderant and toothpaste here. School/Office supplies as well. If you are taller than average or have big feet you will run into problems, but in terms of everyday essentials you will be ok! The best things I packed were:
1. Shoes for all seasons (your school may require inside shoes too!)
2. A small steamer. Everything in my suitcase was a crinkly mess when I stepped out of the plane in Tokyo. Your first impression shouldn't be a mess. However if your shower is big enough hang stuff up in there with the hot water on and boom! Nicely pressed. (I just heart my steamer!!)
3. Food from Home. If you are a picky eater, or just like tastes from home, then bring one or two items to have around for the first couple of days. I quickly realized there was no good peanut butter to be found, and before I found the Japanese Costco I only had my Kraft crunchy to tide me over.
4. Omiyage. If you come bearing gifts the people will love you. Bring something unique, or edible.
No one wants a pencil with the word CANADA emblazoned over it. Seriously. I brought loonies and twoonies to hand out as prizes to students as well.
5. Book(s). If you are in the inaka, or even a small city, you may still not have access to English books. My city has four or five bookstores within walking distance...but ZERO English titles. So bring a book or magazine to tide you over. Of course Amazon.jp and The book depository are fast and efficient, so if you don't have room don't panic.
6. Photos. Photos are fun to show your students (especially with little to no Japanese) and they will make you feel better when the first moment of 'where. am. I' sets in.
7. Money, Money, Money. Bring as much as you can. Don't try to rely on a credit card, it won't work most places. You may not get paid for 2-3 weeks and you will have to fork over for a lot of things up front, like an inkan and welcome parties. I brought about $1,500 CDN and it ran out pretty fast with set up costs (internet, cell phone, appliances, etc.)
The biggest thing to remember is that you are moving to Japan, not the Amazon rainforest. You will have access to 24/7 combinis that sell everything under the sun and you should be able to get a cell phone within a day or two of arriving. I was so stressed before I arrived, and while some of the stuff I packed was useful, I kind of lost sight of the fact I was moving to a country with shopping malls and heading into a job that paid well. I was too worried about packing all my cardigans to stop and think that, hey! Japanese people wear cardigans too...
Good luck packing!