Backpack or Suitcase – which travel sidekick is best when you go to Japan?

When planning your trip to Japan, one of the important things you have to consider is the luggage you will bring. Should you bring a backpack or a suitcase as your trusted travel sidekick?

This may seem like an insignificant question at first. However, choosing the right luggage to accompany you throughout your trip can make a significant impact on your travel experience.

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In this guide, we will examine and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using a backpack versus a suitcase to ensure you will have a smooth and convenient journey in Japan.

A person holding a handbag with a ticket in it.

Making the right decision

The decision to bring an authentic branded backpack or a suitcase when traveling to Japan should align with your travel style, the nature and length of your trip, and your specific needs and personal comfort

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to traveling and packing. You need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of using a backpack or a suitcase when traveling to stay safe yet still enjoy the travel experience. 

Ultimately, the decision of using a backpack over a suitcase or vice versa would depend on your needs, comfort, and what you are willing to accept or give up. 

BackpackSuitcase
MobilityEasy to carry around.
Allows you to easily navigate in all types of surroundings.
Requires wide area for navigation. Not advisable for use in remote areas and uneven roads.
StorageLimitedSpacious
Weight Management Depends on how much weight you can carry.Can carry heavy loads.
SecurityLow securityHigh security
Length of stayGood for short trips.Advisable for longer trips.
Environment/SettingsCasual to semi-formalSemi-formal to business

Adaptable Backpack

Backpacks offer notable advantages, especially if you are a traveler whose primary consideration is mobility, efficiency, and convenience.

However, keep in mind that backpacks also come with their share of drawbacks. 

Let’s discuss them one by one.

A man with a backpack sitting on top of a mountain.

Advantages of bringing a backpack

Mobility and Maneuverability

The main advantage of a backpack over other types of luggage is that it offers you maneuverability when navigating busy streets, crowded train stations, packed buses, or trekking through forests and uneven roads. 

It also frees your hands to do other things like taking pictures, carrying souvenirs, or holding onto something to balance yourself when traversing rough terrains in remote destinations. 

Because of the mobility it offers, you can even go on off-the-beaten-path explorations, travel through jungles, go hiking, or wade through rivers and lakes without the unnecessary burden of dragging a suitcase behind. 

Efficiency and Minimalism

Why are you traveling abroad? Are you not visiting distant places to gain experience and insights into other cultures, history, and traditions, and not so you can bring clothes to exhibit a fashion show or carry other unnecessary stuff?

Keeping that in mind, a backpack encourages minimalism and urges you to bring only essential items for your travel. This prevents you from over-packing, leaving the weight manageable for you to carry. It also keeps your mind focused on just enjoying your trip.

Moreover, since you have limited space and only have indispensable items, you are more mindful and organized with your personal belongings, hence less chances of you losing or leaving things behind. 

Convenience features

Bags are designed for convenience. 

The numerous pockets and compartments not only allow you to keep your personal belongings organized, but they also allow you easy access to items like passports and snacks without the hassle of rummaging through your bags.

To top that off, if you are carrying fragile cameras or laptops, the specialized compartments of backpacks can keep them accessible and safe from breaking.

Adaptable

You can bring your backpack in various settings. You can take it when exploring the city streets, malls, and markets. You can even bring it when you go on day trips to temples and shrines.

Backpacks are also great when you are on a hiking adventure when you go to the beach, or when you join any outdoor adventure.

A man sitting on a couch with a backpack.

Disadvantages of backpacks

Although backpacks have remarkable advantages, they are not without downsides. 

Here are some of the drawbacks and limitations of using a backpack:

Limited storage space

It is obvious that backpacks are smaller than suitcases and offer a small space for you to store your belongings.

If you are staying in Japan for weeks or months, you would need to bring more clothes and personal items, which would be hard to fit inside a backpack.

This can also be a problem if you suddenly decide to buy souvenirs from shops. You might not find enough space in our bags to store them.

Load and weight distribution

Putting all your travel items in a single backpack and carrying it for long periods may cause strain in the back

Imagine having to carry a heavy load on your back from the combined weight of your clothes, electronic devices, and other personal items for hours, and your back will hurt in no time.

This may also lead to fatigue when you go on long trips.

Challenge of finding items

Backpacks are indeed designed with efficiency in mind. However, they can pose an inconvenience when finding items you packed at the bottom of the bag. 

You may have to dig underneath the pile of clothes and other belongings inside the bag, or you may be forced to unpack your things just to find and take something out of the backpack.

Security issues

Since you have to wear it on your back, it may be hard to monitor and secure your belongings, especially in crowded areas.

You will become easy pickings for pickpockets since they can take your belongings inside the backpack without you noticing. 

Dependable Suitcase

The suitcase is a common choice for many travelers because of the benefit of having ample storage, easy organization, and stability, which is especially great when going on a long trip that involves tons of activities and visiting various destinations. 

But with its marked advantages, it also comes with disadvantages that you need to accept.

A woman is putting clothes into a suitcase.

Advantages of bringing a suitcase

Generous storage

One of the most evident advantages of using a suitcase is the generous storage capacity it provides. It has room for everything – shoes, casual attire, business attire, electronic devices, and more!

This is especially useful when you are staying abroad for an extended time and you need to have a wide range of clothing options. 

It is also useful if you like going on shopping sprees and bringing home souvenirs when you visit tourist spots like Nikko or Kamakura.

Easy packing and unpacking

Since you can open it wide, you can effortlessly pack and unpack your belongings when using a suitcase.

With built-in organizers, dividers, pockets, and straps, a suitcase allows for easy and orderly organization since you can neatly fold clothes, pack them in cubes, and arrange your belongings systematically. 

This helps keep clothes from wrinkling, making it the preferred luggage of business travelers and those who are expecting to attend special events.

What’s more, you don’t have to disrupt and unpack your suitcase when when find something. All you have to do is open it up to see what’s inside all at once, and simply locate the item you are looking for. 

Stability and weight management

Suitcases come with small wheels attached at the bottom of the luggage allowing you to bring heavy loads without breaking a sweat. 

Since you can roll the suitcase, you don’t have to strain your back. All you have to do is exert minimal effort to pull the suitcase beside you.

The wheels also allow you to easily maneuver your heavy suitcase in airports and well-paved roads in urban settings.

Secure

Suitcases have built-in locks and usually come in hard shells that can provide an extra layer of security for your belongings.

What’s more, as suitcases are near the floor, it would be hard for anyone to try to steal your belongings. You can hide the cash you bring when you travel to Japan.

Moreover, since you typically just roll them right beside you, you can keep an eye on them allowing you to easily spot a thief who may attempt to open your suitcase. 

A man and a woman walking down the road with luggage.

Disadvantages of suitcases

There is no question that suitcases are wonderful travel companions. However, you also have to consider the limited mobility, the temptation to over-pack, and the accessibility challenges that come with it.

Limited mobility

This is especially challenging when you have to navigate crowded airports and less accessible areas. With its extra bulk requiring additional space, it would be cumbersome to find a big enough space to roll it on.

What’s more, if you have to use it on uneven ground, you may find yourself struggling to move it. You would be required to exert more effort and strain yourself just to get it from one area to another. 

Prone to over-packing

The advantage of having extra storage space can be a double-edged sword as it can cause you to over-pack.

Because of the extra space, you might be prompted to bring unnecessary items, and even go over the luggage weight limit. This could result in you paying additional fees, or worse, forcing you to throw away some of your belongings to avoid paying the fee.

Not adaptable

Suitcases are not adaptable to all types of travel. It is mostly restricted to business travel or when you have to stay within urban settings.

It is not advisable to drag a suitcase around when you are planning on engaging in outdoor activities, or visiting areas with uneven roads as it will only hinder your movement and even limit you from visiting remote areas