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  • Shelley Dark

2. a carry-on wardrobe

For this post I feel like typing just EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK, carry-on only?

I've always thought that carry-on and wardrobe are mutually exclusive terms! But let's do it. Let's take only carryon to Japan. You with me?

Shinkansen photo Wikimedia commons

Why do it at all? Fear really. Fear of the much-admired bullet trains or Shinkansen. Luggage space is limited, and these trains depart dead on time. And if you're like us, getting on to a train is not a quick business.

Normally while we are standing on the platform, mega-suitcases between us, carryons, camera bag, handbag and laptop bags swinging around necks, we agree that I'll get up into the train first, and John will hand both suitcases up to me. Often a kind stranger will offer to help. John usually says "No thank you we'll be fine' as I say 'Yes thank you, that would be so kind.'

The train doors open, and the rush begins.

By the time we’re on board we’re both in a flop sweat. Our eyes are wild, our shins are bruised and our suitcases are blocking the aisle. Which is ok because everyone else is already quietly seated, all available luggage space taken.

If this same scenario happened in Japan, the train would probably have left without us. Or we’d be squashed in the steel vice of the closing doors, the trip over before it began.

One handbag, one carryon bag, one backpack for camera gear.

I don't have a light carryon bag so I'm borrowing this one which weighs about a kilogram - a Samsonite four-wheeler. It takes off at the push of a finger. Navy is not my colour, but if this whole idea works I'll go into bag investment mode. But don't tell John - he already thinks I have a luggage fetish.

A backpack for camera gear may seem excessive if we are trying to cut down on baggage. As usual my main camera will be my iPhone, but I am taking John’s SLR camera this time as a test run - he is giving it to me permanently provided that after carrying it for three weeks I still want it. I just adore the 135mm portrait lens that goes with it.

I can only take the shoes I wear. Which means they must be smart enough to do day and night and also waterproof. Scratch my old goretex ones which look as if they were made from a tractor tyre, and anyway, they’ve cracked along the creases and would let rain in.

I already have a couple of pairs of Cole Haan Zero Grand shoes, light as a feather, so comfortable you could walk for weeks in them. Now they make a waterproof boot in the same range. Tick. They wouldn't do for formal dining, but I think I can get away with them for the restaurants I've planned.

I may regret all the laces every time I have to take my shoes off in Japan. But I think you only have to do that about two hundred times a day.

What clothes to pack? My usual grey and beige. Basically I'll take the outfit I am wearing, plus another 2 pairs of pants and 3 shirts. It's going to be about 12 degrees C to about 19 degrees C. Give or take the totally unexpected blizzard or heatwave. So they'll be lovely days if there's no wind, quite chilly if there is.

I can only take one jacket so it has to play the part of jacket, rain coat and warm layer. I'll wear this champagne-coloured Luisa Cerano puffer jacket and Fabiana Fillipi cashmere scarf which will double as a wrap in the plane or at night. If I have room I might put in the fur headband in case it's freezing.

Also on the plane, these stretchy Laurèl light woollen grey herringbone pants and the Gran Sasso grey spotted top. Woollen gloves in the carryon just in case. The white scarf (to pack) is silk and cashmere and much lighter than the Fabiana one. I think it's a Laura Ashley.

Simple jewellery: Horse watch, sparkly bracelet, grey pearls.

Two extra pairs of pants: on the left, Piazza Sempione light cotton pique pants, on the right Laurèl light woollen ones. Both fairly easy dry.

I'm not quite sure yet what 2 or 3 tops I'll take - something like those two above. A Hansel and Gretel and an Alexander Wang both with long sleeves. I'll take a short sleeved white T as well.

The extras are a nightie, a couple of quick dry undies and bra, couple of sox, very basic makeup and toothbrush/toothpaste, pills but no potions, hair brush, grey Witchery cap and light folding umbrella.

Also in the carryon bag I have to put the tech stuff. John will carry the electrical power board and one Japanese adaptor. I'll take one too, plus my laptop and power cord, phone charger, power bank for phone, battery charger for camera and downloading cord.

I'll see how I'm going for space and might throw in this Fabiana Fillipi cashmere jumper if I have room. No extra throwing in allowed? Oh ok. Another scarf? You sure? No, nothing else. OK.

Here is the actual list:


passports, 2 credit cards and 1 debit card


hearing aid container and batteries

hand sanitiser


small tissues

iphone 7 plus and charger with all bookings etc on it

1 Japanese power adaptor


handbag-sized perfume and lipstick

small hairbrush

Mophie power station (to recharge phone)

packing list with serial numbers of phone, camera, lens, details of travel insurance, passport numbers, card numbers, phone numbers for lost or stolen cards


Cole Haan shoes

grey cotton sox

grey herringbone Laurèl wool pants

Gran Sasso spotted top

Luisa Cernao puffer jacket

Fabiana Fillipi cashmere scarf

bra and undies

Horse watch

sparkly bracelet

grey pearls


Laurèl plain grey very light woollen pants

Piazza Sempione cotton piqué beige pants

1 light Brunello Cucinelli belt

Alexander Wang l/s T

Hansel and Gretel l/s T

Fabiana Fillipi s/s white T

2 quick-dry undies

1 bra

2 sox

1 grey Witchery cap

1 cotton t-shirt nightie


toothpaste and brush

basic makeup (travel-sized day cream, foundation, kohl pencil, mascara, lipstick)

packing list with serial numbers of phone, camera, lens, details of travel insurance, passport numbers, card numbers, phone numbers for lost or stolen cards


Canon camera and lens

spare battery

downloading cord

camera battery recharger

packing list with serial numbers of phone, camera, lens, details of travel insurance, passport numbers, card numbers, phone numbers for lost or stolen cards

I just weighed the carry-on bag with everything in it. 6.7kg. Yayyyyyyy! I'm within the allowed 7kg. Voilà! The shinkansen should be a breeze.

Except for the signage being in Japanese. How will we ever find our carriage???? I can feel another eeeeeek coming on.

Until next post, fellow travellers, when I’ll send you a more detailed itinerary......

shelley dark, writer 

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