Visiting your local ward office is a necessary, but sometimes burdensome, part of living in Japan. Most of the time, you’ll get by with basic Japanese, but it’s always better to go equipped with some Japanese words for the ward office. Even if you live in an area that has many other foreigners, you should never expect your local ward office to have staff who can communicate in your language.
We look at some of the main reasons for you to visit your ward office, or 区役所 (kuyakusho), and some helpful Japanese for you to use.
Registering your address
Your first visit to your local ward office will probably be to register your address. This is one of the first things you’ll do after arriving in Japan and you must do this within 14 days of finding a permanent place to live. It’s fairly straightforward, but it’ll definitely make your life easier if you go to the ward office knowing some relevant Japanese words.
Make sure to take your residence card (在留カード zairyuu kaado) and passport when you go to the ward office. You’ll need to visit the Resident Registry Section (戸籍住民課 koseki jūminka).
Once there, fill in the resident moving form (住民異動届 jumin ido todoke). Here are some words to help:
Date of change of address i.e. your move-in date.
Notification date i.e. the date you’re writing your application.
Name i.e. write your name exactly as it appears on your residence card with your surname first.
電話番号 denwa bango
Home, circle this if this is your home phone number.
Mobile phone, circle this if you’re filling in your mobile number.
新住所 shin jūsho
New address, read more about how to read and write Japanese addresses here.
世帯主 setai nushi
Head of the household, write your name here if you are the only person moving in. If you are moving in with other people write the name of the head of the household instead.
旧住所 kyū jūsho
Former address. If you have just moved from overseas, you can put your country name (write in katakana if you can)
The person in question i.e. you, if you are the one filling out this form. Normally you will need to circle this to indicate that you are the person moving.
異動した人全員 idō shita hito zenin
People who have moved.
Under this section you will need to write your name again. If you know katakana, write your name in katakana in the small, thin box above where it says フリガナ.
生年月日 seinen gappi
Birthday. Write in the order of year 年, month 月, day 日.
Common era i.e. the Western calendar. Circle this when writing dates.
Sex. Circle 男 otoko for male and 女 onna for female.
Family relationship. Here, write 本人 to show that the person who is moving, is also the person submitting the application.
Fill in the form to the best of your ability and then take a number to wait for your turn to be seen. When your turn comes, hand the form to the staff at the counter along with your residence card and passport.
Each ward is different when it comes to communicating with foreigners. Sometimes the staff might know a little English, other times they won’t know English, but might have a document prepared in other languages with questions they might need to ask you. Our advice is to just be as patient, polite and helpful as you can.
Signing up for health insurance
Everyone who is resident in Japan must be covered under either Japan’s National Health Insurance (国民健康保険 kokumin kenkō hoken) or Employee Health Insurance (健康保険 kenkō hoken). The latter will apply if you work for a Japanese employer that offers the health insurance benefit. Your employer should apply for this for you in that case.
If you are enrolling in the National Health Insurance system, then you should register for it when you are registering your address. To do this, you need to go to the National Health Insurance section (国民健康保険課 kokumin kenkō hokenka) of your ward office.
Once there, you can say:
Kokumin kenkō hoken ni kanyū o shitai desu
I would like to register for the National Health Insurance.
You will fill out a form that’s similar to the one for registering your address.
Once that is processed, the staff will probably explain how you need to pay your insurance premiums (保険料 hoken ryō). The ward office will send you invoices which need to be paid each month (the due date will be written on each invoice). You can pay these at your local convenience store. You will also get sent a health insurance card (保険証 hokenshō) which you present when you go to a clinic, hospital or pharmacy.
Read our article on Japanese health insurance to learn more about the system.
Registering for pension
It is also a legal requirement for residents to register for a pension scheme. There are two types: those for full-time employees of companies (厚生年金 kōsei nenkin) and the National Pension (国民年金 kokumin nenkin). If you need to enroll for the National Pension, then you need to visit your ward office’s pension department (年金係 nenkinkakari).
Similar to health insurance, you can say:
Kokumin nenkin ni kanyū o shitai desu
I would like to register for the National Pension.
Note that if you are a student and not working, or have low income, you can apply for an exemption so you don’t need to pay into the pension scheme. We recommend asking a Japanese speaker, such as a staff member from your school, for assistance with this.
To read more about Japan’s National Pension scheme, read our article here.
Moving out of your ward
When it comes time to say goodbye, you’ll need to revisit your ward office to let them know you’re moving. Remember all those Japanese words you used when you registered your address at the ward office? You’re going to need that again when you move out, plus your new address or your overseas address if you’re leaving Japan.
Generally the form you need to fill out is the same as the one you filled when you moved in, but some wards may have a separate form specifically for moving out. Read more about it in our article.
If you need to, you can say to staff:
Chigau ku ni hikkoshimasu node, tenshutsu todoke o shitai desu.
I’m moving to a different ward and I would like to file my notification of moving out.
Or if you’re leaving Japan:
Nihon kara hikkoshimasu node, tenshutsu todoke o shitai desu.
I’m leaving Japan so I would like to file my notification of moving out.
You also need to cancel your health insurance at your ward’s health insurance section:
Nihon kara hikkoshimasu node, kokumin kenkō hoken o dattai o shitai desu.
I’m leaving Japan and I would like to cancel my health insurance.
Or if you’re moving to a different ward:
Chigau ku ni hikkoshimasu node, kokumin kenkō hoken o dattai o shitai desu.
I’m moving to a different ward and I would like to cancel my health insurance
If you are leaving Japan and you’re paying into the National Pension, you will be automatically disqualified from the pension scheme once your moving out notification is filed.
Don’t forget to get your residence certificate (住民票 jūminhyō) to prove that you have moved out. If you are leaving Japan and need to file a claim for your pension payments, then this is one of the documents that you will need. You will also need it if you’re moving ward as it’s one of the documents you need to file with your moving-in application form at your new ward office.
Registering your personal seal
This isn’t relevant unless you really need, or want, to have your own inkan 印鑑 to use in place of your signature. They are widely used in Japan for major legal purposes, however in most normal day-to-day situations your signature will suffice.
If you wish to register your personal seal, all you need to do is fill in a seal registration form (inkan tōroku 印鑑登録) at the ward office. Your inkan must match the legal name on your passport or residence card, so you cannot register an inkan with kanji unless your legal name is also in that kanji.
Depending on your particular ward, you may receive a card which you use to print off your seal certificate (inkan shōmeisho 印鑑証明書) via an automated machine. Otherwise, you will receive a seal registration card, which you can use to get your certificate for a small fee each time you need it.
With a bit of patience and some basic Japanese phrases for the ward office, you’ll be able to conduct your business there with little hassle. For more insight into what you can do at the ward office, read our article.
If you want to get a great foundation on the Japanese language, why not take our 12-week beginner Japanese language course? You can complete it entirely online and you’ll be learning from one of Tokyo’s top language schools, Akamonkai. Find out more on our website.
For more helpful language articles, make sure to check out our blog.