Preparing for a move is a daunting task regardless of where you live, and the added stressor of being a foreign resident in a country known for its red tape and endless paperwork can make it that much more difficult. Relocating in Japan requires considerable amounts of time and money, but with a bit of effort and the right preparation, there are ways to ensure your move goes as smoothly as possible.

Additionally, Go! Go! Nihon is connected with a number of apartment buildings and share houses all conveniently located near our partner schools. We are happy to provide assistance to all students who apply through us. If you are not a Go! Go! Nihon student but would like some help with accommodation, while we cannot offer the full range of our support, we would be happy to help you with a homestay.

Before you leave

There are several things you need to do before leaving your current place. First, alert your landlord as soon as possible with your intended move-out date; most contracts require a one-month advance notice before moving out, so it is best to do this early to avoid paying fees or rent for the time you won’t be there.

You will also need to contact all of your utility companies (gas, electricity, water, internet) and request a date to have everything shut off. You need to be present in your apartment when they come to shut off services and give you the final bill, so try to schedule all of the appointments on the same day. You should inform the post office of your address change to ensure any mail sent to your old address gets redirected to your new place.

Finally, you need to visit your current ward office (kuyakusho, 区役所) and fill out the required paperwork to declare that you are leaving. This is very important as you won’t be able to register your address with your new ward (required for tax and ID purposes) without the documents from your previous ward (転出届 tenshutsu todoke).

This may seem stressful and time-consuming, so it is best to sort out all of the documents and paperwork as soon as you can. You may be tempted to do a runner and just leave, but this is NOT advisable and will likely get you into some trouble in the long run. Japan is a very “by the book” society and breaking the rules tends to cause more harm than good, especially when it comes to legal documents.

Boxes ready for moving

Moving costs

One of the biggest surprises for foreigners relocating in Japan is the cost of throwing away household items; larger items can cost 5000-10,000 yen each to throw away, and that adds up quickly. If you have anything in decent condition you want to get rid of, try hosting a “sayonara sale” on Craigslist to get rid of as much as you can. Even giving it away for free is better than spending hundreds of dollars just to throw out your garbage. If you need something gone quickly, there also quite a few Facebook groups like Mottainai Japan that exist for just that purpose.

The initial costs for renting an apartment in Japan are notoriously high. Be prepared to spend up to four or five months’ rent to move into a new place; in addition to the usual first/last month and security deposit, most apartment contracts require a gift to the landlord called key money (reikin, 礼金) as well as additional fees for cleaning, changing the locks etc.

If you speak Japanese and have decent negotiating skills, some building owners may reduce the key money or even waive it entirely, but don’t count on it. You may also see some apartments advertising low move-in costs and no key money, but often the monthly rent for these places is much higher and you may end up paying more in the long run.

How you go about moving your stuff depends on how far you’re traveling and how much stuff you actually have. There are a number of full-service moving companies such as Arisan Mark who will provide boxes, pack your things for you, and take them to the new place. If your luggage isn’t too sizeable, a cheaper option would be sending your items via a delivery company such as Kuro-neko Yamato.

A final option for those with an international drivers license would be to rent a moving truck and move everything yourself. This is a bit expensive, but if you have a friend or two helping you out, it can make your move go by much quicker. 

Leaving Japan

For those of you moving out for the last time, don’t forget to return your insurance card when you register that you are leaving with your ward office. Give back your “My Number” card and cancel any bank accounts, club memberships, cell phone plans etc. It’s a lot easier to tie up all your loose ends before leaving – especially if you ever decide to return. And lastly, if you’re coming back, don’t forget to get your re-entry permit, and if you’re leaving forever, don’t forget to cancel your visa when you leave.

For information about life in Japan, follow our Go! Go! Nihon blog.