Photo: すしぱく on Pakutaso

A Few Facts About Moving House in Japan

As an expat living in Japan, with all of the incredible things you can see and career opportunities available, the temptation to move cross-country is sometimes irresistible. From quiet, densely forested countryside areas to seaside fishing towns, to gigantic, ultra-modern cities, Japan has many different places anyone would love to call home.

In the case of teachers who are new to Japan, accommodation often runs in tandem with your job. “Company apartments” as they are known are often a standard feature for new teachers to Japan. While these enable a teacher to arrive and start working in Japan with a minimal financial outlay, they also mean that if you change your job, you’ll need to change where you live.

Photo by Karl Baron on Flickr.

So with that in mind, I thought I would talk a little about moving house in Japan. How does it work? What kind of things can we expect to see? What are the main challenges one will face in this endeavor? Also, how much will it all cost you?

In all of my years in Japan, I have moved house a total of 7 times. The first two jobs I had came with the aforementioned company apartments. I then had my own place in Chiba for a while, before moving to Okayama prompted me to go into the “company housing” once again.

 Photo by すしぱく on Pakutaso.

Since coming back to Japan in 2013, I have lived in 2 different apartments, albeit within about 200 meters of each other in Minato Ward. 

So, it’s fair to say I’ve been around, and I’ve seen a lot of what Japan has to offer. Moving was occasionally stressful, occasionally less so, but it was always accompanied by an initial period of upheaval, followed by a longer period of adjustment. 

Finding A Place to Live

Photo by Mark Moz on Flickr.

Firstly, you need to find a new place to live. I would recommend, wherever possible, that you always try, to the best of your ability to find your own place, free of the confines and contractual restrictions of a company apartment. 

I’ve remarked in previous postings that two of the most stressful experiences one will face in their life are moving house and changing their job. Where possible, I would suggest it is better to not run the two things together if such a complicated and protracted scenario can be avoided. 

Purchasing an Apartment

Photo by YAT on Pakutaso.

Start-up costs are a major consideration if you are moving house though. As I may have mentioned in one of my prior articles, there are a number of deposits, payments and other initial expenses to consider. In the most extreme cases these can run to 4 or 5 times the monthly rental cost, so be prepared. 

Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Property in Japan is very much a buyer’s market these days, so don’t hesitate to push for a better deal if you think you can get it. 

Moving Your Things

Photo by 宮崎大輔 on Pakutaso.

Once you’ve found the place you want to live, you next need to think about how you are going to get yourself and all your valuable possessions there in one piece. 

Hiring a removal truck is the most obvious way, but in Japan these can be restrictively expensive. 

Photo by Michael Coghlan on Flickr.

Overall, I would recommend, if possible, that you rent a van and do it yourself. Van rental is relatively cheap in Japan. Provided that you can complete your move within one day and return the rental vehicle within the same day, you’re only looking at an outlay of 3 or 5 thousand yen.

Photo by Masahiko OHKUBO on Flickr.

Facebook can help in this regard. Each area in Japan has its own local foreigner groups who tend to rally round and support each other in times of upheaval. Finding a “man with a van” is not as difficult as you may think. 

Of course, if you have a drivers license, you could do it yourself, but I would recommend drafting in a friend or two if you can to help you out. 

However, if you are moving a long distance across Japan, perhaps from Tokyo to the likes of Kyushu or Hokkaido then simply driving there and back may not be practical or cost-effective. You may need to invoke the services of Japan’s excellent, efficient, and (usually) punctual postal services. 

Moving Things Using the Postal Service

Photo by あめまん on Pakutaso.

For domestic packages, Japan Post offers very reasonable rates for postage and packaging. It is worth noting that anything you decide to post in this way must fit into one of the designated boxes they sell at the post office. 

Also, make sure that you transfer all your utilities to your next address. 

In the case of internet and telephone access, this can be a particular headache. Whilst the requirements will vary from company to company, I recommend that you inform your service provider at least a month in advance before you move, so as to minimize the “down time” between your old connection at your previous residence being discontinued and your new connection at your next place commencing. 

Also, make sure you don’t forget any of those all-important cables, remotes, modems, etc. when you are packing up and preparing to move.

In Conclusion

Once you are in your new place, make sure you inform all your utilities and service providers of your new address, to make sure that they can continue to bring services to you in a timely manner. 

The post office can also offer a limited time mail forwarding service to help you through the transitional period.

All in all, moving house is never a straightforward experience. It can be stressful, it can be drawn out and it can leave you feeling tired, stressed and more than a little bit frustrated.

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