Updated March 23, 2023
Moving in Japan: the complete guide
Moving can be stressful, especially if you’re not native to the country you’re living in.
If you don’t know where to start, even the simplest tasks can seem daunting as a foreigner living in Japan, and moving is no different. From finding the right moving company to getting rid of the stuff that you don’t need anymore, there’s a lot to consider.
Even if you’re a single person living modestly, you’re bound to stumble into problems here and there if you don’t plan well ahead. After all, moving is not just about moving furniture. There are official documents you’ll need to submit and notifications to make.
Of course, this is all considering that you’ve already found a new place to move to.
In that regard, I’m here to provide some relief from what seems to be a rather overwhelming situation. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll tell you about the best moving companies in Japan and give you general information about using moving services in Japan.
I’ll also provide you with multiple checklists of what to do a month before you move, a day prior to your moving date, as well as what to do after you move. I’ll explain the things to consider as your moving date approaches at length to make sure that everything goes smoothly as you’re moving in Japan.
Lastly, I’ll share my tips on moving companies and tell you the best ones so you don’t feel lost.
Now, without further ado, let’s begin with some of the things you should consider at least one month before you plan on moving.
In this article: 📝
In this article: 📝
Things to Do at Least One Month Before Moving
First things first — you’ll need to prepare well in advance to eliminate or at least minimize the possibility of things going wrong. These tips below include everything you need to consider at least one month prior to your moving date, but ideally, you’d start preparing a bit earlier.
Here’s your checklist for some of the most crucial things to do at least one month prior to your moving date:
Secure a house or apartment,
Select a moving company and date,
Contact the management company/landlord,
Review the infrastructure.
Securing a House or Apartment
The most important step is obviously finding a suitable new place, and you likely have some ideas already.
As far as your options go, you can consider a few. First, it bodes well to decide whether you’re going to rent or not. If you’re renting, you’ll have to decide whether you want to go furnished or unfurnished.
Of course, you can also buy an apartment or a house as well, but this takes a bit more planning and effort, and the process is much more complicated. Therefore, if you’re looking to buy property, I recommend starting your house hunt even earlier to ensure everything goes smoothly.
If you’re not familiar with the property types in Japan, I recommend you check out my post on Japanese Mansions, where I explain the differences between apartment buildings, houses, and bigger residential buildings called “mansions” in Japan.
Once you’re familiar with the types of property available, you want to start searching right away. If you don’t know where to start, websites like GajinPot Apartments, Asumirai, and Best-Estate.jp are great resources for finding a rental apartment for foreigners in Japan.
I’m aware that this is a whole other topic of its own, and I have another post just for that titled “Finding an apartment in Japan for foreigners,” and you can find more detailed information on what the house-hunting process is like in Japan.
Selecting a Moving Company and Date
As soon as you find yourself a new place, it’s time to start looking for moving companies.
This is arguably one of the trickiest parts of moving because you need to find a company you can trust to handle your furniture as well as your personal belongings as safely as possible. For this, I’ll list only the best moving companies in Japan so you’ll have a smaller pool of options to choose from.
Once you pick a moving company, you’ll need to decide on a moving date, and in case you didn’t know, picking the “wrong” time to move can actually cost you more in Japan.
The moving season in Japan is between spring and fall, which is when the weather isn’t too cold or rainy/snowy. Therefore, if you can plan when you’ll be moving way ahead, I recommend doing it during the winter months or at least at the end of winter between February and April.
After all, finding a moving company will be that much harder during the high season due to the companies being overbooked, which is another reason to move during the winter months.
Similarly, if you have large items that you don’t want to move to the new house and need to get rid of, you’ll also have to arrange a pick-up date, which is hard to do during the busy “moving months” and should be planned in advance.
Contacting the Management Company
If you’re currently living in a rental that’s managed by a property management company, you’ll have to notify them in advance, as you’d do with a landlord.
Among the things you’ll need to work out are the exact moving date and how you’ll return the keys. However, you might also want to talk about how you’ll handle the last month’s rent, the utility and management fees, and the deposit.
In some cases, as long as there’s no damage done to the apartment, the amount you paid in deposit may be deducted from your last month’s rent. However, this isn’t an official rule and is only possible if both you and your landlord/property management company agree to do so.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that your actual moving date should be earlier than the official move-out date so that the apartment will be empty by then.
Don’t forget that you’ll have to come back to the apartment after you’ve moved your belongings on the official move-out date since you’ll need to hand over the keys and sign any papers that may be necessary. This is especially important to note if you’re moving to a location that’s far away.
Reviewing the Infrastructure: Gas, Electricity, and Other Utilities
Once you find a nice apartment with affordable monthly rent, you may consider yourself lucky. However, your monthly rent amount isn’t going to be the only thing you’ll be paying once you move into your new home.
In your new place, utilities such as gas, electricity, internet, and water might be provided differently, through a new infrastructure, which you should look into as soon as possible. Due to the liberalization of electricity and gas in Japan in 2016, private companies are now able to provide these utilities through various packages in addition to the government.
In fact, there may be new providers or plans available in the new apartment that weren’t available to you previously, and if you want to plan your finances properly, you’ll want to take a good look at all the opportunities available.
Additionally, some plans offered by companies like Evergreen may even include liability insurance in addition to your electricity bill. There are also plans that reduce CO2 emissions, as well as a plan that lets you earn points through your power usage, so it’s good to take a look and explore all of your options at least a few weeks before.
Things to Do at Least One Week Before Moving
Now that your moving date is coming up, administrative procedures that you’ll have to go through will start cropping up, and it’s imperative to pay extra attention to them.
Here’s a list of the things you need to do:
Submit a notification to the town office,
Forward your mail to your new address,
Obtain documents for the transfer of children’s schools if applicable,
Handle the insurance and infrastructure contracts,
Submitting Your Moving-Out Notification
In Japan, you have to submit a “notification of moving out” (転出届 = tenshutsu todoke) to your local municipality or town office, after which you’ll be provided with a certificate that you’ll need to submit to the local municipality in your new address.
The notification of moving out includes:
Your planned move-out date,
The expected move-in date at your new place,
The names of the people who’ll be moving.
Normally, this notification can be sent two weeks prior to your expected move-out date at the earliest, but it’s a good idea not to leave it until the last day because the municipality services are usually quite busy.
If you don’t want to do it in person, the Japanese government has recently made it possible to submit a moving-out notification online as well. As of February 6, 2023, Japanese citizens and residents can easily submit their moving-out notifications through Mynaportal, a government website that makes it easy to manage various administrative procedures.
Sadly, however, submitting a notification of moving in (転入届 = tennyu todoke) is still not possible through Mynaportal, so you’ll still have to handle that one in person.
Also, keep in mind that this notification shouldn’t be confused with the process of moving your permanent domicile, which isn’t required when you move to a new place. You can, of course, choose to do so, as some people do it anyway.
Forwarding Your Mail to Your New Address
As you’ll be moving to a new location, and as it may take a while for the municipality to register you at your new address after your submission, you might have important mail delivered to your old address.
To avoid this, you can apply to have the mail that’s addressed to your old address forwarded to your new one for a certain period of time. This is conducted at the post office, and it’s free of charge. You can also just do it online in just five minutes.
The service is called e-Relocation, and you can apply using the e-Relocation homepage. Once your application goes through, all of your mail that’s under your name will be forwarded to your new address for the following year.
Obtaining Documents for the Transfer of Children’s Schools
This only applies if you have children, of course, but as you’re moving, you’ll also have to transfer your kids to a new high school or elementary school.
To complete this procedure, you’ll first need to obtain a certificate of enrollment and certificate of income for subject books from your children’s current school. If your children are studying at a public school, be mindful that not all schools will accept the transfer due to differences in the credit system.
Also, it’s important to note that some schools require an extra interview or aptitude test to enroll, which you should prepare for in advance. As you can tell, the transfer procedures can vary greatly depending on the school and the district, so it’s a good idea to contact both the new and the old school to find out what exactly needs to be done.
Handling Insurance and Infrastructure Contracts
Insurances like fire and earthquake insurance might be mandatory depending on where you live and whether you own the place or not.
The requirements for insurance also vary depending on the square footage of the property, so it’s good to check with an insurance company to find out the type of contract you’ll need to make, as well as the premiums you’ll need to pay.
Once you get the insurance handled, you should also renew or relocate your infrastructure contracts according to the plans you choose. If you’re switching providers, keep in mind that you’ll have to terminate your contract with the old company first.
Also, make sure to inform the new company (or the existing one) about your move-in date to avoid any problems. The last thing you want is to move into your new apartment without proper heating, electricity, or water.
Specifically for the gas, don’t forget that you may be required to be present at the address during the gas shut-off procedure. It’s a good idea to contact the company and ask for this specifically to avoid conflicts with your moving date.
In addition, you will have to be present for the turning on of the gas system at your new place, so plan accordingly.
Packing Your Items
Now that everything’s settled and your moving day is fast approaching, it’s time to pack your belongings.
As a general rule, you should pack the items that you don’t frequently use and won’t be using in the next week or so first. In fact, you don’t even have to wait until the last week to do this. You can make things easier on yourself by packing items that haven’t been used in a while as early as two or three weeks prior.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll need packing materials such as boxes, which may be hard to source all at once at the last minute.
As for the safety of your belongings during the moving process, it’s a good idea to spread out heavy items into multiple boxes. This will decrease the risk of having boxes broken or having their bottoms fall out, so make sure you don’t put all your books, for instance, in a single cardboard box.
This may all seem obvious, but things tend to get hectic as you inch closer and closer to your moving day. What may seem common sense now can get overlooked then.
Lastly, don’t forget to label the boxes after you pack them. I recommend using big letters with a red marker or a similarly eye-catching color and marking more than one side of a box. This way, you’ll be able to clearly see what’s in a box, no matter how they’re stacked.
Things to Do One Day Before and on Your Moving Day
You might have checked everything off your list so far, but there’s still a ways to go before you actually move in at your new place. Here are some of the things you’ll want to check off your list to ensure that everything goes according to plan:
Unplug the fridge and the washing machine,
Clean the apartment,
Turn off the gas, water, and electricity,
Say goodbye to old neighbors and greet new ones (only if you’re living in the countryside),
Turning on the electricity, water, and gas.
Unplugging the Fridge and the Washing Machine
The night before your moving date, you want to make sure that your fridge is emptied out and unplugged, especially if you’re moving it, to ensure the safety of electrical parts.
While this may not be a risk for all refrigerator models, it can’t hurt, so it’s best to exercise caution and unplug it anyway.
Similarly, washing machines may have loose water inside that may have stuck around after your last wash. Make sure you unplug the washing machine and drain it according to the instructions in your machine’s manual.
Cleaning the Apartment
After your final boxes are moved out of the house, you’ll realize that there’s lots of dust that’s accumulated in places that were out of reach before.
As you’ll need to leave the house as you found it, it’s recommended to do a light cleaning once everything’s out of the house so that you can hand over the keys without worrying about any cleaning fees or a cut in your deposit.
Of course, I don’t mean a deep cleaning here. You can go around the rooms with a broom or a vacuum and clean out the dust where it’s noticeable the most. Making sure that the place is in the same condition as you first moved in should be enough here.
Turning Off the Gas, Water, and Electricity
Since you applied for the termination of your infrastructure contracts, once you’re done with the cleaning, you’ll need to turn off the gas, electricity, and water at the old apartment to have it ready for the handover.
The property manager will check if everything’s turned off during the handover anyway, but it’s better to do it in advance to make the handover process quicker.
You can start by shutting off the water and the electricity first. Once you shut off the water from the main source, you can let the remaining water run out of the faucets to drain the pipes in case the house is unoccupied for a long time.
Keep in mind that if you’ve got a “smart” switchboard, your electricity will be automatically turned off on your planned contract termination date, so you don’t have to worry if that’s the case.
Then, as we mentioned, the gas will be turned off by a professional sent by the provider company. You do, however, need to be present on the date and time the company tells you.
Saying Goodbye to Old Neighbors and Greeting The New Ones
This is a step you won’t want to miss in Japan if you’re living in the countryside, as being considerate and polite among the people you live close to is deemed important here. After all, as I explained in my post on Omiyage, Japan also has a big gift-giving culture.
Before you move out, make sure to let your neighbors know and say goodbye to them. Offering something sweet is also recommended as per tradition.
Similarly, you’ll also want to greet your new neighbors at your new apartment. Just as you did with your old neighbors, offering something sweet is also a good idea here to help you start off on the right foot.
However, keep in mind that this tradition is pretty much non-existent in the cities, and you don’t have to bother preparing gifts if you’re relocating within a bigger city like Tokyo or Osaka.
Turning on the Electricity, Water, and Gas
If you want to start getting settled in your new apartment right away, one of the first things you’ll want to do is turn on the water and electricity.
After you turn the water on, make sure to let the faucets run for a couple of minutes in order to drain any water that may have been sitting in the pipes for too long. You’ll see that the water runs clear after a short while.
As for the gas, you’ll have to wait for the gas company worker to turn it on for you, so you don’t have to do anything yourself.
Things to Do After You Move
Now that you moved into your new place, you might think that all that’s left to do is to unpack, but there’s still a bit more to do. It’s only natural that you’re tired at this point, but bear with me as I walk you through these final steps — you’re almost there.
Submit your notification of moving in,
Complete the transfer of children’s schools,
Renew documents that require an address change.
Submitting Your Notification of Moving In
In Japan, everything’s tied to your registered address. When you change homes, not only will you not receive your important mail at your new address, but if you forget about the notification process, you might also face a fine of up to 50,000 JPY.
This is why it’s important to submit your notification of moving in (転入届 = tennyu todoke) as soon as possible when you move to your new home. By law, you have two weeks after your move-in date to file this notification, but I recommend doing it within a few days just to be safe.
In order to complete your notification of moving in, all you need to do is go to the municipality with the moving-out certificate I mentioned above. You’ll then be issued a certificate of residence for your new address.
While you’re at it, I recommend having multiple copies of this paper issued because it’s likely that you’ll need it in the future for various official government procedures.
Completing the Transfer of Children’s Schools
If you have children, now that you’re at your new address, you’ll want to register your kids at a new school as soon as possible.
To do this, you’ll need a few documents, including the Certificate of Enrollment and Certificate of Income For Subject Books, both of which should have been obtained from your kids’ former school, as I mentioned.
In addition, you’ll also need a third document called the Notice of Transfer, which you can obtain from the municipality. All you need to do is bring the two certificates you obtained from your kids’ former school.
Once you have everything ready, you can bring all three documents to the new school you want to enroll your kids in, and the school should take care of the rest.
If you want everything to go smoothly and your kids to continue their education right away, I recommend informing the school you’re transferring to at least a couple of weeks beforehand.
In any case, you should contact the school to learn about their requirements. As I mentioned, some schools might have exams your children need to take or additional procedures you may have to fulfill.
As a foreigner, you might be interested in international schools, as most foreigners are. To learn more about them, check out my post on international schools in Japan, where I talked about the international schools in Japan and their curriculums, prices, and opportunities extensively.
Renewing Documents That Require an Address Change
When your address changes, you’ll need to renew various official documents that have your address on them. Here are some of the most important ones that you should deal with right away.
Documents that need to be changed at the municipal office are your:
National health insurance documents,
“My Number” Card,
Personal seal (inkan) certificate if you have one,
Driver’s license for moped vehicles below 125 cc,
National pension documents.
In addition to these, you’ll also want to change some documents that are under the police’s jurisdiction.
In order to change the address on your driver’s license, you’ll need to go to your local police station with a Certificate of Residence you obtained from the municipality. As I mentioned, this is one of the occasions these things come in handy, so it’s better to have multiple of these issued beforehand.
Once you’re done with these, you’ll also want to apply for an address change for some other things. Here are some of the ones that I can tell off the top of my head:
Your insurance company,
Your credit card company,
Online shopping services where you have an address registered.
Keep in mind that these aren’t limited, and you may need to change your address at various other institutions or companies where your old address is registered.
A Note on National Health Insurance Documents
If you’re planning to relocate within Japan further down the road, it’s worth noting that you might have less bureaucracy to deal with. For instance, the Japanese government plans to abolish the current health insurance card system in the fall of 2024. After that, the documentation is set to be integrated into the existing “My Number” ID card system.
That said, it may take some more time for the local governments to implement this system fully, so make sure you keep an eye on that.
Things to Look For in a Moving Company
Now you know pretty much everything there is to know about moving in Japan, but if only your belongings magically moved by themselves.
Unless you’re strong enough to carry all of your furniture and have a suitable vehicle, you’ll need some help. However, using moving services in Japan is a challenge in and of itself, as finding the right company is hard, especially if you’re a foreigner.
Here are some of the things you should consider that’ll make your decision easier:
The cost: Prices can vary greatly from company to company, depending on the services provided. Getting as many quotes from different companies as possible is a surefire way to avoid paying more than you need to.
Customer reviews: This is a no-brainer, but it’s always a good idea to check if the company has any reviews on Google or on other platforms. You can also pick companies that have been reviewed in articles like this one.
Services offered: Find out what the price includes, as some companies may install your washing machines, provide moving boxes, or assemble your furniture for an extra price, while others may have all-inclusive package deals.
Insurance/compensation: It’s only natural that some of your items can get broken during transport. The law states that the moving companies must handle the cost of items broken during transport as long as you reach out to the moving company within three months. However, some companies may offer better insurance policies.
Language support: Unless you speak Japanese well, you’ll need a company that speaks English. However, you need to decide on the level of support you need, as some companies only provide English support through their websites, while others might also have English-speaking support or moving staff. Remember that the companies that do the latter may be more expensive.
Best Moving Companies in Japan for Singles: Affordable Options
Below, I’ll introduce a couple of websites where you can get a quote from some of the most affordable moving services in Japan. These options are best suited for single people or people without families, as they usually don’t offer inclusive packages, but they surely get the job done.
These websites below act as a platform for freelancer movers or people with moving trucks. You can think of it as Uber for movers.
Akabou is not exactly a moving company but a platform for moving companies in Japan. The name Akabou, or Red Cap, refers to the cooperative association of private business owners engaged in the business of light cargo transportation.
To get quotes, all you need to do is fill out a form on Akabou’s website with your details. However, keep in mind that the website and the service language are in Japanese.
For reference, a single person moving with an average of two hours of work and a mileage of 20 kilometers should cost somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000 JPY. Of course, if you have more stuff or are moving long distances, you might have to pay more.
At Akabou, you’ll find various packages aimed specifically toward students, families, and single people. Therefore, you can either select a package that suits you the best or just rent a truck and do the heavy work yourself if affordability is more important to you.
PickGo is similar to Akabou in that it’s a platform that allows you to hire freelance movers. However, while Akabou has been around for a long time, PickGo is a newer service that has gained popularity in recent years.
The company has a smartphone app that lets you get a cheap moving service instantly, 24/7. As opposed to Akabou, PickGo is more suitable for moving a smaller household, as their vehicles are not that big. However, the app’s ease of use is PickGo’s main selling point.
The fares at PickGo average 5,000 JPY on weekdays and outside of peak season and 15,000 JPY during peak season for moving a single person.
Best Moving Companies in Japan for Families: Full-Service Packages
While both of the companies I recommended so far are reliable and effective, if you’re moving as a whole family or want a more inclusive package deal, they likely won’t cut it.
Here are a couple of other moving companies in Japan that provide all-around moving services.
Best Moving Service
Best Moving Service is a company that provides excellent moving services at affordable rates. In fact, their prices might lead you to think that it’s a bare-bones moving service, but that’s far from the truth.
Not only does the company have all-inclusive packages that practically handle everything regarding your moving, but they also have excellent English support, which is somewhat rare in Japan and usually comes at a hefty price.
The company offers English support through its email and phone service, through which you can inquire about prices and availability. They also have English-speaking movers in some regions as well, which makes moving a breeze.
Among the services they offer are disassembling and assembling furniture, installing washing machines and dishwashers, providing boxes and packing material, and even packing and unpacking your items.
Best Moving Service has a wide variety of options available as they provide multiple packages, all including different services, and the fares change depending on the size of the truck and the distance, so it’s better to inquire and get a quote through their website.
PROROW Transport is another moving company that provides services in English. Thanks to their English-speaking customer service, moving staff, and drivers, you’ll be able to handle everything in English from beginning to end without a worry.
The company’s prices are fairly affordable as well, as according to customer reviews, the price of moving for a single person costs around 25,000 JPY with an inclusive package.
Of course, as the fares vary greatly depending on the package, distance, and the amount of furniture, it’s best to get a consultation from the company itself.
Speaking of which, the company doesn’t require you to download an app as they provide a video call service through their website using just a browser.
There’s a suitable moving package for everyone here. You can choose one of the many packages available on the PROROW Transport website that includes things like packing, assembly, and installment of home appliances, in addition to more stripped-down packages that only include the moving of boxes and furniture.
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