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Movin’ Out: Some Quick Tips for Changing Your Residence in Japan

Moving to new digs doesn't need to be as stressful or as costly as you think. A few simple steps before the big day can ensure everything goes smoothly, whether your moving across town or to another prefecture.

By 9 min read

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting articles to the blog with quite the normal frequency recently.

Well, the truth is, I went through a very challenging and difficult time at the start of this month.

That’s right, at the beginning of this month, I had to endure the utterly draconian experience of two weeks without any home internet! I believe this is what the Twitterverse would call #firstworldproblems.

Anyway, with normal service now resumed (thank you SoftBank), I thought I might share with you my experience over the past month or so, as I upended my entire life from Osaka and set down new foundations in Nagano.

They say that moving house, getting married (or divorced) and changing your job are three of the most stressful experiences a person can have in their everyday life. Trying to do two of them at the same time was far from straightforward. However, it needn’t be as stressful or as costly as you may think.

Join me today as I guide you through the process. Hopefully, this step by step guide will help you avoid some of the pitfalls I came across.

1. Know before you go

Given the rather last-minute nature of my decision to take this job (I didn’t formally accept this job until mid-March), I had to rush much of my preparation. If possible, I recommend giving yourself at least two months to prepare everything. You may need to make several trips to your new base of operations before you actually move there. You’ll need to search for apartments, view them and then finally sign the contract on your place of choice. Remember, too, that all deposits and fees will need to be paid there and then, plus one or possibly two months rent. Make sure you have the necessary funds set aside.

In my case, I was lucky that, in working for city board of education, I was offered a kyouin jyuutaku (faculty housing). Basically, this is municipally-owned accommodation specifically for teachers working in the city. Not only did I not have to pay any deposits or fees, but also the rent is 85 percent lower than what I was paying in Osaka for a property of similar size.

If you are offered a job with a city board of education — especially in a more rural area — it’s certainly worth asking if such accommodation is available. They tend to be older and unfurnished, but with an unbelievably low rent.

However, this may not be an option for all. In that case, you can have a look at GaijinPot’s Housing Services, which has a selection of English-friendly apartments around Japan.

2. Preparing to move out

Contracts vary depending on where you live, but of course common courtesy dictates that you should give your landlord at least one month notice when you move out. I had decided to leave my job in Osaka a while ago, although I didn’t quite know where I would go next. So I was able to give the landlord about two months notice, which definitely helped things run smoother.

The advance warning can really help your financial forward planning if you know exactly what your final costs are going to be and how much deposit you can expect to get back when you move out — especially if you’re leaving your current employment ahead of receiving your final salary. My last apartment didn’t require a deposit when I moved in, which certainly helped massively during those first few months in Osaka, the downside to this was that I also didn’t get any money back when I moved out. Depending on your contract, you may also be required to pay a cleaning or lock changing fee when you move out.

Once this is done, you’ll then need to set about cancelling all your contracts: electricity, gas, internet and so on. Call each company individually and agree on a shutoff date. I would recommend having this be one or two days after you are scheduled to move out, just in case there are any last minute delays. Next comes packing and the removal itself.

3. Moving

Now, depending on your budget (and how lazy you are), there are three different ways you can do a removal here in Japan.

Option one is to hire a removal company to do everything for you. They will pack and wrap all your items, load them into the truck and transport them to your new home. They will even set up your TV for you at the other end if you so wish.

… if at all possible, try not to move in March or April. This is traditionally the time when workers are transferred or begin new contracts in Japan, so it’s very much the peak season.

However, such services don’t come cheap. As an example, a friend of mine moved across town in March. Admittedly, she had a lot of stuff to move, including furniture and appliances. All in, it came to around ¥160,000. Of course, this will be more if you are moving cross-country or even just to a neighboring prefecture. One important tip if you are going to do this: if at all possible, try not to move in March or April. This is traditionally the time when workers are transferred or begin new contracts in Japan, so it’s very much the peak season. Had my friend moved one month prior, or two months later, her move would have cost less than ¥100,000.

Option two is the old fashioned way. Pack everything up and if you can drive or you have a friend who can, hire a van for the day and do the move yourself. Nippon Rent-a-Car offers an English website and helpline, and if you are just moving locally, you can even rent a truck for as little as three hours. This is the most cost effective way, but also the most labor intensive and potentially haphazard.

I went for option three: sort of halfway between the first two. If you don’t have any large items to move such as beds, refrigerators and such, then this is the best choice. Japan has a number of haulage companies, such as Sagawa, Kuro Neko Yamato, Sakai and others. I went with Kuro Neko, as it was the least expensive and also gave the greatest flexibility. Your first step is to go to your local depot, and buy some boxes. In the end I used seven boxes, each with a volume of 160 square centimeters. The boxes themselves cost around ¥300 each. Be careful when packing the boxes as they have an upper weight limit of 25 kilograms per box.

When you pick up your boxes, be sure to get some waybills, as well. Each box needs to be individually wrapped and labeled with its own waybill.

Once your boxes are packed and ready to go, give the company a call to arrange pick-up. Kuro Neko usually offer a same-day pick up service, but in busy times you may need to call one or two days ahead.

The transportation costs vary by location, but as a ballpark figure, I was charged around ¥2,800 per box to transport them from Osaka to Nagano. Again, in quieter times you may get next day delivery, but in the months of March and April, allow two or three days. The exact pick-up and delivery time can be agreed with the company ahead of pick up.

The only tricky point here comes if you have oversized items. In my case, I have a rather large TV. It has a 52-inch screen and weighs in at 45 kilos. Such items are individually graded and priced based on total dimensions and weight. In the end, I had to pay around ¥12,000 to have it transported. Suffice to say, I was not best pleased when, a week after arriving in Nagano, I saw a very similar TV on sale in a local second-hand shop for ¥7,000 yen!

In summary the third option works best if you don’t have too many big items and you don’t mind doing your own packing. Considering how much money I saved overall, I think that extra effort was definitely worthwhile.

4. No loose ends

Before you move out, be sure to give your apartment a thorough clean and make sure nothing is broken or missing. It is standard practice that the owner or their agent will want to do a walkthrough of the premises with you on the day you leave. If you want your full deposit back, then you’ll need to make the place spotless.

It’s also a good idea to visit the post office and arrange to have your mail forwarded on to you. Typically, mail forwarding lasts for three months. Also, give your previous landlord your new address, so that the final month’s utility bills can be forwarded to you in due course.

Along the same lines, if possible try to call the local utility companies for your new place ahead of time, so you can arrange to have the water, gas and electricity switched on the day you move in.

A word on home internet. Unless you feel especially attached to your current ISP, I recommend cancelling the contract at your old place and making a new one when you arrive at your new place. I was with AU when I was in Osaka. I’ve never been overly impressed with their customer service to be honest, so when they asked me to pay ¥28,000 to move my line from one location to the other, an effort that basically amounts to flicking a few switches, I told them they had lost a customer.

Softbank, my new provider, has a similarly unfair policy, but at least they only charge ¥10,000 if I move house again within the next two years. Shop around and see which provider works best for you in your new place, both in terms of cost and network coverage.

5. Get a good rest

As I mentioned earlier, moving house and changing jobs are both highly stressful events, so it’s important you give yourself some time to recover before you get stuck into your new job. Once all was said and done, I allowed myself a window of about 10 days to settle into my new place and do some much needed furniture shopping before starting work at my new school. I recommend doing something similar if you can afford it.

Overall, moving was tricky. It was stressful. And on several occasions, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Certainly, starting my new job has proven to be a lot less stressful than finding it was.

Do you have any quick tips or bits of advice for anyone who might be moving this spring? Let us know in the comments!

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