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Moving Made Easy: A Checklist for Moving to a New Apartment in Japan

When moving to a different neighborhood or city in Japan, there's much to remember to ensure a smooth transition. Here's a guide so you don't forget anything

By 4 min read

Once you’ve canceled your current lease and found a new place, you want to move in quickly and get it over with. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of paperwork to be done. And since this is Japan, you’ll have to wade through a mess of slow and thorough bureaucracy at your local ward (in Tokyo) or city office.

But while some things are easy enough, a few details can be easy to miss, especially during your first move. So here is a quick checklist for moving in and out before putting your feet up.

Let your city know you’re moving

The Ota-ku ward office

Within two weeks of your move, you must inform your current ward office that you’re moving out and the new ward office that you’re moving in. It is significantly easier if you’re moving within the same ward. But you must visit the ward office you’re leaving before visiting the new one. If you don’t, the new ward office will send you back to the old one to collect documents.

You’ll need your residence card, passport and possibly My Number card. You must fill out a tenshutsu todoke (notice of moving out) at your current ward office. You’ll be asked at your new ward office to fill out a tennyu todoke (moving-in form) to update your residence card and officially be registered as a resident.

If moving within a ward, there’ll be a simpler process you can follow at your ward office, and you won’t need to get a notice of moving Out. You’ll still need your residence card, passport and possibly My Number card.

While at your new ward office, you’ll also want to update your My Number card and kokumin kenko hoken (national health insurance) card.

Mail forwarding

A post office in Shinjuku.

Unless you’re very well prepared, likely, you won’t have time to change your mailing address for all the services you subscribe to (bills, credit card payments, etc.). However, Japan Post offers a mail redirection service for up to a year, giving you time to change things over slowly. Mail forwarding helps ensure bills and other important correspondence get to you, even if you haven’t had a chance to update your address.

The easiest way is to fill out the form directly at the local post office. There, ask for a tenkyo todoke (notice of relocation). You’ll need your residence card at the post office to confirm your current address. On the form, you’ll enter your current address and future address. After you hand it over at the post office, they’ll confirm the existing address with your residence card.

You can also apply online. However, the online form is only in Japanese.

Transfer or cancel utilities

You’ll have to schedule a visit for the gas company.

You’ll want to transfer utilities such as gas, water and electricity as soon as possible—ideally before you move.

If you live in a sharehouse or room share, utilities are usually covered and included with rent. But if you rent an apartment, you must transfer utilities to your new address (or cancel and start a new service). Sometimes this is possible online, but you’ll likely have to call and set everything up over the phone. Your housing agent will sometimes offer a service to do this for you.

If you cancel, utility companies will request your new address to send you a final bill. If you have anything still connected, you’re responsible for any incurred bills. Many utility companies offer a transfer option if you want a smoother transition.

Utilities such as water and electricity take a phone call, but gas and internet companies must schedule a visit to your new home. Also, remember that internet companies can take weeks, depending on how busy they are.

Trashing large items

You’re going to need a lot of stickers.

If you have any large furniture you no longer want, you can try selling it at a recycling shop or on a sayonara (goodbye) sale. However, you might find some large items you can’t get rid of. Oh well, in the trash they go, right?

Not so fast. While you can happily trash small assorted items, larger and bulkier items are considered sodai gomi (large waste). These items can’t just be thrown away. Instead, you must arrange for them to be collected by calling (or checking online) your city’s number for waste disposal, describing the items and scheduling a collection time.

Afterward, you must buy a sodai gomi shoriken (large waste sticker) from your local konbini (convenience store). How many and expensive they are depend on the size, weight and number of items. Since there can be days or weeks until collection, it’s worth planning this out in advance—don’t leave it to the last minute and get caught with bulky items you can’t throw away!

Is there anything you think we forgot that might be useful to know? Let us know in the comments!

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