Moving in Japan – A Timeline
Do you remember how daunting it was getting set up in Japan? Filling out forms for a bank account, getting some thing called a “hanko,” to say nothing of moving to a home that you probably never even saw before you were asked to sign on the dotted line, you may be understandably be dreading the prospect of ever moving again. Maybe you need to do so for your new job, or perhaps you just want to finally leave your tiny “wanroomu” behind and upgrade your life a little. In most cases, this is very doable, and by staying organized and proactive (and positive), you can make the entire process much less painful. What follows is a general timeline of a typical move within Japan. If you are planning on moving outside of Japan, we’ve got you covered over HERE.
About 2 Months Before Your Moving Day:
Find a new place to live!
Yes, it’s that simple, and should be done roughly at this time. This is because apartments tend not to sit on the market for long, and if you see a place you like, your real estate agent will generally recommend you sign for it as soon as possible. This is done by filling out paperwork (which you can usually do as quickly as the day of your apartment visit), and then sending over some funds, generally in the form of a bank transfer called furikomi. If you are using a guarantor company (an increasingly common situation, even among Japanese people) they will sometimes call to “interview” you, which is usually as simple as confirming a few personal details (typically in Japanese). Be aware, however, that they sometimes check your references, so do forewarn anyone whose contact information you give out.
As for which real estate company you should use, there are actually many real-estate companies that will work with foreign residents, though knowledge of Japanese is appreciated and will make the whole thing go much more smoothly, but isn’t required. See the links at the bottom for some companies known to be English friendly.
Notify your current landlord or rental company
Around the time you are looking for a new place to move into, you should also contact your landlord or real estate company regarding the procedures for moving out. This should be done a minimum of 5 weeks ahead of time, and varies somewhat from company to company. It is also a good idea to find out if you are responsible for any additional fees, such as cleaning fees.
1 Month Out
Arrange to have your things moved
So, you found a new home in Japan. Congratulations! Now, arrange to have your things moved. This should honestly be done as soon as you know where you are moving to, especially if you are moving a long distance (i.e. between prefectures). Depending on the distance of the move, some companies, even some of the bigger ones, may be unwilling to accommodate you. Even if you are simply moving from one ward in Tokyo to another, it is good to have multiple estimates. Before you call, have an idea of which things you will actually move, and which you plan on getting rid of. Some of the most popular companies include: Art Corporation, Sakai, and Kuroneko (Yamato).
How to throw things away
That being said, you probably don’t need to take EVERYTHING with you. Most of us aren’t even aware of how much stuff we have lying around, especially if we’ve been living in the same place for a long time. And keep in mind that anything you want moved will require money in order to be moved. Aside from giving away things to your friends and loved ones, there are three popular methods of doing the ol’ konmari in Japan:
Check out groups like Motainai Japan and arrange for people to take your junk. It’s that simple! However, some people do have a bad habit of claiming that they are interested in your things and then changing their mind later on, so best to do this early just in case!
Perhaps the more reliable method is to sell your stuff to a local recycle shop. When it comes to bigger items and heavy appliances, they may or may not be able to pick it up from your home, so you may need a friend to drive you there if you don’t own a car yourself.
Throw it out with “oversized trash”:
Oversized trash, called “Sodai Gomi” needs to be thrown out on certain days, and also needs to be paid for. More detailed information on trash disposal in Japan can be found in our article HERE.
In the case of appliances, you have a few extra options. Some shops will get rid of old appliances for a reasonable price if you buy a new one. Also, if you arrange it ahead of time, your moving company may also be able to get rid of your unwanted appliances for you.
Though the exact timing of all this depends on your own situation, EVERYTHING does have to be out of your apartment once everything is said and done, including all appliances- even the lights. The only exception is for things that were there before you moved in, such as an aircon unit.
2 Weeks Out
Collect / Pay Any Necessary Tax Documents
In Japan, you are taxed based on where you live, and depending on when in the year you move, you may be required to pay tax or pension in your former location. Assuming you are not on a permanent visa, you will also need certain tax documents, such as a Kazei Shomeisho, or Nozei Shomeisho for visa renewal, so it’s better to get them before your move if possible. Go to your city office for moving out paperwork (called tenshutsu todoke) and any other tax payments.
For more information about renewing your visa in Japan, click HERE.
Turning off utilities (and turning on utilities!)
Unfortunately, it is your responsibility to end all utility service to your apartment, including electricity, gas, water, television, and so on. If you receive paper bills, just call the number on the bills and inquire about ending service (kaiyaku). Many of these services can be ended remotely, however in the case of gas you will have to be available for the friendly gas-man to enter your place. Don’t schedule appointments too soon unless you enjoy taking cold showers in the dark.
Since you are staying in the country, besides just ending service, you will also want to get your utilities turned on in your new dwelling as soon as possible. Assuming you are staying within Kanto, for example, you may have the same utilities provider as before, but do confirm with your landlord or real estate company if this is the case. When it comes to internet, however, depending on the internet setup in your new building, you may need to receive new equipment from your internet provider, as well as return your old unit.
1 Week Out
Arrange to have your mail forwarded
If you fill out a tenyo todoke at the post office, you can have your mail forwarded to your new address.
The Big Day
You may have an apartment inspection on your last day there. Make sure the place is as spotless as possible, and be prepared to pay some hidden damages anyway; these guys usually find something. Then hand over your key. If you are not asked to complete an inspection (more common since COVID times), you can usually just send back your key in the mail.
After the move
Hopefully you have settled into your new digs, but unfortunately you are not quite done yet. Notice how your residence card still has your old address on it? You need to go to your new city office within 14 days to update it by filling out a Moving-In Notice, or tenyu todoke (not to be confused with the tenyo todoke you filled out at the post office).
Article listing a few English-friendly realtors in Tokyo