When you’re preparing to relocate abroad, it can feel like you’re trying to accomplish the impossible. There are so many things to do and figure out, and if you don’t speak Japanese, it can feel really overwhelming. Not sure where to begin? We’ve put together this list of international relocation services and sites to plan your move to Japan.
Note: There are many layers to moving abroad, so this post is only focusing on the actual physical relocation piece of things. We’ll cover things like the best places to live in Japan, how to get a work visa in Japan, how to move to Japan with no money, and buying a car in Japan in other posts.
Tips for Relocating to Japan
We’re going to have more in-depth posts on these topics for you soon, but here’s a quick list of things you should be doing before moving to Japan. MoveHub also has a lot of great advice for international moves
- Start early. Honestly, you can’t start planning soon enough.
- Choose a destination. Do your research. One of the things we really focused on was natural disasters. If possible, try to avoid places that are prone to flooding and damage from earthquakes.
- Figure out visa and immigration rules. You need to find out what visas you qualify for you and your family. Some employers will include your spouse and kids in your visa application, but most won’t.
- Get your documents in order. Locate EVERYTHING you’re going to need. Birth certificates, passports (check the expiration date!), work orders, photographs, international driver’s license, medical records, insurance, legal papers/custody orders (if needed).
- Downsize. This is the time to do a major purge of your possessions. Keep what’s important but get ruthless about everything else. Ask yourself: do you really want to pay to ship this across the world?
- Pick a moving company. Unless you’re like us and you leave everything behind (which I recommend if you can swing it).
You can’t think of everything, but you need to try! Spend a lot of time brainstorming, researching, and planning as soon as possible to avoid any major hiccups.
International Relocation Services
Compare the Cost of Living
One of the things we found helpful was comparing the cost of living between where we were living and where we planned to move. For us, living in Japan is a lot more affordable than most places we’ve lived. Your experience, of course, will depend on where you live and where you’re going.
Use the tools on these websites to compare the cost of living of two different cities. This can be really helpful if you’re trying to choose a destination. While these resources aren’t perfect, they come close.
- Numbeo Cost of Living Comparison
- NerdWallet Cost of Living Calculator
- Best Places Cost of Living Calculator
A word of caution – our world continues to change rapidly and factors such as war and inflation can have a huge impact on the cost of living. What’s true today may not be true tomorrow, so be sure to keep that in mind.
lnternational Moving Companies
Sooooooooo, this isn’t a fun topic for so many reasons (even though it’s one of the international relocation services people search for the most!). We seriously considered using overseas movers to bring all of our stuff over, but we ultimately decided against it. Here are some of the reasons:
- We couldn’t get reliable quotes.
- There were hidden fees and possible penalties.
- Getting door-to-door service wasn’t worth the money.
- We worried our stuff would be too big for our apartment.
How did we move to Japan? We literally sold or donated everything and only brought what would fit in 12 large suitcases and six carry-ons (the maximum allowed on our United international flight). Do we have any regrets? NOPE! In fact, we could have brought less.
Using the “suitcase method,” how much did our move cost? $37!!!! How did we accomplish this?
- We used Chase Rewards points to pay for our six one-way flights. The $37 was fees.
- Each traveler was allowed two large suitcases, one carry-on, and one backpack.
- We did spend $100 to ship a box of cards, letters, and photographs.
- When we arrived at Narita airport, we also paid to have our suitcases delivered to our home. The feature image at the top of this post is from when they delivered our luggage to our apartment!
Can’t do it? We understand! If you absolutely need to hire a moving or overseas shipping company here are some resources highlighting international relocation services you could use:
- 11 Top Tips For Moving Overseas Cheaply
- Best International Moving Companies 2023
- Allied International Quotes
- UniGroup Asia
- Crown Relocations
- Asian Tigers Group
- Santa Fe Relocation
One last thing. If you choose to use a moving company, be sure to consider the following questions:
- Do they have clear quotes for your move?
- Are they bonded and insured?
- Have you looked at reviews for this international moving company?
- Does your employer or friends have recommendations?
Again, we chose to skip the moving truck so we can’t make any recommendations. Thoroughly vet the company you’re considering before signing any contract.
Long-term Storage & Self Storage in Japan
In Western countries, it’s really common to see storage facilities. It’s not as common in Japan where space is much more limited. As such, if you need to store some belongings, you might be looking at long-term storage in your home country.
Before you spend the money, ask yourself if it’s really worth it. So often, we hold onto things without really needing to. Ultimately, as mentioned, we got rid of everything, but if you’re planning a move to Japan and need some ideas, here are some good links:
- What to Consider When Choosing a Long-Term Storage Unit
- 5 Tips for Long-Term Storage
- Tokyo Self-Storage Units
- Japan Self-Storage Renting Tutorial
Be Careful with Reddit
You can also check out Reddit, because there are so many great tips and resources. A word of caution, though – people on Reddit aren’t always the nicest. I’ve been treated like I’m dumb many times just because I didn’t know something. I even had to delete a profile and start over!
If you post on the forum, here’s my advice — keep it so simple. Don’t give any unnecessary information or people will focus on that instead of what you want to know. Also, take what you read with a grain of salt. A lot of people claim to be experts (especially the moderators) but they aren’t.
After weeks of being given information that I knew to be incorrect by multiple contentious (and overly confident) people, I found the one person who had the right answer. Don’t take the nastiness personally and don’t give up!
Good Luck with Your Move to Japan!
At the end of the day, as someone who’s moved from Canada to the United States and then from the United States to Japan, moving to a new country takes guts. It’s not going to be easy, but if you’re genuinely excited and have a good attitude, the tough moments won’t last long.
We’ve got each other and had some connections before arriving, so we didn’t feel too lonely. If you find yourself wanting to connect with fellow expats, Internations is a great resource. You can network, attend events, or just chat with others through direct messages.
You’re taking a bold step and you’re probably feeling a huge mix of emotions. It’s okay. Ride the wave. You only live once, so make every day count. We hope this quick guide to international relocation services helped a little. Best of luck with your move to Japan!