Wednesday, September 11, 2013

HOW TO: Move to Tokyo in a Month

I’m typing this as I sit on the 13 hour plane ride to Narita International Airport.  This is a post for anyone who is curious or interested in moving to Tokyo within the span of a month; this is specific to my own experience, but destination in Japan, time, and circumstances can depend on each individual.  This will be the no-frills, direct version of moving to Tokyo ‘how to’, with a bit of personal perspective and journey thrown into the mix.


1.  You need a reason to move overseas; opportunity, collaboration, job, studies, etc, especially if you plan to stay more than the alloted visitors stay time period.   

In my case I was contacted around end of May, asked to come to Tokyo to meet and interview with the heads of the company mid/late June (I set that up, I went over for 7 days), got the job, I accepted, did a few necessary bits (I will speak more of this later on, such as opening a bank account, setting up a base address to forward mail and contacts, researching cell phone plans, living expenses, possible lease properties and their options, creating ‘inkan’, in Japan unlike the west, in place of a signature they have what is called a ‘hanko’, your own individual name stamp, etc).  It is a lot to do within a 7 day period, pace yourself:)  

2.  Date: when your situation is solidified give yourself enough time to get all the paperwork and logistics involved in an overseas move, and set up a date you need to be in Japan.  

I knew that I needed to be at work on a specific day in mid September and a week in advanced to move myself and set up life before starting work (cell phone, hydro, gas, internet, transferring my residential certificate as well as mailing address closer to my lease property from where I set up my base address, lease property move in, furniture rental installation, curtain installation, buying further necessary small appliances, electronics, and items to be functional.)  

3.  Moving expenses for overseas transfer is expensive!  DOWNSIZE.  Get rid of anything you don’t need and pare down to a bare minimum.  Furniture, appliances, larger items are out of the question; you can buy when you get to Japan, as those things from wherever you maybe living probably will not fit into any space in Tokyo, unless of course your company is paying for everything and your lease is a penthouse.  There are also options to lease furniture, and appliances, as well as other items; I went with this option as I need to be as internationally mobile as possible, taking into consideration future moves, etc.

Briggs and Riley Baseline: Upright International Carry On, and Check-in Luggage.  With garment sleeves, flat surface bed (as the telescopic handle mechanism is on the outside), mesh pockets, front pocket, three length telescopic handle, luggage handling flat handles for easier lifting, smooth wheels, extra bag linking straps, water resistant, sturdy zippers, tough outer, grey inner lining, the carry on has a compression mechanism where you can pack more and compress contents after you zip close the case, and life time guarantee (Briggs are excellent with this lifetime warranty).  I've had the large one for a while now but its not showing any wear and tare, sturdy and extremely user friendly:)  This will last you, and worth the price.

I ended up shipping by sea 2 large boxes, and 6 smaller boxes; items that will take two months to arrive at destination, so things you wont need right away.  I chose to use the services of Yamato Transport as I have extensive experience with them in all my past moves (that’s more than I can count in one hand).  I’m carrying with me one international size carry on suit case (Briggs and Riley), three large boxes, and a large suit case (Briggs and Riley); larger one’s checked-in.  I paid extra for the extra box at check in; it adds up.  You will hemorrhage CAD or whatever currency you are using.  Moves are costly.  Remember the weight allowance for check in luggage.  

4.  LOGISTICS; I suggest being organized as to not lose your mind.  There are so many things happening that if you don’t write them down they will be forgotten.  I printed out calendars and plotted a day by day plan.  You will have many lists.  Get them done one at a time.


Things that need consideration: 
-Lease property, you need to find it, through a real estate agent or otherwise, secure the lease, sign the contract (SIZE, warning, Japan, Tokyo in particular is worse than NYC regarding prices and their ratio to the tiny size of everything).  If you need space it will cost you.  Everything is extreme in Tokyo.  So be prepared.  Also most lease properties, unless otherwise stated do not come with a refrigerator, washing machine, and if you can get a washing machine with a dryer you are lucky.  

-Sort everything that needs sorting wherever you are living at the moment, as you will need to start the process of getting visas and other government related things organized (allow time for processing).  

-Do your research, information and knowledge is key.  

-You need a base address/guarantor where everything needs to be routed until you arrive in Tokyo, my Mum’s brother’s family live in Tokyo so I had everything addressed to that address, which I will need to transfer and change once I move into my new place.  This is a necessity to set up a bank account (I am sure it differs depending on banks, but usually you need proof of income and residence in Tokyo, address, your personal stamp/signature, and forms of ID).  This applies to setting up cell phone/internet/cable/hydro/gas accounts with service providers.  

-Setting up furniture rental and installation.  

-Book flight.  

-See your GP, dentist, therapist, whomever you need to set up appointments with.  

-Medications; to bring in more than one month worth of meds, you need what is called a ‘Yakkan shoumei‘ proof of pharmaceuticals, and there is a form you can print out online which you will need to fill out and provide certain paperwork.  Scan and send it via email, and you get a certificate with an official stamp of approval.  This applies to other medical devices and things which are necessary.  

-Contact and organize everything with the moving company.  

-Sort all your belongings into various groupings (throw away, give away, donate, sell, take), decide what you will take with you and what can wait two months.

-Close bank accounts or clean up unnecessary expenses, and loose ends.  I needed to plan out where all my unsold art was going to be stored (shipped to Detroit), where my dog Clover was going to be going (with my parents), and what was going to happen to my relationship with my bf whom I’ve been living with, as well as where my extra paint supplies were going (as some of them are perishable), and so much more.

I am sure there are so many more things that need to be considered, some of which I will probably forget to mention, but that’s all that I can think of at this time.  All aspects are specific to where you are flying from, and your own unique circumstance.  If you are moving from London England or NYC it wont be as much of a shock but else where for ex. Columbus IN (where I was before I moved back to Tokyo the first time during my high school years) it can be quite a shock, not only culturally, language, and life style, but so many other details we take for granted.  

So another 10 hours or so to go but will keep you updated and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask, knowledge is key.  It’s quite a transition, take it easy and know your limits, pace yourself so you don’t expire.

Safe traveling~ 

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