It is often said that moving house is one of life’s more stressful undertakings. Factor in a change of countries and you’ll find that leaving Japan is no picnic in the park. Before you can even think about the emotional upheaval that comes with leaving your current home, you need to deal with the practicalities of leaving Japan. It’s probably not going to be easy, but if you’re organized and start the process early, you can get through it with minimal premature aging. From someone who recently left Japan and only lost a few years of life in the process, here is a whistle-stop guide.
1. Quitting your job
I know superhuman salarymen who worked their last shift the day before their flight. Unless you possess preternatural organizational skills and stamina, I would recommend scheduling your last official day at work at least two or three weeks before you actually leave Japan. You’ll need time to sort everything out, especially as some of the services I’ll describe below are only open during typical working hours. It’s never a bad idea to leave your employment on a good note—brush up on the proper etiquette of quitting your job in Japan before breaking the news.
As long as you have time left on your working visa, you can usually stay in Japan for up to three months without being employed. So, it’s not a problem if you want to have a month or two off in Japan after quitting, but you are legally required to inform Immigration within 14 days of your last official workday. You can do this online or in person. If you don’t have time left on your visa, you’ll have to take a trip to your local immigration bureau and change your residency status to ‘Temporary Visitor’.
2. Closing down your apartment
The exact process of closing down your apartment will depend on your specific living situation but this is roughly what you need to do.
Contact your landlord or your letting agent (whoever you deal with) to let them know you will be leaving at least one month in advance (the earlier the better). Afterward, you’ll need to call your gas, electricity, and water companies and break the news. Some companies will let you settle your final bill upfront, while others will take the last bill from your account automatically if you have been paying that way.
You may encounter a roadblock in that some companies want you to pay after you leave Japan and will ask for your next address to forward the bill to—in this case, appoint a designated payee, who must be a resident of Japan, who will pay the bill on your behalf.
3. Getting rid of your stuff
Ah, waste disposal in Japan. After this experience, I am more convinced than ever that Japanese "commitment to recycling" is hot air, Marie Kondo aside. Nevertheless, getting rid of your stuff sustainably is still possible, with some time, research, and effort.
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