Since I moved my house (flat) yesterday I thought it might be a good idea to write a blog on what moving in Japan is like.
And again, if you want to follow these steps, speaking Japanese is of absolute essence. If you do not I suggest that you contact one of the moving companies listed in any of the English speaking magazines available for free in your local Gai-jin hangout.
1. Find an apartment.
This might sound like the easiest thing in the world seeing how many buildings there are around Tokyo but you might be surprised. There are of course companies that cater specifically to foreigners needs but if you are looking to go off the beaten track then you might be in for a surprise.
Since the Tokyo Real Estate Market is in a bit of a slump many Real Estate agents have cut their fees and started doing away with the despicable custom of “Rei-Kin” or for short, money that you pay for the contract and will never see again. In fact it is so bad that you will see fliers offering free rent for 1 month or more should you sign up on the spot.
The problem is still that foreigners usually have problems finding the necessary “guarantor” that ensures that you are a stand up individual and that pledges to pay your rent should you fail to. In most cases you will be referred to a company that provides such services for a fee, which in itself in kind of oxymoronic. These companies, even though there are some serious ones, are often shady and have been involved in many scandals as of late. They sign up Mr. Tanaka (living in Nagano or wherever) as your guarantor but often fail to involve the person in question of said arrangement which is of course fraudulent.
I have personally used a Real Estate Agent called UR Housing (http://www.ur-net.go.jp/) which is a quasi government legal entity. This means that they fall under the scrutiny of Japan’s most feared class of people….The government employees. Armed with thousands of pages of red tape they make sure that no foul play takes place which makes this Real Estate Company a dream to use. They are a bit slow, but you will never be scammed or have your deposit taken for some silly reason, or have to pay some strange fee to get the place that you want. In fact one of their main selling points is that you do not need a guarantor!
They have no qualms about renting to foreigner, as long as you speak Japanese, and I highly recommend them!
2. Find a moving company
Now that you have found the apartment of your dreams it is time to think about finding a moving company. There are droves of them out there of all sorts of sizes and levels of professionalism. Usually you will have a choice of services levels ranging from doing it all yourself to a situation where you sip a cup of tea while only women individually wrap your belongings for you.
Usually I go for something in between.
This time I decided that since I am working and value my time I was going to use a respectable company and not be to picky on the price. At the same time I don’t mind packing my own things and do not need to pay someone to do it.
I found a website that lets you requests quotes from multiple moving companies at the same time (there are many so I will not post it here) and filled out my details on number of closets, golf-bags and snowboards.
It took about 5 minutes until the phone started ringing (and this was 10pm on a Wednesday). A word of warning here is that any company that you request a quote from is going to phone you repeatedly and at the most awkward times to try and get your business. So picking the right number rather than “Give me all” is probably the best strategy. Furthermore they will all tell you that to give you a quote they will have to visit your current place of residence and do an evaluation, which is obviously fair.
This is where you need to bargain with them. Once they write the specification it is set and they are less likely to budge. They all have different levels of service so listen carefully to the quotation. Some places will charge you extra for carton boxes and others refuse to handle IKEA furniture unless they can bring in an outside contractor.
An remember you pay for quality so cheaper is not always better…….
Also avoid the period March-April like the plagues since these are “moving months” and prices usually double!!
I am not trying to make PR for any particular moving company so I will not tell you which one I used but it was one of the “Big Three”. I was quite pleased with them , especially the actual haulers, who were friendly and very helpful. Before they left the team leader apologized for using such harsh language to his young employees but added that “It is for their own good”
To finalize this article I will say that moving in Japan is usually hassle free and not too expensive if you plan it right. Involving your friends is not recommended (unless you live alone in a small 4.5 Jo 1Room place) since they are probably busy and you will have to treat them to at least sushi to make up for time lost.
Now I will enjoy my new view and hope that I do not have to move again for some time…….my back hurts =(