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How to Relocate Your Household & Pets to Japan

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  • Edmund Taylor

    Tokyo has so much to offer and InterNations made it much easier to become acclimated to life in this bustling city.

What does it take to relocate to Japan? The procedures of how to relocate to Japan are not difficult as long as you are fully prepared before entering the country. For example, expats will need to have an itemized list of household goods they wish to bring to Japan. This even includes listing the titles of individual CDs and DVDs. These itemized lists do not need to be translated into Japanese, but you should arrive with an English version at the very least.

This relocation guide will walk you through the steps and process needed to move yourself, your belongings, and your family to Japan. Japanese customs do not have too many restrictions, but it is important to follow the ones that they do have as disobeying the regulations can come with steep fines. Likewise, expats traveling with pets will want to ensure they follow all the required steps because not doing so could lead to prolonged and expensive periods of quarantine for your furry friend.

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Moving and Shipping Household Goods

Given Japan’s geographical location as an island in the Pacific Ocean, the only options for how to move your household items and belongings is via air freight or cargo ship. Each of these methods come with their own pros and cons. For example, shipping your items via air will be faster and, depending on how much you are moving, everything can arrive the same day that you do. The downside is that it is the more expensive option. On the other hand, shipping via a large cargo ship will be cheaper but can take several months.

How to Ship Household Items and Belongings

Shipping your household items and belongings to Japan is not too strenuous as long as you are prepared. Before arriving in Japan, you will need to prepare paperwork itemizing each item that you have packed. Expensive electronics such as laptops or televisions should have purchase receipts.

What to Pack when Moving to Japan

Japan is a highly developed nation with many modern conveniences and international goods. With a growing population of foreigners, it is becoming increasingly easier to find some of your favorite brands from around the globe, especially in Japan’s major cities.

That being said, there are a few items it would be wise to arrive with in Japan, especially if you use them often:

  • aspirin
  • Tums (or similar type of antacid)
  • decongestant
  • over-the-counter cold medicine

Other items you may want to bring are favorite lotions or sun cream. It is not that Japan does not have these but finding ones without skin whitening agents may be difficult. Likewise, significantly tall expats may want to bring extra pants and shoes as these will also be a bit harder to find in Japan.

Customs Regulations for Japan

Because Japan is a small, crowded island nation, expats will face more customs restrictions than what they would if moving to Europe or North America. This is because infectious diseases can spread easily through the country, and the Japanese government takes every step to avoid this.

When importing your goods and belongings into Japan you must declare them to the Director-General of Customs by obtaining an import permit and paying any required customs duty or import tax.

All visitors entering Japan must complete a Declaration of Personal Effects and Unaccompanied Articles form. Your goods need to have been in your possession for at least six months and it should be clear that they are not for sale.

Be advised, you will also be given a customs form in the airplane upon your arrival. Even if your goods are arriving separately from you, you will need to fill this form out in its entirety. You will also need to be physically present to claim your items, although you do not need to be present in order for your goods to clear customs.

Prohibited and Restricted Items in Japan

Some of Japan’s strictly prohibited items will not come as much of a surprise. Such items include:

  • narcotics and related instruments;
  • firearms;
  • ammunition;
  • explosive devices and gunpowder;
  • counterfeit goods and money;
  • medicines containing Pseudoephedrine;
  • obscene materials;
  • rice.

Items that are restricted by Japanese customs include:

  • certain agricultural and meat products (it is nearly impossible to bring fresh fruit into the country);
  • no more than one month’s supply of medicines that are prescription drugs;
  • no more than two-month’s supply of medicines that are non-prescription drugs (this may even include items such as shampoos, hair dye, toothpaste, and other toiletries);
  • no more than 24 units of cosmetic products
  • up to three bottles of alcoholic beverages (up to 760 ml per bottle);
  • 400 cigarettes;
  • two oz of perfume;
  • electrical items will need invoices;
  • any item whose price exceeds 200,000 JPY (1,800 USD).

Keep in mind that any false declarations can incur substantial punishment. If bringing items such as CDs and DVDs, you will need to have an inventoried list stating the names.

In addition to your customs form, you will need the following documents in order to claim your goods:

  • your passport
  • Japanese visa
  • Waybill
  • itemized list in English (a Japanese version is also helpful)

Bringing a Car to Japan

Before you start the process of shipping your car to Japan, keep in mind that Japanese drivers drive on the left side of the road. If you have a car meant for right-side driving, then you may want to reconsider bringing it.

When a vehicle arrives in Japan, the shipping company notifies customs. Your car will be imported duty-free only if you can prove Japanese residence, or your intention to get Japanese residence. Once the car arrives in Japan, it may not be sold for two years.

As Japan is a country strongly dedicated to improving its air quality, all cars must meet Japanese emissions and safety regulations. If a car does not meet these regulations, you will be obligated to cover the costs to alter the car.

To claim your car, you must present the following documents:

  • passport
  • customs form C 5360-2 or 5360
  • Japanese residence card
  • driver’s license
  • engine and chassis number
  • purchase deed and car manual
  • affidavit stating that you will not sell your vehicle while in Japan

Home Goods Storage

Depending on how you move to Japan, you should know the long- and short-term storage options in the country. Long-term storage is ideal for those who do not intend on being in Japan long enough to move all of their belongings into their new Japanese home, nor do they want to sell all that they have accumulated over time. Short-term storage is best for those who intend on staying in the country for at least a few years but want to spend their first month or two finding the perfect accommodation.

In Japan, there are many storage options. No matter if you are moving to one of the major cities such as Tokyo or Kyoto, or out in the rural countryside, there are a variety of storage solutions ranging from small lockers to units that can fit a multi-bedroom home. You will find that many self-storage facilities may be operated by real estate companies.

One aspect that may be surprising about storage units in Japan is that the majority are unmanned. You will also need to book most of them through their online website. Prices will vary depending on your needs and location, but average prices range from the cheapest units, 500 per day to nearly 4,000 JPY (5–40 USD) per month, to more expensive options: 32,000 JPY (300 USD) monthly.

Vaccinations and Health Requirements for Japan

The vaccinations required for Japan are standard throughout most developed countries. On average, the country is very medically-safe for foreigners and there are no health requirements for immigration into Japan other than not being a carrier of a hugely infectious disease such as Ebola or tuberculosis.

Expats should be aware that although health standards in the country are high, Japan does experience outbreaks of illness from time to time. Such recent outbreaks include measles, which is most prevalent in spring and summer, and the norovirus. Because germs and infections can spread easily on Japan’s crowded streets and trains, it is advisable to wear a medical mask when not inside a building. Medical masks are so common in Japan that you can even find decorative ones that can be washed and used for months.

Unlike other Asian countries, the tap water in Japan is safe to drink. It is also necessary to wash your hands frequently or carry around hand sanitizer.

What Vaccinations Do I Need for Japan?

The vaccination requirements for immigration into Japan include:

  • hepatitis A and B;
  • rabies;
  • measles, mumps, and rubella;
  • tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis;
  • chickenpox;
  • shingles;
  • pneumonia;
  • influenza;
  • meningitis;
  • polio;
  • Japanese encephalitis.

Although the Japanese encephalitis vaccine is mostly recommended for those living in rural areas, it is nonetheless an advisable vaccine for expats to have if they plan on living in the country for a year or longer. Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito-borne disease and it can be found throughout many Asian countries.

Connect with like-minded expatriates

Discover our welcoming community of expats! You’ll find many ways to network, socialize, and make new friends. Attend online and in-person events that bring global minds together.

Moving with Pets

Moving to Japan with pets? Make sure you have everything in order so that your pet arrives safe and sound in your new Japanese home.

Can you Bring Pets into Japan?

Pet relocation to Japan is possible, but it may take a few more steps than some expats are used to. For example, Japan does have mandated quarantines for all animals arriving in Japan. Quarantine times vary based on the type of animal and where it is coming from. Quarantines will also be expensive, costing anywhere from 10,000 to over 100,000 JPY (100—1,000 USD).

Dogs and Cats

The requirements for taking your dog or your cat to Japan are fairly similar. To bring either, they must first be microchipped. Be sure to have the microchipped number with you as you will need this for official customs regulation forms. You will also need to provide proof of the dog’s residence since birth and list where it has been living for the past 180 days prior to coming to Japan.

Before your dog leaves its previous country, it will need to have a full health check-up. You will need to acquire a health certificate certifying this check and a record of the animal’s most recent rabies vaccination. Both dogs and cats must undergo a titer test for rabies at least 180 days before arriving in Japan.

When your dog is officially ready to leave its previous country, you will be required to place an official seal on the carrier. This seal can only be broken by an official customs agent. If it is broken before arrival in Japan, your pet may be subject to a longer quarantine period. You can read more about this on the Japanese Animal Quarantine Service’s website.

You will need to alert the Animal Quarantine Service at least 40 days before your pet arrives in Japan. Dogs are typically only quarantined for twelve hours, but this time may differ depending on where the dog came from and whether you have all of the appropriate paperwork in order. All food and care fees will be covered by you during the quarantine.

Be advised that dogs and cats may only enter through designated airports and seaports.

  • Airports: New Chitose, Narita International, Haneda, Chubu International, Kansai International, Kitakyusyu, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, and Naha.
  • Seaports: Tomakomai, Keihin (Tokyo, Yokohama), Nagoya, Hanshin (Osaka, Hyogo), Kanmon, Hakata, Kagoshima, and Naha.

Other Animals

Unlike dogs and cats, taking your bird to Japan requires them to be quarantined before they travel. Birds must be kept in isolation for at least 21 days before their arrival in Japan. This can be in your own home, but your home will need to have all windows and doors kept shut except for the purposes of entry and exit.

Horses will be quarantined a minimum of seven days upon entry to Japan.

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