No matter where you live or how far you are moving, the process of moving is always a chore. Moving homes is time-consuming, stressful, hard-work and exhausting. In addition, it is often an expensive ordeal. If you are looking to move a large family a decent distance, you definitely want to make sure you are getting the best price and service available. Luckily Japan has many moving companies all determined to make your move as easy as possible. So read on if you want the lowdown on the best moving companies in Japan, how to choose the right one for you, and what the process of moving homes in Japan will look like.
Things to Consider when Choosing a Moving Company in Japan
To Pack or not to Pack
The biggest decision when choosing a moving company in Japan will most likely be whether or not to include packing in the service. Many moving companies will offer to pack your belongings for you, including furniture, electronic appliances and small items. Opting for this service means you don’t have to touch a cardboard box if you don’t want to. If you are single and don’t have many belongings, this is probably a bit of an extravagance. However, if you are a family, and you haven’t moved in a while, this is definitely something to consider. The company will provide the packing materials themselves, and discuss with you before hand how you want your packing organized. The packing will be done competently, efficiently and safely, saving you hours and even days of stress and mayhem.
Further to this it is worth finding out if the moving company will collect the packing materials at the end of the move. Many will offer to do this, giving you up to a month or so to unpack first.
If you are planning on moving far, you will need to check the areas covered by the moving company. This is particularly important if you are looking to hire one of the more local options. Moving further will also cost considerably more, so it is important to factor this in when sorting out quotes.
The move is generally covered by truck or van, depending on the size and complexity of the move. Most moving companies will have a range of vehicles on hand and the details are often listed on their website.
Large, Heavy Items
If you have heavy objects that need moving other than furniture, such as a piano, make sure your moving company is willing to handle them. Similarly, it is important to inform the moving company of any large electrical items you want moved, and whether you would like them to install these for you on arrival. This can be especially helpful for items such as washing machines and AC units that require specialist installation.
Some moving companies will offer to remove or re-deliver to a new owner unwanted large items such as furniture and electrical appliances. If this sounds like it would be of use to you, then make sure it is a service that your chosen company offers.
Whether or not the moving company offers English-language support will be another consideration. A number of the large companies claim to, but it is unlikely that the English-language support will cover all aspects of the move, and it is very unlikely that the movers themselves will speak much English. If the company has an English-language option on its website, then that is a good sign that they have reasonably good English-language support.
All of the local moving companies in the Tokyo area listed below have English-language options on their websites and offer English-language support.
Best Moving Companies in Japan
Larger Nationwide Companies
・Sakai Moving Service (サカイ引越センター)
Sakai Moving Service is one of the best known moving companies in Japan. A quick browse of the vast array of extra services they offer helps to explain why. Using this company, you can create a truly tailored moving experience. Opting for the many extras can end you up in a professionally cleaned, disinfected, landscaped new home. Internet will be installed, AC units up and running, and your neighbors will be happy after receiving their pre-delivered Sakai greeting card and gift. They also provide a basic, paired-down moving option, if all the bells and whistles of the additional extras seem a bit excessive.
・Art Corporation (アート引越センター)
Art Corporation is another well-respected company with abundant added extras designed to make your move as easy as possible. These include the laying of charcoal sheets under tatami matts and piano tuning after the move. Their (Japanese only) website includes a plan simulator to help you find a course that suits your requirements. They also have special discount plans for seniors, students, and women only moves. Like Sakai, Art is a solid choice for a family or any more high maintenance move, and they also offer simpler services for singles.
・Arisan Mark (アリさんマーク引越）
Arisan Mark is a little less user friendly than those of Sakai and Art, but once you get the feel of it the options available are clear and easy to understand. Arisan has three main categories – single, family, and long distance. Within these three categories there are three moving options: plan 1 is a full service option with packing and unpacking of all items (except underwear and valuables apparently). Plan 2 will cover all the packing but requires the customer to unpack smaller items (not furniture). Plan 3 has the customer doing all the packing and unpacking themselves. Arisan also offers a number of additional extras, including piano moving and tuning, and AC unit relocating. Overall it is a less luxurious, more budget friendly option than Sakai and Art.
Akabou is a different proposition to the above moving companies. Aimed firmly at the student and singles markets, it is a pared-down budget moving service for people who are looking for something akin to ‘a man and a van’. If you are happy to do your own packing, and you don’t have too much stuff or very far to go, this could be a really good, budget-friendly option.
Local Moving Companies in the Tokyo Area
Transporter-Tokyo is a well-regarded moving company that offers support in English and French in addition to Japanese, making it a useful place to look for moving services for the international community in Tokyo. They are also capable of handling long distance moves.
・Recycle Mission/Mission Movers
In addition to being a full service moving company, Recycle Mission/Mission Movers specializes in ‘recycling’ your unwanted furniture and appliances. Recognizing that many people will end up with furniture or appliances that they cannot or do not want to move to their new home, this Tokyo-based company have built a business around re-purposing and selling or recycling these unwanted and difficult to deal with items. If you think your move will leave you with many large objects that you do not wish to take with you, this company could be a good option for you. They also have an English-language website.
Tokyo Move is a small Tokyo-based moving company that offers English-language support and services. They do not have a complete list of their services on their website, but claim to be flexible and client-orientated, adapting their services to the individual client’s needs. The company also handles international moves, and have services aimed at the international community such as their ‘For Expats Special Relocation Program’.
The Moving Process
Quotes, Quotes, Quotes
After deciding on the services that you want, the next thing to do is get a quote. The larger companies will let you apply for an online quote, and the smaller ones will generally require a phone call. If you do not speak Japanese, and do not have a Japanese friend to help, opting for one of the companies with English language support will probably be easiest for this.
These websites are Japanese only, but they are reasonably easy to navigate, especially if you are using the Google Translate extension in Google Chrome. If you decide to use one of these websites it is important that you have a clear idea of what you are looking for before you input your details. As soon as you have done so you are likely to get a barrage of phone calls, all quoting wildly different prices so it is best to be prepared before hand. If you know what you are looking for, it is a good way to get a lot of quotes quickly. The more quotes you have, the more you can negotiate, and save yourself a considerable amount of money!
Another important factor when negotiating the price of the move will be the date and time you request. Certain times, months, and days of the week will be more expensive than others. For example, it is best to avoid the months of March and April if possible, as this is the start of the school year and often a busy (so expensive) time for moving companies. Choosing a moving date on butsumetsu, the unlucky day according to a belief with Buddhist origins, will likely be considerably cheaper. The superstition to avoid moving on this day is still influential, so many Japanese families will avoid moving home on butsumetsu, meaning good deals should be available if you can move on this day.
Arrange a House Visit
After getting a number of quotes, the next step is to get a representative from a preferred company to come to your home for an in-person quote. This will give you a much more accurate quote, and a chance to get a feel for the moving company and make sure it is right for you.
Pack, or Prepare for Packing
Once you have decided on your moving company and the service option, the next step is to pack, or prepare for the company to pack for you. If you are packing yourself, then many companies will arrange to have packing materials sent to your home. This is another thing to find out when choosing what plan and company you want.
Give yourself more time for this process than you think you will need. Even if you have opted for the most luxurious plan you could find, there will still be some things you need to do yourself. For instance, that large stack of important looking papers might finally need filing. This sort of unexpected task can take up a considerable amount of unaccounted for time. Most of the moving companies have packing tips on their websites that can be useful to read through before you start packing.
The Day of the Move
Your chosen moving company will give you a clear outline of how the day of the move will unfold, and the larger companies detail the process on their websites. As an example, Art Corporation provides the following guide to the ‘Moving Flow’ on their website:
- Packing is provided on behalf of the customer.
- Large furniture, home appliances etc. are packed by their staff on the day of moving.
- The boxes etc. are packed into the truck.
- The truck is transported to the new residence.
- The staff lay matts and rugs around the new home to protect it from damage before unpacking the truck.
- The truck is unpacked.
- Furniture and appliances are set according to the customer’s requirements, and a work completion certificate is signed.
- The staff will unpack the boxes and clean up before leaving.
- At a later date, any remaining packing materials will be collected.
Moving Companies in Japan
The right company for you will depend on your priorities and budget. Moving companies are generally very accommodating and competitive. The most important things for you to do are to decide exactly what services you want, get a decent number of quotes, and negotiate! When it comes to moving companies in Japan there is always a deal to be done, so don’t be afraid to make special requests and to negotiate down the price.
In Japan you are pretty much guaranteed that the whole process will be efficient, tidy and polite and you can rest assured that your goods will be handled with care.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.