Mar 29, 2016

Moving House In Japan: The Removal Service

Moving House In Japan: The Removal Service photo

As I write this, I’m sat on my part deconstructed sofa, surrounded by a screaming chaos of boxes, flailing bubblewrap, and distressed shopping bags. I’ve just moved house. Apartment, actually.

Looking back, I’m stunned by the amount of crap that I’ve accumulated over the years of living in Japan. When I moved into the apartment that I’ve just vacated, I rocked up with a suitcase of clothes and few gifts from back home. 

When everyone told me that you’ve always got more stuff than you think, my first thought was, ‘Yeah, but I’ve still not got that much stuff, have I?!’.  To be fair, I have acquired a legal partner since then (and no, I don’t consider them to be part of the crap).  

Our new place was/is about a 40 min drive away. Yes, we have a car. No, it is in no way big enough to handle a house move. We needed to bring in the professionals, and this is what I want to talk about here … the actual physics of moving house in Japan, and what to expect from removal services over here.

Why a removal service?

Well, we’re only two people with no friends immediately on hand to come and do some liftin’. In our minds this ruled out renting a van and going DIY. At the very least we needed someone to handle the fridge, sofa, and washing machine.

Divvy up the goods

Since we committed to using professionals, the first thing was to decide what they’d take.

  • fridge
  • sofa
  • washing machine
  • TV
  • coffee table
  • 2 futon sets
  • two bookshelves
  • TV stand
  • boxes of sundry items.

Start a bidding war

Our default setting is cheap. The partner did an Internet search for removal services, and picked out three at the lower end of the price scale. We then arranged for a salesperson from these companies to come out, give our stuff the once over and hand us a quote.  

At the top end of our search was a service that covered everything, almost literally; they would

  • plastic-sheet up old and new apartment during the moving process so as to avoid scratches
  • provide loads of cool storage gadgets (?) in which to put delicate plates, glasses etc
  • take away any unwanted boxes at a designated time after the move
  • hand out leaflets prior to the move to warn nosy neighbours of what was happening

They also charged about 150,000 yen for the stuff we wanted moving. Thanks but no thanks.

Moving House In Japan: The Removal Service photo

You can negotiate these deals, so always tell them that you’ve got other companies coming over. We went the company whose salesperson gave us a free 2 kg bag of rice. For 70,000 yen they would take the stuff we wanted taking plus 10 boxes of anything else (boxes provided). They would be a team of two, with a 1 tonne truck, I think. Time slots tend to be morning, afternoon, or evening. Most people want morning. As did we. Hence it’s more expensive.

We moved on the last weekend of March, which is peak moving season in Japan. At another time of year, or on a weekday, you could knock down the price of removal services by a good 30% or more.

10 days prior to the move, the company brought around some boxes, wrapping paper, and tape. Any unused boxes would have to move with us and wouldn’t be collected afterwards.

There are ‘odd job’ services in Japan that can also handle removals. They’re very cheap. The problem is, according to Internet forums, they are low on quality and care. If you don’t mind some scratches, or you’re prepared to run the risk that your TV might not survive the move, these people could be for you.

Moving House In Japan: The Removal Service photo


Doing things piece by piece, I would say it took us about two weeks to get things packed and ready (between work and just general living).  

The removal man turned up on time, with his truck and part time helper who looked way out of her depth. And she was. Still, removal man took to his work with the agility and strength of a seasoned Nepali Sherpa. To put it mildly, he was phenomenal. The truck was packed in less than an hour, and they filled up any remaining space with items that weren’t part of the original deal. All items were well wrapped, and building/apartment entrance were guarded with plastic sheeting to avoid any damage (the same at the destination, too).

At the other end, it took about an hour to get everything into the new crib, and we were given a 10-min ‘service time’ during which removal man … gave us a massage! No, just kidding! He helped us reassemble some shelves.  

Payment was taken in cash on the day, and we had to fill out some kind of customer satisfaction form. Very satisfied. Before leaving, one of us had to go and inspect the truck to make sure nothing had been left behind.

The remaining items we moved by ourselves using our own motor. It took 3 separate trips.

The price of the removal service stung initially, but whether or not it was worth it is almost irrelevant. We’d decided to move, and we couldn’t have done it without a removal service. End of argument, I suppose.

Would I recommend the removal service used here? Yes, I would. Find their name/link below.

サカイ引越しセンター / Sakai Hikkoshi Center (easily recognisable for their panda logo).

For an Internet search of other services, begin with 引越し屋 / hikkoshiya (moving service)



Traveler, surfer, and scribe. Based in Tokyo for six years.


  • Samantha

    on Mar 29

    Great post! Wish I had used that company. I don't have many tips for moving except - don't attempt to do it yourself. It took my family weeks to get everything moved hahaha.

  • KpQuePasa

    on Mar 29

    Omigoodness. Congrats on a successful move, and thank you for a VERY helpful post! The Mister and I are considering a move a little further out of the big city which would be closer to his work and give Mac-dog a little more room to stretch. A moving company is my only requirement for agreeing to another move - the thought of boxing up and carting around all our stuff by myself again makes my eyes twitch.

  • Tomuu

    on Mar 31

    The more expensive company I mention here will also box your stuff for you. I forgot to mention that. The one we used didn't do that. They did give us a mountain of wrapping paper though. I'm now wondering if I can pass it off as birthday wrapping paper. It's a sort of lime green! @KpQuePasa