Our Japan Move, Step by Step

Moving is an exhilarating and yet stressful process. So many things go into a move, and if you have kids, your move immediately becomes more difficult, especially if those kids are involved in community schools. That was certainly our case recently when we found out the we were going to have to move out of our home for over 8 years here in Japan.

Finding out we needed to move meant that we first and foremost had to find options of new places to live. For us with 4 kids here in Japan, we certainly wanted to find a place of at least 4 bedrooms. In Japan, and especially in the city, finding rental apartments with 4 bedrooms severely limits your options. We searched and searched online for places and quickly found out that we would have to make a choice between location and space.

Our decision was not easy, because our family really needs more space than the average family in the Tokyo area. We really wanted to find a place that would allow our kids to still go to the same Japanese public schools, but unless we wanted to go with a 3 bedroom apartment about half the size of what we were already in, we would have to move out of the area. A compromise of some sorts would have to be made.

Once we decided on a place, moving day was coming, and coming fast. There were so many details to take care of — utilities and internet to set up, old furniture to get rid of (a huge process in itself here in Japan), moving companies and dates to coordinate. We were so thankful for our friends and family that helped out a ton in the process. The move was an emotional one to say the least.

But as challenging as the move was, the biggest upheaval of all happened for our kids, for they weren’t just changing homes, but changing schools in the process. Moving in the middle of the Japanese school year also added another layer of complications, complications that could not be avoided as new uniforms, school books and classes had to be coordinated.

All in all, the kids did a fantastic job transitioning even though it was hard to say goodbye to friends and teachers. But perhaps the biggest highlight of all was Becca and Anna’s goodbye to their school and classmates, as they were selected to conduct their classes in the school’s choral festival. They did a fanatic job and soon after received loads of heart-felt letters and notes from their classmates saying goodbye. It was a hard goodbye.

All of this happened in just a little over a month. And what a month it was! If I were to go back and do it again, I would want to add a little more time in there, for we were so rushed in our move. And if you have any option at all, waiting until a natural break in the school year is ideal if you have kids that will be attending schools.

One thing I would add, and you can see in these videos, is that if you have strong ties in your community, it will really help with your move. We got so much help from neighbors, friends and family. We are also really involved in our international church, and because of that we also get a lot of help. Without this help, the move would have been impossible.

Some people asked why we didn’t look to buy a house. Certainly there are a lot more options available if you’re looking to buy, but as a foreigner in Japan, you cannot take out a normal home loan, but only a high-risk loan that requires you to put down 20% as a downpayment at a much higher interest rate. This puts homes that are big enough for us and still inside the Tokyo area out of reach. But this is all a moot point once you get your permanent visa, available to most foreigners once they’ve lived here 10 years, at which point you too can get a normal home loan like any other Japanese person.

So in another year or so, we will be looking into the process of permanent residence here in Japan. And then soon after that — it may be time to look to buy our own home! Then we will have a new story to share: becoming homeowners in Japan!

2 replies on “Our Japan Move, Step by Step”

Seeing Ana looking lonely in your video last week made me feel sad too. Joshua says the new school is super good and Sarah has made 5 of her new friends! And I was happy to see Sarah’s smile. I hope Anna and Rebecca will settle in quickly to their new school and new city.

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