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Moving From Japan

Author:Nicolas Delerue, Issue: September 2004, Topic: Shipping

Only a few us are lucky enough to have a permanent position here in Japan. For the rest of us, the day will come when we will have to think about how to move to another country. How much does it cost to move from Japan to another country? Here are a few answers...

The question is often asked on the TAIRA mailing list (or on other mailing lists): what is the cheapest way to send your belongings to another country? There is no universal answer, but one thing is sure: it is not cheap!

The two most common solutions are shipping by plane and shipping by boat. When you ship by plane, billing is proportional to the weight of your shipment, whereas if you ship by boat, it will be proportional to the volume (with a minimum of 1 cubic meter = 35 cubic feet). Thus, if your shipment is much less than 1 cubic meter, the plane may be the cheapest option. Otherwise, it will probably be much more expensive than by ship. If speed matters, you must know that shipment by plane usually take a few days, whereas a shipment by boat will take a few weeks to reach its destination.

Another important parameter to consider is that there is no airport or harbour in Tsukuba and that might be the same in your destination city. Thus, you will have either to bring your shipment to the airport (or harbour) yourself, or pay for its transportation, which can add several tens of thousand yen to the bill.

Finally, billing systems differ from one company to the other: some will measure the volume of your shipment in cubic meters, while others will measure it the nearest 0.1 cubic meters. For the same rates, this can make as much as 50,000 yen difference.

So to be sure to get the best deal, do not hesitate to ask for an evaluation of the cost of your shipment before deciding which one best fits your needs (but with some companies such estimates are not easy to get and not speaking Japanese can be a limitation here). To help quickly compare different solutions, I have gathered a few evaluations of shipment cost at http://nicolas.delerue.org/moving_estimate.html. If you have heard of other deals, please let me know.

To ship by plane, one of the cheapest deals I have found is Japan Luggage Express http://www.jluggage.com/ (Bilingual customer service: 0120-48-0081) which charges ~700yen/kg for Europe & Australia and 900 yen/kg to the States. By boat Economove http://www.economovejapan.com/ seems to be cheaper, with deals around 70 000 yen for 1 cubic meter shipped from Japan to Europe.

To these fees, you will have to add the cost of custom clearance, which is proportional to the value of your belongings. Note that if you return to your home country, these fee may be partly waived if you have the appropriate documentation (provided by your consulate) and insurance (also proportional to the value shipped)...

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