I would say many people move into Japan with the hopes that they will settle down. Who can blame them, the food, the culture, the mild weather (not including the far northern island of Hokkaido), all attracts people here from elsewhere.

Unfortunately, in 2020, due to the unfortunate global crisis known as Covid 19, I, along with many others, were forced to leave Japan due to a shortage of jobs and visas.

My purpose here is therefore to document the steps that I undertook when I prepared to return to my home country of Singapore.

1 Cancel long term service contracts

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What comes to mind when one mentions long terms contracts include, but are not limited to, housing, phone, internet, utilities (gas, water and electricity), pocket wifi, etc. You may wish to have a list of all the services that you subscribed for in Japan that cannot be utilised elsewhere. Even digital services like Netflix, for example, cannot be simply transferred across countries, you would actually need to cancel the Japanese subscription and restart it again in the destination country (https://help.netflix.com/en/node/24853).

After you have prepare the list to cancel, please take note of the lead time that you have to give in order to cancel them and also be prepared to have additional payments crop up randomly. I was using the NTT Hikari Flets plan and there was a 3000 yen surcharge on top of the normal cost that was unavoidable. I was also unfortunate in this case as I already surrendered /cancelled my residence card before calling, apparently they could have waived the fees if I was able to provide proof that I was a foreign resident.

2 Plan on how to move your items back

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One mistake I made when moving back when I was moving was that I didn’t try to ship items earlier. I was caught out by the pandemic because all shipping was cancelled, leaving only the very expensive airmail option that costs twice as much.

When moving, you can choose to either dispose of your items (which itself costs money since Japan charges for rubbish disposal). One tip I have is to check with your local office where the city recycling centre is, rent a truck, and dispose of as much bulky items as you can. Disposing of rubbish yourself at the centre costs only about 20% of the price of having them come to your place to collect.

3 Buy your air tickets in advance, way in advance if possible.

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During the pandemic, air tickets were hard to come by due to massive flight cancellations. Even if you had bought tickets in advance, chances are, the flight may be cancelled and you will be stranded. In my case, I had to approach the Singapore embassy for help and they stepped up to the plate when they organised flights in partnership with Singapore airlines, supplemented by a few flights from ANA and JAL. I was therefore able to return home without much delay.

Nevertheless, buying flights in advance lets you fix a date on your schedule to work towards, and during this time of uncertainty, anything that can be fixed might be a good thing.

4 Pay the taxes that you owe

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This one, to me, is a no brainer. I know of people who have tried to evade taxes in the past and “escaped” from Japan. Don’t make things difficult for others who wish to come to Japan since some Japanese may have this mentality that foreigners have a high precedence of tax evasion.

I even managed to secure a “discount” since the city office said that I do not need to pay for health insurance since I am leaving at the start of the new fiscal year. (your mileage may vary on this)

5 Go to the immigration office/ city office/post office to inform them that you are leaving

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This could be optional depending on your original visa arrangements. Some expats may have had their companies do everything for them in the beginning.

For myself, as my company does nothing for the teachers, we have to go to the city office/ immigration to inform them that we are leaving Japan. Concurrently, the city office is also where I arranged to pay my taxes as I informed them that I will be leaving an active bank account to pay off the tax by bank transfer on the due date.


So there you have it, 5 points from me on what to do before leaving Japan. If you have any questions or if you have additional information/ tips, do drop a comment and I will definitely reply.

featured image by: The New York Public Library on Unsplash