my place in japan

How to move into Japan

Must-Have items when moving into Japan

Ahoy There!

Making the move to Japan is usually one of the biggest moves in the life of a foreigner who looks to make a new home and find their place in Japan.  Typically, unless it is a fairly extreme circumstance, they will only bring the most important items and basic needs that can fit into a couple suit cases, perhaps a box or two if they are sending them ahead of time to an address from overseas.  Needless to say, there will be a lot of necessary items when moving into a new place in Japan!  Let's go shopping!

What is in an room/apartment when I get to Japan?
  There will be nothing in most of the rooms or houses in Japan besides perhaps an air conditioner and toilets!  There will be hookups for water, gas, internet, etc, but maybe nothing connected to them.  There will typically not even be things like beds, large appliances like washing machines, refrigerators, gas/electric stoves, etc.  There may not even be lights on the ceiling and things like curtains won't be installed either so don't expect a lot of light or privacy if you show up empty handed!

Exceptions to the rule.
  There are some properties that are furnished to a certain point.  Typically they will be semi furnished or fully furnished depending on the owner, or company in charge of the properties.

Semi-Furnished.  The most well known semi-furnished apartment in Japan is most likely Leo Palace.  Apartments like these have the basic amenities and appliances needed for basic living. For example, many of them have a place to put a futon (Bed), lights in the ceiling, a fridge, a washing machine, a cooking surface, a microwave, a table and chair, as well as a TV and perhaps a router to connect to the internet too in some cases.  There will still be plenty missing like curtains and toilet paper and other must haves, but it is a good start and saves a lot of money.

Fully Furnished.  Many short stay locations are completely furnished with everything you need to live.  Maybe not food or things like a personal computer, but even then there may be a computer on the property shared by a few residents.  Forks, knives, chop sticks, cooking gear, the list goes on.  A fully furnished apartment should have almost everything you need to live right away.

Time to go Shopping

Depending on if you have a car or a friend who can drive or go shopping at a place where you can get deliveries, it may take some time to go shopping.  Here is a list of some of the things you might need to get and a few ideas where to get them!  For some you may not think these necessary items, but we will outline what we feel many people will need.

Phase 1: Mandatory Items and Main appliances
  Ceiling Lights, a cooking range (Check to see which type of gas you use! It matters!), Fridge, Washing machine, AC/Heating Unit, microwave and/or toaster oven as well.  All important items that you need if you intend on doing any cooking at home and enjoying a lifestyle that doesn't depend nature/luck to keep you warm or cool.  Also, a lifestyle where you have electric light to see.  Large items like this cost a lot brand new, and I recommend stopping by a recycle shop to pick up something used unless you brought some serious cash to get set up!

  Other Mandatory items would be curtains, toilet paper, and bedding items.  Without these basic amenities, you are looking at having a tough time using the bathroom, having little to no privacy in many spaces in your home, and sleeping on the hard floor.  Here is a little more information on bedding in Japan since buying a bed proper would be quite the expense.

Bedding – You need to get a mattress, a futon, and a blanket, and a pillow to have a decent quality of sleep from the first night.  For short-stay properties such as weekly/monthly apartment rooms, bedding might have already been prepared, so we recommend that you check with your real estate agency before you move in.  You can usually find a basic 'futon set' with all the above items brand new at large department stores and malls for a reasonable price, but they may not last forever.

Phase 2:  Basic Needs

  Next up, are the most basic of needs. A short list would be things like: 

Bathroom items - Maybe the first thing you might want to do after moving-in is to take a nice and hot shower or bath.  If you already have shampoo/conditioner, body soap, and bath towels, then you don’t really have to get them right away.  But if you don’t, you should go get it to wash off some sweat after a long journey.  Things like a bath mat are also overlooked for when you step out of the shower!  Much of this can be acquired at any supermarket or the 100 yen shop for a very reasonable price.

Laundry items - Maybe you have a pile of clothes and underwear that need to go straight into a washing machine.  Just like I mentioned, there will be no washing machine in your room or house unless it is a furnished property.  Even if you are living in a small city or town (but not really countryside), you can always find a laundromat (it is called “Coin Laundry” in Japan) not too far away from your residence.  It usually costs about 300 yen for using a washing machine and 100 yen per 10 min. for a drying machine.  Might be a good substitute in the time being while you search for a washing machine.

Cooking items - Unless you plan on the costly endeavor of eating out for every meal, you will need basic items like a sturdy frying pan or cooking pot and the tools to cook with them, plates, bowls, glasses, and utensils to eat the food you make.  This will require having at least a stove or perhaps microwave in your place so you can cook.  Consider getting an electric kettle to boil water or perhaps a rice maker as well since they can be used to prepare a lot of food very easily and cheaply while you build up your living space.  Things like sponges, dishsoap, and a draining board or rags to put them on are also good to pick up if you don't have a lot of flatware when you move in.  Besides a proper fry pan or pot, which can be purchased at a super market or home center, you can get most of these items at the 100 yen shop.

Surfaces and Seating - Things like a simple table and something to sit on, whether it be a zabuton pillow or an actual chair, will improve your quality of life quite a bit.  Having a desk to work at or use a computer is also another good thing to have early on unless you want to sit on the cold hard floor to do everything!  You can get much of your furniture at a recycle shop or brand new at places like Nitori or home centers like Cainz, Sekichu, or Vivahome, etc.  The prices will be a bit higher than used goods, but reasonable for something new.

Phase 3 - Finishing Touches

  After you set up the basics, from there the sky is the limit.  Things like rugs to keep down noise in apartments that have a lot of echo when walking and keep your feet warm in the colder months are a nice addition.  There are plenty of things you could get to make life better and we recommend that you start searching for what kinds of stores and shops that are close by your residence at first.  And if you would like to keep it a low budget, maybe 100 yen shops such as the DAISO, which is the biggest 100 yen store in Japan, might come in handy to get small items.  You may be surprised at the amount of quality items you can get at the daiso and how convenient they are to your everyday life.  Other items as well can be obtained at a reasonable price at a home center as well.  Places like Sekichu, Cainz, Shimamura, and Nitori are great resources for many of the things you need in Japan.  Even in Japanese convenience stores, you can get so many items that you need right away, so please check them out as well.

  Hopefully this article gave you some insight on what you need to shop for before you move into a brand new place!  Feel free to let us know what you think by shooting an e-mail to us at!

 Set sail to a new life, may ships take you on the seas, through the skies, and over the land towards my place in Japan.

Until next time, from all of of here at take care!

Kei & Phil