Leaving Japan Temporarily? Your FAQs Answered [Updated 2024]

Leaving Japan Temporarily? Your FAQs Answered [Updated 2024]

Leaving Japan temporarily? Taking an overdue vacation or finally visiting your family back home? 

What should you be thinking about as you get ready to travel? 

We've gathered your FAQs about what to do with your mail, bills, plants, housekeeping, Japan's special re-entry permit, and other concerns related to leaving Japan for a couple of months. 

I need someone to pay my bills and take care of my mail while I’m gone.

Mail doesn’t stop while you’re out of town. And you don’t want to return to Japan only to find you’ve missed utility payments or important notices from the city office. 

To check your Japanese physical mail on your phone: Redirect your mail to MailMate’s Virtual Mail office, and then you’ll be able to stay on top of your Japan Post mail from anywhere. MailMate’s cloud-based dashboard allows you to request translation summaries, get MailMate staff to pay your bills at the local convenience store, and more—from wherever you are in the world.

Price: Plans start from ¥3,800 per month

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I’m looking for a pet sitter in Tokyo.

PetBacker is a sharing-based services that connect pet guardians to local pet sitters and other services. For PetBacker, pet sitters are screened and only 30% make the cut. Read past reviews on sitters and check out their profiles to find a good match.  

Depending on where in Japan you live, you might have more or fewer options in your area. Keep in mind that there’s a limit to how many pets any sitter can take at one time (particularly if you will be gone for a couple of months).  

Price: From ¥2,500 to ¥5,000 per night

I’m leaving Japan temporarily and need someone to do light housekeeping chores while I’m away.

Kurashinity offers professional housekeepers who will take care of the usual household chores, as well as tasks that the traveler might be interested in, such as watering your plants, window cleaning, and weeding—those small touches that will keep your home looking lived in and fresh, even while you’re out of town.

Price: Spot services (1 staff for 3 hours) start from ¥16,500

How can I keep my plants watered while I’m away for a couple of months?

If you plan to be away for a week, try the water-wicking method, where you place a large jar of water next to your plant and place one end of the yarn or shoelace into the water and the other end into your plant’s soil. The larger your vessel for water, the longer your plant will stay watered. 

Alternatively, according to the Laidback Gardener, you can place your plant in a plastic bag, sealing it shut, and the plant will remain effectively self-watered through humidity for up to 6 months so long as you gave it a good watering before enclosing the plant! 

Price: The price of a plastic bag or a shoelace

How do I send my luggage straight to Narita airport?

If you’re going home for a couple of months, chances are good that you’re traveling with more luggage than usual. Yamamoto Transport has an airport TA-Q-BIN service, complete with detailed English explanations. The service allows you to send your bags from your local convenience store and pick them up at baggage pickup at Narita airport or another airport of your choice. 

Their page lists how to send, pack, and other good-to-know tips about using their service. 

Price: Prices depend on where you’re sending it from. Sending a large suitcase from a Tokyo address to Narita will cost ¥2,730. Check out their price calculation table, which is in English and easy to use.

👉 Learn about luggage delivery services in Japan!

What’s the easiest and safest way to get to Narita airport? 

If you don’t want to deal with figuring out a train or bus route to Narita airport, the easiest and safest way to travel is booking a limo service. TokyoMK provides English-speaking drivers and a premium car service that offers airport transfers you can book in advance.

Price: Go here for a price chart; from ¥42,000 for trips to/from Narita (English-speaking driver ¥3,000) and to/from 23 Tokyo wards

What’s the simplest and fastest way to ship items home from Japan?

Japan Post has a well-documented English language page that explains their Express Mail Service (EMS), which is “the fastest international mail service for sending up to 30 kg,” typically delivered between 2 to 4 days. Airmail is the second fastest option, with parcel delivery within 6 to 8 days. Economy Airmail delivers within 2 to 3 weeks.

(For further reading on this topic, check out “Shipping Options for Sending Packages Home from Japan.”)

Price: Depends on the country and weight of your parcel. If you’re shipping from Tokyo to the US, it will cost ¥23,500 for a 10 kg box and will delivered within 4 days. Go here for Japan Post’s international price calculator

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In what cases do foreign residents need a re-entry permit for Japan?

You will need a re-entry permit for Japan if your period of stay abroad will be for longer than 12 months (more than one year) and you wish to keep your visa's validity upon your return.

Additionally, the Immigration Services of Japan outlines the following instances where you will not be eligible for a special re-entry permit and must apply for a re-entry permit instead:

  • Those in the process of having their status of residence revoked;

  • Those subject to the deferment of departure verification;

  • Those who have been issued a written detention order;

  • Those who are applying for refugee status with the "Designated Activities" status of residence; and

  • Those recognized by the Minister of Justice as being at risk of committing acts that may harm the interests or public security of Japan, or for whom it is deemed reasonable for other reasons to require re-entry permission to control immigration equitably.

What's the difference between a “special” re-entry permit and a re-entry permit?

The special re entry permit is a special allowance for foreign residents who plan to return within one year of leaving Japan.

To use this permit, you fill out the Embarkation Card for Reentrant (再入国出入国記録 = sainyuukoku shutsunyuukoku kiroku) available before the immigration gate. On the embarkation and disembarkation card, you check a box that states your intention to return to Japan within one year.

Embarkation Card for Re-entrants
Image. Example of the "Embarkation Card for Reentrants" available at immigration control for foreign residents leaving Japan temporarily (returning within 1 year).

re-entry permit is for foreign residents with valid visas who plan to be abroad for over 1 year. You can apply for a single re-entry permit for 5 years, which allows you to re-enter Japan once during the validity period (¥3,000).

Or a multiple re-entry permit that allows you to re-enter Japan a number of times during its 5-year validity (¥6,000). To apply for the re-entry permit, go to your local immigration office with your residence card (previously the alien registration card) and passport.

How do I get a re-entry permit for Japan?

To get a re-entry permit, take the following steps before your departure date:

  1. Go to your local immigration counter that presides over where your residence is registered and bring a valid passport and your resident card.

  2. Fill out and submit the re-entry application form.

  3. Pay the fee for the application by purchasing a revenue stamp.

What things should I buy before leaving Japan?

According to one Goo ranking article, the top 3 items that make for great souvenirs are traditional Japanese sweets, Japanese whisky, and green tea-flavored KitKat! If you need more ideas on what to bring home with you from Japan that you can't get abroad, this Reddit thread has some great ideas.

Finally, this video from YouTuber Paolo from Tokyo includes some recommendations and travel hacks for capitalizing on your last few hours in Japan.

Frequently asked questions: Quick recap

How can I prepare for leaving Japan temporarily? 

You should go to your local immigration counter that presides over where your residence is registered and fill out and submit the re-entry application form. 

What is a re-entry permit and when do I need it? 

If your departure from Japan is going to be for more than 1 year, then you need to apply for a re-entry permit before you depart Japan. If you will be returning to Japan within 1 year of your departure, you do not have to get a re-entry permit. 

What happens if I leave Japan without a re-entry permit? 

If you leave Japan without a “special re-entry permission” or “re-entry permission,” you are considered to have relinquished the status of residence that you have. 

What is a special re-entry permit? 

The special re-entry permit allows a foreign national holding a long-term visa to leave Japan and, as the name implies, re-enter the country smoothly when they return. 

Final thoughts

Temporarily leaving Japan comes with a unique set of hurdles for foreign residents. But with a little advance planning, you'll be able to maximize the fun of your upcoming trip abroad.

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