Leaving Japan Checklist: Say Goodbye With Peace of Mind

Leaving Japan Checklist: Say Goodbye With Peace of Mind

Time to say goodbye.

Want to accomplish your move without losing your cool or forgetting an essential step? 

Aside from packing up personal belongings, there are regulations and procedures to take care of when leaving Japan permanently. 

We've created a concise leaving Japan checklist of things to do before you go—and we answer your pressing FAQs about defaulting on pension payments, appointing a tax representative, and more! 

Note: If you're leaving temporarily, check out our other article on the topic: "Leaving Japan Temporarily? Your FAQs Answered [Updated 2024] ."

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1. Cancel your lease. 

Call your real estate agent and inform them of your upcoming departure as soon as possible. Some agencies require up to 2 months' advance notice. Avoid paying additional rental fees by getting this chore done and over with first. 

2. Cancel your phone contract & Internet.

Most phone and Internet contracts require a 1-month notice. If you want to avoid paying for an extra month of service that you won't be around to use, notify your phone and Internet companies 1 month before your departure date. 

3. Notify the utility companies.

For some housing units, utilities are bundled within the lease, and letting your real estate agent know of your upcoming departure will be the same as canceling your utilities. However, if you signed separate contracts for any of your utilities, you must let them know your move-out date. 

4. Pack and ship stuff home. 

Japan Post Office's international parcel post service allows you to send up to 30 kg per box with a 10 percent discount for 10 to 49 parcels. Other options include Yamato Transport's International Moving Service. Read about the best ways of shipping items home in this article

For US-specific shipping from Japan, here is an article for all the shipping costs: Shipping from Japan to the US: Cost Table for Japan Post.

5. Get rid of the rest. 

Whatever you don't intend to bring home must be recycled or thrown away.

Consider Craigslist, Book-Off, Hard-Off, or other second-hand stores for well-cared-for items. Use this website for city recycling instructions for large appliances and furniture you could not sell. 

6. Appoint a tax representative.

The yearly resident tax bill (juminzei) arrives in June or July. If you leave before paying this bill, you will need to appoint a tax representative to settle this bill for you. Your tax representative can be a non-Japanese friend or colleague, but it's best if they read and write Japanese at a business level. See FAQ section. 

7. Set up international mail forwarding. 

While the Japan Postal Service offers domestic forwarding, they do not provide international mail forwarding. Instead, private companies offer international mail forwarding services and private PO box services. We recommend MailMate, which digitizes each piece of mail you receive, allowing you to open and process your Japanese mail from anywhere in the world.

Online notification of mail received for those leaving Japan permanently.

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8. Cancel your bank account. 

You will need to close the account in person at the bank counter for most bank accounts. Bring your passbook, bank card, seal, and ID to process the bank-closing paperwork. See FAQ section. 

9. Notify city office of your move. 

Up to two weeks before your departure date, notify your city office of your upcoming move (tenshutsu todoke). Bring along proof of departure when filing this notice (e.g., your travel itinerary/plane ticket) and an ID (e.g., passport, residence card, My Number card). See our step-by-step guide, "How to Submit a Moving-out Form in Japan."

10. Cancel health insurance. 

After filing your move-out notice (tenshutsu todoke) at the city office, head to the National Health Insurance window, turn in your health insurance card and settle your health insurance bills. 

11. Withdraw from the pension program. 

If you have paid into Japan's pension program for over 6 months, you can file paperwork ("Application for the Lump-sum Withdrawal Payments") to request a refund. The maximum amount that you can withdraw is up to 36 months. See FAQ section. Learn more about lump-sum withdrawals in our article, "Japan's Pension Refund for Foreigners [Step-by-Step How to Withdraw]." 

12. Cancel your My Number card at City Office.

Cancel your My Number card before leaving Japan at the city office. You can do this on the day you file your move-out notice. Interesting fact: If you return to Japan, the city office will issue the same number to you again. 

13. Lastly, turn in your residence card at the airport. 

At the airport, submit your residence card to the immigration officer at passport control. 

👉 Learn about luggage delivery services in Japan!

YouTuber The Japanese Ways gives a quick round-up of the above points in the following video.

Frequently asked questions about leaving Japan permanently

We get asked these questions a lot. In case you're wondering about these issues too, we've included them below: 

I'm a permanent resident leaving Japan. What will happen to my PR status? 

If you are a permanent resident and you do not apply for a re-entry permit when leaving Japan, your permanent resident status will be revoked. By obtaining a re-entry permit, you can keep your permanent resident status for up to 5 years without entering Japan (so long as your residence card remains valid during this time). 

Additionally, you can renew your re-entry permit for an additional year at a Japanese embassy or consulate while abroad. Please see "Application for re-entry permission," Immigration Services Agency of Japan. 

Hitoshi Oishi, Solicitor & Immigration Lawyer, further explains, “To keep PR, you don’t need to have an address in Japan. However, you have to renew your residence card every 7 years, and to renew it, you have to come back here. So, be careful about managing your schedule.”

If you are uncertain of your plans and wish to keep your options open, you will want to apply for a re-entry permit before leaving Japan.

Who can I appoint as my tax representative when leaving Japan? 

The National Tax Agency states that a tax representative can be any resident in Japan, whether paid or unpaid. However, because they must submit documents on your behalf, you should choose someone who is comfortable reading and writing Japanese. A common practice is to appoint a tax accountant as your tax agent to handle your affairs after leaving Japan. 

Your tax agent will help you file the necessary paperwork to claim your lump-sum pension withdrawal's 20% tax refund. They can also assist if your residence tax bill arrives after you have departed Japan.   

To appoint a tax representative, you and your tax rep must fill out a form and submit it to the tax office presiding over your area. See also "Income tax information for an individual who will leave Japan," National Tax Agency.

Is it OK to leave Japan without paying my pension premiums? 

If you have unpaid premiums at the time of leaving Japan, you may be unable to claim the total lump sum amount to which you are otherwise entitled. (See our article "Japan's Pension Refund for Foreigners [Step-by-Step How to Withdraw]"). Additionally, Japan's National Pension Service can seize assets for payments in arrears. 

If you have no plans to return to Japan and have zero assets in Japan, the National Pension Service's ability to prosecute you will be limited. However, if you do plan to return to Japan in the future, then it is highly recommended you settle all your bills before leaving Japan. 

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the payment rate of National Pension Insurance premiums in June 2021 was 77%, but not all of the approx. 20% of non-payers were in arrears. The number of people who have not paid their premiums includes those who use exemption or deferment programs.

Can I keep my Japanese bank account open even after leaving Japan? 

Japan's Financial Services Agency requests foreign residents close their bank accounts when leaving Japan. Thus, as standard policy, most banks in Japan have a clause in their Terms of Use regarding closing one's bank account before departure. Please consult your financial institution if you wish to keep your bank account open because you have plans to return. 

To close a Japanese bank account, bring your bank book, debit card, seal, and ID information to your bank. Or determine if you can close your account online or by using a mail-in form. 

Do I need to pay residence tax before I leave Japan? 

Your residence tax bill is the tax you owe from the previous year’s income and arrives in June of each calendar year. If your departure date is before June, appoint a tax representative to pay your residence tax. If your departure date is after July 1, you have time to pay your bill beforehand. (Ask us, MailMate, to be your tax rep!)

How do I file a tenshutsu todoke (moving-out form)? 

Residents must file a moving-out form when leaving Japan. The timeframe for filing is within 14 days before departure. You can find the correct form on your city’s official website. Search for 転出届 + [your city’s name]. Download the file and fill it out. You can submit this document in person or post the notification.

Since several additional steps are required at the city office as you move out, we recommend going in person and taking care of the various other tasks in one go. 

Final thoughts: Japanese mail forwarding—simplified

Here's a case study that might resonate with you: Kate is leaving Japan, but the Japan Postal Service does not provide international mail forwarding. 

She knows there will be physical correspondence she will still receive after she is gone. 

So, wouldn't it be fantastic if there was a service that could scan her Japanese physical mail and upload it to the cloud so she could take care of her Japanese mail from anywhere? 

A bonus would be if they could translate, summarize, and help her deal with correspondence on an as-needed basis. 

Guess what? MailMate is a first-of-its-kind tech solution that does all this and more.

About MailMate!📬
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John Cross is a Canadian Expat living in Japan. "I ended up at Mailmate after I forgot to pay my electricity bill once and they turned off the electricity in my apartment. They probably sent a warning in the mail but I don't think I would have recognized it."

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