This article is meant for people planning a small, single-person move within Japan, with an emphasis on English-capable moving companies.
For information on re-locating to Japan from another country or moving out of Japan, please see: Moving to Japan: FAQs and How Much it Costs.
There are many ways to save money on moving in Japan: the most important is to get more than one estimate. There are also less expensive times of the year to move (June, October and November are considered off-peak) and less expensive days (weekdays) and times (in the afternoon).
Almost all the companies below are English-capable, but it still helps to know a few words and phrases.
I’d like to ask for an estimate: 見積もりお願いしたいです。(Mitsumori onegai shitaidesu.)
It’s also good to know that it’s ok to bargain!
Could you make it a little cheaper?: もう少し安くしてください (Mōsukoshi yasuku shite kudasai.)
For a Small, Single-Person Move
If you are a single person living in a studio or one-bedroom apartment, making a short-distance move within a city or to a nearby city, your least expensive option will likely be Akabou. A move within Tokyo with a small truck will cost about between ¥9,000 and ¥12,000.
Akabou operates nationwide. They also offer full-service moving, but are best known for doing small inexpensive moves where you help the driver load and unload the truck. If you have heavier items like a small fridge or couch, you should plan on lending a hand with lifting.
However, to get an estimate and set up an appointment, you will need enough Japanese ability to be able to explain where you’ll be moving from and to and how much stuff you’ll need to be moved.
Online Estimate (in Japanese): Akabou Online Estimate Form
Phone Estimate (in Japanese): 0120-400-111
Medium to Big Move with a Full-Service Moving Company
There are literally hundreds of moving companies in Japan, from small independent movers to nationwide full-service companies. Below are the major full-service movers with nationwide branches.
If you are planning a medium to big move (two- to three-bedrooms), it may make sense to go with a full-service company. They will handle the entire move: from laying down protective mats on the floors and door jams in order to protect the apartment, to taping the corners of cabinets and wrapping your TV and fridge to prevent dents. With a full-service mover, you are not expected to help with the move. They will move your possessions from point-to-point and place your furniture exactly where you want it.
Even if you are a single person doing a smaller move, it is not prohibitively expensive to use a full-service moving company, but it is more expensive than using Akabou.
The approximate cost for a single-person move with a full-service company is between ¥27,000 and ¥33,000 depending on the amount of things you are moving. Longer distance moves (from part of Japan to another) will also significantly raise the cost.
If you have less than two cubic meters or about ten cardboard boxes worth of things to move, many moving companies also offer a tanshin (単身, singles) service for between ¥10,000 to ¥12,000 for a short-distance move within a city. Your things will basically be delivered by courier service to your new apartment.
Almost all moving companies also offer student discounts, called gakuwari (学割).
To get an estimate you will sometimes need a little Japanese ability, although some companies and branches and some moving crews will have English capability.
Companies with English capability are indicated below in the individual descriptions.
Yamato is Japan’s largest door-to-door delivery company, known for their friendly service and careful handling of packages (symbolized by the “black mama cat carrying her kitten” corporate symbol).
Yamato is also a full-service moving company. That is, they were until the end of August 2018. In July, Yamato admitted to overcharging corporate moving service clients by ¥1.7 billion over the past two years and suspended corporate services as a result. It seems the company has also suspended its individual/family moving service and is not currently taking new applications.
Yamato does offer English service. (This page will be updated once the company re-starts service for individual/family moves): Yamato Moving in English
Nittsu is a full-service logistics and courier company that also offers moving services, both internationally and in Japan. You can contact them in English using the link below.
Nittsu Nippon Express Moving Service: Nittsu Contact Info in English
Art Hikkoshi Center (In English, the company brands itself as “Best Service” moving): Best Service Moving (In English)
Art Hikkoshi Estimate by Phone: 0123-81-0754 (in English)
Art Hikkoshi Estimate by Phone: 0120-77-2626 (in Japanese)
Sakai Hikkoshi Center Website (in Japanese)
Sakai Hikkoshi Estimate by Phone: 0120-00-1141 (in Japanese)
Kokusai Express Limited is a logistics company that also offers moving services in English.
Kokusai Express Moving Service in Japan (in English)
Companies Advertising Services in English
Tokyo moving companies advertising services in English
Kansai Area (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto) companies advertising services in English
You may also be interested in: How much does it cost to move to Japan?
Photo: Govinda Sharma for Real Estate Japan