Moving To Japan – a checklist

Apple Reminders App IconWhile planning to move to Japan, a dream whose fulfillment has taken a year and a half from inception to reality, I kept an ever-growing and morphing to-do list of things I knew I would have to eventually tackle.

Whenever thoughts came to mind like “I’m going to need a Japanese phone number, how is that going to work?” I’d put it down as a to-do item and then basically forget it. Later, I’d idly revisit and rearrange items on the list. When the time was right for me to address one, I did.

Here is the list I eventually ended up with, in chronological order of completion. Note: often items later in the list began much earlier and took a very long time to complete.

  1. Number crunch – start a budget
    • How much do I make now (both currencies)?
    • How much will rent be in Japan?
    • How much for expenses back home (storage, etc.)?
    • How much left over for fun/travel?
  2. What about USA taxes?
  3. Call 401(k) company, find out what happens to unvested employer contributions when I quit.
  4. What about Japan taxes?
  5. Get passport renewed
  6. Update music library
  7. Make copies of passport
    • Leave copies at home in USA
    • Leave copies in apartment in Japan
  8. Learn how to make Chipotle burrito bowls at home.
  9. Make sure iPhone will work in Japan
  10. Scan passport and other documents and send to Japanese employer to begin work on Certificate of Eligibility.
  11. Notify bank and credit card fraud protection departments that I’ll be going overseas.
  12. Find and secure a temporary place to stay while signing paperwork for permanent residence.
  13. Secure Airfare.
  14. Secure portable internet in Japan.
  15. Eat Little Caesar’s Italian Cheesy Bread one last time.
  16. Schedule all my remaining PTO up to the day before my plane leaves.
    • This way I can still be an official employee a little while after I’m gone. Easier transition.
  17. Web check-in to flights.
  18. Find and secure a place to live
    • Still have to sign paperwork when I get there.
  19. Get “vacation overrides” for prescriptions and pick up multiple months in advance.
  20. Telephone – arrange pick up of sim card
    • Went with Mobal Narita – Free rental, free incoming calls, free incoming SMS, ¥216/min outgoing calls, ¥135/msg outgoing SMS. Perfect.
    • My connectivity plan (deserves its own post). Basically: iPhone connected to mobile wifi from Let’s Internet (carried everywhere I go) + Mobal Narita SIM for phone calls to a Japanese number + Google Voice forwarding to my Japanese number so I keep my number in the States.
  21. Telephone – port number to Google Voice
  22. Telephone – cancel Verizon account
    • Early cancellation fee = $350 – ($10 x number of full months since contract signed)
  23. Setup blog and start blogging.
  24. Get Skyliner ticket from Narita terminal to Airbnb room.
    • Must purchase 20 or fewer days prior to flight date.
  25. See the dentist
  26. Send health check information to employer
    • Japanese Ministry of Health requires a very thorough health exam be submitted when onboarding new employees. Includes chest X-ray, ECG, vision, hearing, physical measurements, etc.
  27. Get omiyage from my hometown to take
  28. Give my car to my sister for safe-keeping and driving if she wants.
  29. As my friend Tony encouraged me, Turn risk and sacrifice into victory.


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