The Joys of Condo-hunting in Japan

My wife and I are looking to buy a condo, and we found a couple of really nice-looking ones in Yashio, a station about 20 minutes from Akihabara on the Tsukuba Express train line. One of the ones we found, a place called Comfill Yashio, was surprisingly cheap, and when we asked the salesperson why the price was so low, the only thing she could come up with was, “Actually, our company made a mistake. We set the price much too low for such a nice building.” My wife started interrogating her,  and when she asked about why it had double-pane glass (quite rare in Japan), it came out that there is a highway right beside it, and maybe that was the reason. (She also told us the apartment we were interested in was facing away from the highway when it was actually facing right toward it!) We also found out later that it was zoned commercial rather than residential, so anyone could build a factory practically next door if they felt like it. However, another big reason for the low price may be this building right here.

According to the signs outside it, this is an Aleph (formerly Aum Shinrikyo, the doomsday cult that carried out sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995) dojo (training center). They say things like “Aum, get out of your den fast! Get out! Get out!” or “This is one of Aum’s dens.”

I have to say that apartment hunting in Japan is quite an experience. At another place we looked at we noticed that the furniture in the model room seemed really small. It turns out that a lot of places put smaller furniture in the rooms to make them look bigger.

At another place we went to, they proudly showed off the entrance area with its wide sidewalks and parking area, without telling us that it’s scheduled to be removed when the road gets widened in a few years. Apparently, they tell you this on the day you sign the contract.

Another thing that makes it really fun is that there is a huge preschool shortage, and we’ve had to eliminate a lot of good-looking rooms because the waiting lists at all the area preschools were too long.

Anyway, the search continues.

Uniquely Japanese Job Interview Questions

On the surface, Japanese job interviews are a lot like Western ones, and the interviewers ask you the regular questions about where you worked before, your strengths and weaknesses, and the reason you applied for the job. But there are also a good number of questions that you’d probably never hear in other countries. When I changed jobs recently, I noticed that a lot of the questions I got asked dealt with how I felt about living and working in Japan, rather than focusing on my qualifications for the job. When Japanese companies hire a non-Japanese staff member, they’re often worried about whether the person will fit in with their coworkers, so there tend to be a lot of “Do-you-like-Japan?” type questions that are a really important part of their decision.

I think that there are two main things employers are worried about in Japan: 1) Is the person going to get along with his/her Japanese coworkers and not cause friction? and 2) Is the person going to stick around? When they ask you about what you like about Japan, what you think about working at a Japanese company, etc. they want to hear how much you know about Japanese business culture and make sure that you’re not going to head back to your home country in six months. Foreigners who have alienated all their Japanese coworkers, and people disappearing back to their home countries are huge problems, so it’s really important to convince a potential employer that you’re going to be able to get along with people and that you’re going to be around long enough to make it worth their while hiring and training you.
When I was helping do interviews at my old company, I sometimes heard  people saying they came to Japan because they wanted to date Japanese women or that something to keep in mind when working at a Japanese company is that Japanese people are uncreative. Obviously, this kind of answer isn’t going to make a good impression on a potential employer.

Below are some questions that often get asked at Japanese job interviews, sample answers, and important points to remember when answering. I don’t know if the answers are great or not, but I got a job in quite a competitive situation recently, so I hope  they’re at least worth reading.

Q. What do you think is important for foreigners to keep in mind when working at a Japanese company? Read more

Stuff I Wish I Knew About Japanese Preschools a Year Ago

If you’re a parent in Japan, I’d like to tell you about a few lessons I learned the hard way related to Japanese preschools:

1. If you want to go to a private preschool, call the school the day your baby is born because there are incredibly long waiting lists. A lot of parents seem to try to plan their delivery dates so that the child is born early in the year to get ahead on the waiting list. Our son was born in September, and by the time we got around to applying for a preschool in November, we were number 25 on the waiting list.

2. The reason you want to call a private preschool is because if the one my son goes to is typical, public preschools are insane:

a) They take my son’s temperature three times a day. If it’s over 37.5 in the morning (my parenting books says that’s the upper limit of a normal temperature) he is not accepted, and if at any time it goes over 38 we have to pick him up, even if it goes back down a few minutes later (which it often does).

b) Every time he sneezes or gets a pimple on his little toe, they insist we take him to the doctor, even though the doctor rolls his eyes every time he sees us and says, “Wow, your pre-school is really strict.” They have also rejected kids even when the doctor gave permission for them to go back.

c) They don’t seem to understand the concept of “day care,” because they’re constantly accusing my wife of being a bad mother when she works overtime or applies for extended-hours daycare.

d) One teacher got angry at my wife for speaking English to my son because she claims he doesn’t understand Japanese as well as the other kids (ignoring that fact that he was the second-youngest in the class).

e) They’re constantly telling us how to raise our child.

f) They give us lectures when we’re (literally) five minutes late picking him up.

Other reasons that I wish we’d gotten into the private preschool near my apartment are that their opening hours are much longer, they let you drop off your child any time during the day (making it much easier to take him to the doctor and letting you use a half- rather than a full-day off), they’re just generally a lot more flexible.

But then again, if we’d gotten into the private preschool, my son wouldn’t have gotten to wear this cool disaster hat after the March 11 earthquake, so I guess that’s something.

No More Mikan Roulette

After years in Japan, I decided it’s time to stop playing mikan (aka satsuma orange) roulette and figure out how to get a sweet,  tasty orange.

According to this homepage (link is in Japanese only), there’s more to a delicious mikan than just sweetness. It’s the balance between citric acid and sweetness.

Apparently, you want an orange with a sweetness factor of around 10 and a citrus acid level of 1.2. So how can you tell which oranges are going to have the right balance of sweetness and citrus?

Size: The big ones always cost more so they must taste better, right? Well, actually the small ones are sweeter, so go for the “M” or “S” size.

Shape: There are some varieties of mikans that are meant to be round, but in general, flattish ones are better. It’s also good to look at the bottom because is should be slightly indented. Among the fast-ripening varieties the ones that should be more roundish are called wasei unshuu (Japanese: 早生温州) and the ones that should be flat are called gokuwasei unshuu (Japanese: 極早生温州).

Color: You can sometimes find greenish mikans early in the season that are sweet, but in general, the darker the orange, the sweeter it is. Apparently, mikans early in the season sometimes have orange coloring added (link is in Japanese only), so they are going to be sour. Most places stop adding coloring to mikans that are produced after the beginning of November, but there are some that do it throughout the season, so coloring isn’t the best way to choose an orange.
They say you can tell that a mikan has been colored by looking at the stem. If the stem is really yellowish near the fruit and brown at the top, it’s probably had coloring added.

Hardness: Juicy mikans are not necessarily sweet, so choosing one with a loose skin or that is very soft doesn’t mean you’re going to get a sweet one. Usually the juicy ones are less flavorful. Touch the skin, and it should be a bit soft, but with resilience. Ones with hard skin are usually not ripe yet.

Stem: Surprisingly, all the homepages I checked emphasized that examining the stem is an most important step in ensuring you’re going to get a tasty orange. Thin stems are better because they come from thin branches, which apparently makes them sweeter. Also, check the stem’s color. Mikans’ stems turn from green to yellow as they ripen, so a yellowish stem means the orange will be more flavorful. Darker stems mean less taste.


Happy Pineapple Day!

On August 7 this month, I found a huge bunch of about 15 bananas for only 120 yen at my local supermarket. Looking around, I noticed a sign saying that Aug. 8 was “Banana no hi” (Banana Day). This is a kind of Japanese wordplay involving numbers where the numbers’ sounds are used to make words. For example, my old homestay families phone number was 931-8782, which they remembered as “kusai iyana yatsu.” It meant “a stinking jerk.” The numbers it is made of are: 9=ku, 3=sa (san), 1=i (ichi), 8=ya (hachi), 7=na (nana), 8=(i)ya (hachi), 2=tsu (two).

Here is a list of some of the other dates on the Japanese calendar. You can often save money if you go to a store looking for an associated product. For example, on August 29 this month, you might want to go out for yakiniku (Korean barbecue) because many shops are likely to have special discounts on this day.

Jan 3
Hitomi no Hi (Pupil Day)
1=hito, 3=mi
Celebrating glasses, contact lenses, and eye care in general

Jan 9
Kaze no Hi (Cold Day)
Commemorating the death of a famous sumo wrestler named Tanikaze in 1795, who died of an infection.

Jan 13
Tabako no Hi (Tobacco Day)
Celebrating the introduction of Peace cigarettes in 1946

Jan 15
Adaruto no Hi (Adult Day)
Celebrating the performance of Japan’s first strip show in 1947.

Jan 27
Kyuukon no Hi (Marriage Proposal Day)
Celebrating the first matrimonial advertisement in a newspaper in 1833.

Feb. 9
Fugu no Hi (Puffer Fish Day)
2=fu, 9=gu

Feb. 12
Burajya- no Hi (Brassiere Day)
Celebrating the day in 1913 that the brassiere was patented in America.

Mar. 8
Mitsubachi no Hi (Honey Day, lit. bee hive day)
3=mitsu 8=bachi

Mar. 9
Zakkoku no Hi (Grains and Cereals Day)
3=sa 9=koku

Mar. 13
Sandoicchi no Hi (Sandwich Day)
1=ichi 3=san (the ichi is “sandwiched” between the threes)

Mar. 20
Wain Day (Wine Day)
Both “20” and “wine” are pronounced the same in French

Apr. 3
Ingen Mame no Hi (Kidney Bean Day)
Ingen sounds like the name of a monk ( who died on April 3) in 1673.

Apr. 29 – Youniku no Hi (Mutton Day)
4=you, 2=ni, 9=ku

May 8 – Gouya no Hi (Bitter Melon Day)
5=go, 8=ya

May 30
Gomi Zero no Hi (No Garbage Day)
5=5, 3=mi

June 16
Wagashi no Hi (Japanese Confectioneries Day)
Celebrating an offering of Wagashi that was believed to have stopped a plague in the Heian period.

July 4
Nashi no Hi (Pear Day)
7=na, 4=shi

July 8
Nanpa no Hi (Picking Up Women Day)
7=nana (nan), 8=ha (pa)

July 10
Natto no Hi (Fermented Soy Bean Day)
7=na 10=tou

July 21
Onani- no Hi (Masturbation Day)
0=o, 7=na, 2=ni, 1=i

July 22
Nattsu no Hi (Nuts Day)
7=na 2=tsu (There are two “tsu’s” in nattsu.)

July 23
Tenpura no Hi (Tenpura Day)
Hottest time of the year after end of the rainy season, so tempura is eaten to prevent heat exhaustion

July 27
Because a watermelon’s pattern is like a braided rope, which is pronounced “tsuna” (2=tsu, 7=na).

Aug 3
Hachimitsu no Hi (Honey Day)
8=hachi, 3=mitsu

Aug 6
Hamu no Hi (Ham Day)
8=ha, 6=mu

Aug 7
Banana no Hi (Banana Day)
8=(ba, 7=na

Aug 17
Painappuru no Hi (Pineapple Day)
8=pa 1=i 7=na

Aug 19
Haiku no Hi (Haiku Day)
8=ha, 1=i

Aug 29
Yakiniku no Hi (Korean Barbecue Day)
8=ya, 2=ni, 9=ku

Aug 31
Yasai no Hi (Vegetable Day)
8=ya, 3=sa, i=i

Oct 8
Tofu no Hi (Tofu Day)
10=to, 8=fu

Oct 9
Dogu no Hi (Tool Day)
10=do, 9=gu

Nov 3
Mikan no Hi (Mandarin Orange Day)
Because ii mikan (good mandarin orange) sounds like ii mikka (1=i, 1=i, 3=mikka)

Nov 10
Toire no Hi (Toilet Day)
Comes from ii toire (1=i, 1=i, 10=to)

Nov 14
Pachinko Day
Celebrating the establishment of the Zenkoku Yuugi Kyoudo Kumiai Rengokai (National Games Cooperative Association) in 1979, as well as the opening of the first pachinko parlor in 1930 on that date.

Dec 21
Enkyori Renai no Hi (Long Distance Love Day)
Because in 1221, the one’s are separated and the twos are in the middle together.

There’s more information about these days on the following homepages:

Average Rents in Tokyo by Area

Tokyo is one of the world’s most expensive cities, and rents can be astronomical, but if you’re a little bit careful in deciding where you live, it can also be surprisingly cheap. This chart is from the homepage of a Japanese real-estate agent called Homes Chintai that shows the average monthly rents for various apartment sizes throughout the Greater Tokyo Area. It goes from cheapest  to most expensive and there’s a huge variation in the 70,000 yen you’d pay for a two-bedroom apartment in Hachioji City to the 194,500 yen you’d pay in Minato Ward downtown (not to mention the fact that you’d probably get an extra 20+ square meters of living space in Hachioji).

The website has similar charts for all areas of Japan, but is in Japanese only.

The first number in each cell is the average rent in tens of thousands of yen (E.g. 3.73=37,300 yen) and the one in brackets is the number of apartments the company has within ten minutes’ walk of the nearest station.

Area One room 1K 1LDK・2K・2DK 2LDK・3K・3DK 3LDK・4K・4DK
Hamura City
3.73 (11)
5.01 (67)
6.23 (81)
7.31 (81)
8.18 (16)
Ome City
3.77 (84)
4.64 (198)
5.81 (129)
6.86 (121)
8.33 (37)
Hino City
4.46 (356)
5.54 (1023)
7.26 (385)
9.38 (255)
11.45 (133)
Akishima City
4.47 (69)
5.81 (483)
7.07 (146)
9.04 (91)
10.60 (34)
Tama City
4.50 (138)
5.55 (454)
8.40 (163)
10.04 (86)
12.88 (66)
Hachioji City
4.56 (632)
5.36 (1658)
7.00 (535)
8.50 (409)
10.77 (214)
Higashi-Yamato City
4.61 (16)
5.33 (101)
7.00 (128)
8.22 (83)
9.92 (12)
Fussa City
4.65 (51)
5.36 (173)
6.14 (102)
7.24 (82)
9.62 (20)
Kodaira City
4.66 (245)
5.74 (672)
7.46 (263)
9.88 (188)
12.54 (95)
Kiyose City
4.73 (52)
5.99 (196)
7.05 (71)
8.57 (35)
9.46 (17)
Higashi Murayama City
4.83 (184)
5.51 (367)
6.80 (270)
8.63 (202)
10.39 (77)
Higashi Kurume City
4.98 (27)
5.59 (208)
7.37 (66)
10.09 (53)
11.36 (36)
Kunitachi City
5.25 (112)
6.19 (548)
8.56 (179)
11.04 (137)
12.91 (143)
Machida City
5.38 (273)
5.97 (1326)
7.29 (242)
10.04 (163)
12.81 (119)
Kokubunji City
5.42 (391)
6.15 (814)
8.44 (326)
11.24 (162)
14.50 (64)
Inagi City
5.44 (39)
5.55 (241)
7.82 (144)
11.60 (358)
13.78 (167)
Fuchu City
5.46 (310)
6.34 (1429)
8.67 (667)
11.30 (438)
13.03 (183)
Tachikawa City
5.48 (367)
6.08 (1151)
7.90 (514)
9.71 (276)
11.25 (110)
Nishi Tokyo City
5.49 (219)
6.41 (790)
8.04 (305)
9.45 (191)
12.49 (159)
Katsushika Ward
5.51 (687)
6.43 (2186)
8.06 (1275)
10.87 (539)
12.84 (195)
Koganei City
5.68 (173)
6.51 (705)
8.84 (230)
12.06 (138)
15.15 (70)
Komae City
5.74 (61)
6.76 (352)
9.61 (138)
12.28 (47)
16.05 (37)
Chofu City
5.92 (344)
6.83 (1840)
9.66 (820)
12.50 (569)
14.63 (312)
Itabashi Ward
6.12 (1873)
7.01 (6627)
9.72 (2810)
11.66 (951)
14.87 (540)
Adachi Ward
6.17 (982)
6.52 (3588)
8.14 (2363)
11.06 (1150)
14.47 (457)
Edogawa Ward
6.18 (528)
6.85 (2916)
8.93 (1457)
11.43 (881)
13.52 (276)
Nerima Ward
6.25 (1484)
6.98 (6059)
9.71 (2309)
11.89 (1803)
14.29 (971)
Suginami Ward
6.42 (2472)
7.60 (7609)
11.26 (2531)
14.81 (1039)
18.89 (564)
Kita Ward
6.47 (1358)
7.41 (4784)
10.26 (1723)
13.75 (837)
15.74 (275)
Mitaka City
6.60 (315)
7.53 (871)
10.81 (326)
16.13 (109)
19.54 (60)
Toshima Ward
6.67 (2315)
7.94 (5835)
11.39 (1915)
16.18 (798)
20.22 (263)
Nakano Ward
6.69 (1817)
7.86 (4537)
11.80 (2170)
15.30 (763)
17.71 (346)
Arakawa Ward
6.77 (505)
7.74 (1721)
10.36 (867)
14.18 (486)
16.47 (144)
Ota Ward
6.90 (1560)
7.78 (6729)
11.06 (2852)
14.66 (1093)
19.04 (669)
Setagaya Ward
7.19 (3387)
8.01 (9818)
12.69 (4070)
17.08 (1973)
22.84 (1102)
Musashino City
7.24 (448)
7.60 (1679)
12.04 (540)
16.56 (232)
21.12 (85)
Sumida Ward
7.28 (961)
8.21 (4071)
11.03 (1451)
13.33 (443)
17.10 (187)
Bunkyo Ward
7.39 (1486)
8.37 (4462)
13.78 (1786)
19.29 (1032)
26.62 (447)
Koto Ward
7.68 (870)
8.60 (4394)
12.08 (1391)
16.91 (678)
18.20 (418)
Taito Ward
7.86 (848)
8.98 (3242)
12.06 (1664)
15.45 (559)
19.53 (138)
Shinjuku Ward
8.15 (2887)
8.87 (7763)
14.00 (2698)
19.73 (961)
26.72 (375)
Shinagawa Ward
8.32 (1783)
8.59 (4788)
14.04 (2166)
18.90 (831)
23.44 (393)
Meguro Ward
8.79 (1449)
9.49 (3517)
15.94 (1683)
21.71 (781)
30.78 (414)
Shibuya Ward
9.65 (1819)
10.21 (4184)
17.91 (2506)
25.40 (1001)
36.53 (399)
Chuo Ward
9.87 (731)
9.86 (2821)
15.42 (2510)
20.86 (943)
26.34 (239)
Chiyoda Ward
10.38 (434)
10.13 (1241)
17.99 (618)
26.58 (225)
53.60 (100)
Minato Ward
11.47 (1578)
11.21 (4273)
19.45 (3344)
29.33 (1572)
42.86 (535)

Urawaza – Japanese Living Tips

An urawaza is a helpful hint or secret technique for doing something. I recently found this interesting site, the Urawaza/Ura Jyouhou Blog (in Japanese only) which has some uniquely Japanese ones.

How to stand stably on the train without a strap!

If you stand on a bus or train without the strap, most people spread their feet apart and do their best to keep their balance.

If possible, spread your feet with one forward and one back, but stand with the ball of your back foot pointed outwards and it’s extremely stable.

Also, if you relax and don’t lock your knees, it will act as a sort of cushion and the vibration won’t be a problem.

Also face the seat, and when you grab the strap or when the train starts, if you shift your weight forward, and when the train stops, shift it backward, it will support you.

Also, when the train curves to the right, shift your center of gravity to the right, and when it curves to the left, shift your weight to the left.

Here is the original post.

Eating sushi in the right order to make it taste better.

When you eat sushi, start with the light, simple ones, move onto the boiled stuff, then to thingswith strong flavors, and finally makizushi (sushi wrapped in seaweed). The reason is that if you eat fatty foods first, the fat will stay in your mouth, and your tongue will lose its sensitivity.

Start with white fish like tai (sea bream) and hirame (flounder), and eat stronger flavors like toro (tuna) and uni (sea urchin) later. Also, after eating food with strong flavors, take a pinch of gari (pickled ginger) and drink some tea to refresh your mouth so you can enjoy the sushi again.

Then, finish up with some refreshing makizushi.

Sushi is essentially a casual food.

There are no formal rules for eating it. Of course, everyone has his own order for eating sushi, and you should eat what you want to eat first.

If you want to try various kinds of sushi, eat one piece, then eat a piece of giner, and your mouth will be refreshed and you can check out the various flavors one by one.
Here is the original post.

Saving Money at the Post Office

The post office has a lot of services for keeping prices down. Why not make use of them?

You can send an “eco-hagaki” (Eco-friendly postcard) for 45 yen.
Regular postcards cost 50 yen, but eco-hagaki, where one-third of the address side contains an advertisement, can be bought for 45 yen. If you’re using them to enter contests or that sort of thing, it has enough space.

A mini-letter (aerogram) will save you 20 yen compared with one in an envelope.
Fold the letter in two, and glue it. You can post it for 60 yen. Each one saves you 20 yen.

You can exchange ruined postcards for just 5 yen.
If you make a mistake when writing a postcard, take it to the post office, and you can exchange it for a new one for five yen each.

Buy stamps cheaply at kinken shops (ticket shops).
If you want to buy stamps, buy them at kinken shops. They sell them in sheets, but you can buy them for five-percent less than at the post office.

Send packages of under 30 kg for a flat rate of 500 yen!
If the weight is less than 30 kg, and it fits in a special envelope (248x340mm) you can send it anywhere in Japan for 500 yen. It’s often less expensive than a courier.

Get a 50-yen discount on a yuu-pakku if the address on the label is the same.
If you send packages to the same person several times a year, you can get a 50-yen discount on yuu-pakku with the same address. Be sure to get address labels in advance!

Here is the original post.

How to wake your legs up as fast as possible after they have become numb from sitting Japanese style

On the way to standing up after sitting Japanese-style, first, just put your weight on your toes and sit on your heels. Stay in that position for a while. It helps get rid of the needles and pins.

My former tea-ceremony teacher taught me that standing up quickly can lead to injury. You can prevent numbness by waiting a while before standing.

Here is the original post.

How to increase  your chance of getting a Shinkansen seat when you don’t have a reservation

When you save money by buying a non-reserved seat on the Shinkansen, you don’t know if you can get a seat or not. Everyone worries about that, don’t they?

When that happens, try this method.

On the shinkansen, basically, odd numbered cars have toilets and sinks, so even-numbered cars have more seats than odd-numbered ones.

Also, passengers tend to want to get off the train at exits near the stairs.

Therefore, you can get on the train fast at exits far from the stairs.

Based on these two ideas, passengers who get on even-numbered cars that are far from the stairs have a higher chance of getting seats, right?

On top of that, unreserved seats tend to be in cars one to three, but there are sometimes unreserved seats in the back.

In that case, there is a higher chance that the seats in the cars at the back will be empty, so be sure to check the information board. It’s a matter of chance, so you aren’t guaranteed a seat, but it’s worth a try!

Here is the original post.

How to tell if someone is still talking on the phone after you get a busy signal.

When the line is busy, you can get an audio message when they get off the line. That way, you can call your friend without missing the timing.

It’s not a secret technique; it’s a free NTT service.

With this service, when the line is busy, if you dial 159 within one minute and push 1, the number will be registered. When the call is finished, the user will be contacted, and a voice message will let you know that the call is over. One does not need to apply for the service in advance.

After you have heard the message, if you hang up, dial 159, and then 3, you will be able to call the person.

When the number is on INS Net, a toll-free number, a cell-phone, or a PHS, it is not possible to register it.
There are times when it cannot be used when large numbers of people are calling, such as for ticket reservations, etc.

Here is the original post.

How Safe is Your City from Earthquakes?

earthquake map

Most people don’t think of Shizuoka as a dangerous place, but according to the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, the odds are nearly 90 percent that there’s going to be a major earthquake there within the next 30 years.
The agency defines a major earthquake as over 6-lower on the Shindo scale. A 6-lower is basically when there’s a chance of furniture falling, windows breaking, less-stable buildings collapsing and fires breaking out.

As far as I can tell, the scary predictions you hear about a 70 percent chance of a 7.2  earthquake in Tokyo in the next 30 years are for offshore quakes.

Akita                            7.7

Aomori                         2.0

Asahikawa                   0.2

Chiba                            64.0

Fukui                             1.7

Fukuoka                      3.8

Fukushima                  0.9

Gifu                               17.0

Hakodate                    0.5

Hiroshima                   19.4

Kagoshima                  15.8

Kanazawa                   1.8

Kobe                             17.7

Kochi                             62.3

Kofu                              55.3

Kumamoto                 7.1

Kyoto                            14.6

Maebashi                    2.5

Matsue                        2.1

Matsuyama                33.5

Mito                              31.6

Miyazaki                      45.5

Morioka                       0.7

Nagano                        12.2

Nagasaki                      1.3

Nagoya                        44.4

Naha                             24.9

Nara                              67.1

Niigata                          7.6

Oita                               48.3

Okayama                     22.3

Osaka                           59.5

Otsu                              12.1

Saga                              5.0

Saitama                        22.7

Sapporo                       1.2

Sendai                          4.1

Shizuoka                      89.5

Takamatsu                  40.7

Tokushima                  59.9

Tokyo                           19.7

Tottori                          4.1

Toyama                        5.7

Tsu                                 85.2

Utsunomiya                 1.6

Wakayama                 47.5

Yamagata                    2.3

Yamaguchi                  3.0

Yokohama                  66.7

The information in this post is based on:

If you want more information about earthquake hazards, the best place is: J-SHIS (Japan Seismic Hazard Information System). It’s all in Japanese, but it’s pretty obvious from the map:

There are some links to (slightly older) English-language documents from the agency here:

Moving on the Cheap in Japan

Moving in Japan can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. From full-service movers where a team of professionals will pack and unpack every single item you own to Akabo’s customer-assisted moves for 10,000 yen or less, there are an incredible variety of options.
I’m moving in a couple of weeks, and last Saturday, we had four moving companies in to give us estimates (the joys of having a penny-pinching Osakan wife). We finally got a company to move all the stuff from our three bedroom apartment for just 40,000 yen (we are just moving to the next ward), which was quite shocking for me, because I thought it might be around 100,000 and I thought I’d share a little of what I learned.

1. Get multiple estimates. All of the companies came down in price when she mentioned that we were getting multiple estimates. She was careful not to tell them exactly how much the other companies had offered though, because if she mentioned a price, they might argue about how their service was better or included different things.

2. The cheapest times of the year to move are June (due to the rainy season and it being after the peak), October, and November. The most expensive times are March and April when everyone is moving because of company transfers, during summer vacation in July and August, and Golden Week.

3. Weekends are the most expensive, of course, but Fridays can also be expensive because some people move then so they can have the weekend to unpack. You can get discounts for moving on a Monday or Tuesday.

4. The absolute best way to get a deep, deep discount is to say, “I’ll move whenever you have a truck available.” A lot of companies want to keep their workers busy, so if there is a day when they don’t have any moves, they’ll move you for little or no profit just to keep their staff working. If you tell them a five day period that you can be available it’s a great way to save.

5. You can get a discount of 10,000 yen or more if you’re willing to move in the afternoon. A lot of moves finish around 2 or 3 PM, so if the company can get an extra move in during the day, they’ll lower the price a lot.

6. There are price-focused and service-focused companies. Of the big five, Kuroneko (Black Cat), Nittsu (Nippon Express), and Art (0-123) are service focused, and Arisan Ma-ku (Ant) and Sakai (Panda) are price-focused. The service-focused ones tried to sell us on things like having a guy come to wait for the gas man, and special hanger boxes so you don’t have to fold your clothes, and cost about 30 percent more. Um, no thanks.
The price focused ones are still highly professional, and are, of course, bonded and insured. If you’re getting multiple estimates, it’s better to have the quality-focused companies come first so you can compare prices more easily.

7. You can often get a 2000 yen or so discount if you’re willing to take used boxes.

8. Here are a couple of phrases that my wife used during the negotiations:
*Hasuu wa jama janai desu ka? – Wouldn’t it be easier to calculate if you rounded down the figure? This seems to be something all the companies expect and they all did it willingly, so we are moving for 40,000 rather than 42,000.
*Dekireba, 4-man endai ni shite hoshii na. (If possible, I’d like it to be under 50,000.)

9. Different companies charge for different things. We are moving into a highrise building, and two of the companies said they had to charge us extra because it would slow things down using the elevator. Sakai and Arisan Mark had flatter rates.

10. This is a good website for comparing moving companies: (Japanese only).

This is what I’ll be seeing from my living room. Now a beautiful view, perhaps, but an interesting one.
river harp view

Here are a couple of  options we didn’t use but are great if you don’t have much stuff and are on a really tight budget:
Akabo – This is an extremely cheap option if you don’t have much stuff and are willing to help load the truck. I used them a couple of times when I first came to Japan, and it was usually just under 10,000 yen for a move inside the city.  The trucks are quite small, so you will probably only be able to fit a single person’s belongings in them. I always found the drivers to be very helpful and friendly, and was really pleased with the service.

Couriers – For people who are moving between cities, courier companies like Kuroneko Yamato (Black Cat) will send your stuff in a “tanshin pakku” (singles’ pack) for as little as 12,000 yen. For example, sending a two-cubic meter box that you could put the contents of a six-mat room into from Tokyo to Osaka would cost about 30,000 yen.