- Organize the teaching materials you used for your successor.
- Designate a Tax Representative (for your The Pension Refund).
- Cancel your newspaper and magazine subscriptions, your keitai contract, your Internet service contract, car insurance contract, etc.
- Pay your bills! (Your office should help you with this.)
- Electricity, gas, and water bills (Arrange ahead of time for your meters to be read on the last day. The bill can be paid on the spot.)
- Domestic and International telephone bills (Do you own the phone line? Are you selling it to your predecessor, or are you cancelling it?)
- Other (Internet, keitai, satellite TV, etc.)
- Transfer bank balances and/or close bank accounts.
- Return your medical insurance card to your Contracting Organization.
- Leave your forwarding address with your office and the post office. If you leave Japan, the post office will only forward mail sent to you that has come from overseas. Mail from Japan will be returned to sender. If you stay in Japan, all your mail and parcels will be forwarded to you for up to one year. You can read more on their website: http://www.post.japanpost.jp/index.html(Japanese Only).
- Clean your apartment (Your Contracting Organization may also require that you have the futons cleaned and replace any damaged shoji or tatami.)
- Leave for your successor:
- All your contact information
- Town map and information about the local shops, restaurants, etc.
- Bus and train schedules
- List of emergency and work phone numbers
- Garbage arrangements: time and categories
- Copies and explanations of your bills
- Office/school seating chart with names, job titles, responsibilities
- Notes on projects, team teaching, class levels, lesson plans etc.
- Anything else you wish your predecessor had left you!
- Encourage at least one JTE to get in contact with the new ALT before they come to Japan so they will feel welcome.
- Be sure to tell your school not to throw out things in your apartment that you have left for your successor.
- Fill out a Notification (Change) of place of residence at your town hall (yakuba 役場)
- Hand in your Residency Card to immigration authorities at your port of exit.
Shipping stuff home
It's amazing how much stuff you have accumulated in so little time. If you're like most JETs, after you've sorted out that which you will give/sell to your successor and that which you're just going to throw away, you still have more treasures (or junk that you just can't seem to part with) than your suitcases can handle, and you will need to look into shipping it all home.
Post Office Options
- Surface Mail: This is the cheapest way (about 1/3 the cost of airmail) but may take a considerable amount of time to reach the destination (e.g. 2-3 months to the USA).
- Economy Air (SAL): These packages go by air, but not by express. The rates are more expensive than surface mail (but less than airmail), but travel time is considerably shorter. It takes roughly 3-7 days longer than normal airmail.
- Airmail: This service is expensive but fast. Parcels arrive within about a week.
Size restrictions vary depending on your destination. Most countries follow one of the following restrictions.
- Either the sum of all dimensions must not exceed 3 meters, and the length must not exceed 1.5m
- Or the sum of all dimensions must not exceed 2m and the length must not exceed 1.05m.
Shipping Books - M Yutai Senbin
There is a special rate for books (or any other printed matter) if they are sent in special mail bags (tokubetsu yuutai or "M bags"). You can send up to 30 kgs of printed matter (although some countries only allow 20 kgs [which is still a lot]). It's ¥134501 for 30 kgs which actually isn't that much less than the rate for regular sea mail (¥137501) , but it's a good, cheap way to send home your precious books. It's NOT quick, since essentially, it's glorified surface mail so expect anywhere from a month to two months for the arrival of your books.
Air, economy and surface parcels may be insured against loss or damage upon request at larger post offices. Ask for insured mail (保険付 hokentsuki). For parcels, the first ¥20,000 (value of the goods in the package) costs ¥400 to insure; each additional ¥20,000 costs ¥50. Costs may vary according to destination, so for more information, refer to this website: http://www.post.japanpost.jp/english/index.html
Other things to bear in mind when sending stuff home
- Useful Supplies: Check your post office or local supermarket for bubble wrap, newspaper, strong tape, scissors, permanent markers, and strong boxes.
- Forbidden Goods: You cannot send firearms, explosives, fireworks, weapons, fresh food, drugs, soil/plants, obscene materials, ammunition, or goods for resale.
- Preparing Packages: Label your boxes, and keep your own lists of what is in each (numbered) box. Keep non duty free goods on a separate list. List serial numbers of goods that have them.
- Large quantity discount: The post office offers a 10% discount if you mail ten or more packages at a time. (50 packages or more = a 20% discount.) And, instead of lugging all of your packages to the post office, you can call and set up a time with the post office for them to pick up packages from your apartment. Parcels in the same shipment going to different destinations are eligible for the discount as well. Send your things at the same time as a friend and save!
- Medicine: Make sure you bring any necessary prescriptions.
- Door-To-Door: The Post Office charges around ¥10,000 to ship a 20kg box DOOR TO DOOR. This is the maximum weight per box. There are also some restrictions on the size of your suitcase or box, so please check this with your post office.
- Cars: If you intend to ship a car, be careful how you go about it. It may take a considerable amount of time to organise before departure, and even once it arrives in your home country. There are formalities such as customs inspections to get through which can take up to 6 months.
List Of Shipping Companies
There are also a number of shipping companies that you can use. Many shipping companies don't deliver door-to-door, and you will need to consider how to get your baggage to and from their ports. They usually don't charge by weight, but by volume, so are worth using if you are sending a lot of weight or odd shaped or fragile items.
- Japan Express
- Nippon Express
- Nihon System Service
Website only available in Japanese.
- Japan Luggage Express Ltd
- Economove Japan Co Ltd
Apparently offers a 5% discount to those who use the "jetsetjapan" website.
- Shibusawa Moving Co.
- Allied Pickfords
Other Good Resources
- Japanese Post Office
- Gaijin Pot
This site has links to most shipping companies.
- The Excess Baggage Company
Doesn't offer door to door shipping.
- Jetta Express
Handles excess or unaccompanied baggage.
Most airline sites can give you information on excess baggage.
You are entitled to a one-way economy-class ticket directly to the airport from which you departed to come to Japan if you follow these three criteria.
- Complete your contract in full
- Leave Japan to return to your home country within one month of ending your contract
- Do not enter into a subsequent contract either with your host institution or a third party within a month of finishing your contract with JET.
Can I buy the ticket, or will it just be given to me?
Your contracting organization will select the type of ticket to be provided and may also select whether to provide an actual ticket or the equivalent amount of money. However this is at the discretion of each contracting organization/school.
I need to go home before my contract ends. Can I take leave and go home early?
Most BOEs require their JETs to stay until their contract ends before flying home. If you have a good reason and your BOE lets you take leave and go home early, they still might not pay for your flight home. Make sure you clarify everything with your BOE before making any plans.
I had to use unpaid leave earlier, and now my BOE won't buy me a return ticket
Most likely, your contract does not have any provinsions for unpaid leave. This means that if you miss work after running out of nenkyu, you technically are unable to complete your contract in full, and your BOE no longer owes you a ticket. For more information, see Unpaid Leave.
How do I get to the airport?
Your contracting organization is also responsible for your passage from the contracting organization to the international airport in Japan from which you will be leaving.
Can I fly back to a different airport?
If your home country changes while you are living in Japan, it is possible to change the final destination of your return flight, but not under any other circumstances. Also, in this instance, you must inform your CO of your intentions as soon as possible.
What kind of flight will I get?
The ticket will in principle be for a direct flight. If a direct flight is not available a ticket requiring the smallest number of transfers will be provided.
Do I have to take the flight back?
No, you do not. If you want to go home by a more scenic route, or if you are Staying in Japan, you are allowed to refuse the return ticket.
Preparing for your successor
All of us can remember those anxious weeks before we came to Japan to take on our new roles on JET. Some of us had predecessors that drew detailed maps of the town, labeled everything in the house and organized their lesson plans for schools by topic. While some of us had predecessors that told us.............well nothing at all! While it's not necessary that you do the former, please don't be the latter.
Write your welcome letter now so you can post it or email it once you have learned your successor's details. The more you can tell them, the better prepared they will be. Here's a list of a few things you should make sure to mention.
What To Bring
- Clothing How cold/hot does it get? Should they ship winter clothing in advance?
- Gifts Who should they bring omiyage for? What kinds of things do you think would be good?
- What did you bring that you didn't need?
- Go-between Who is their supervisor?
- Other Staff What teachers will they work with? Who's the head of the English department? Who does English club? What are the names of the principal and vice-principal? WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH?
- Schedule How many schools will they go to? How many classes will they have? What other responsibilities will they have?
- Class What is the general level of your students? What worked in the classroom for you? What didn't? What other suggestions on teaching materials and teaching methods do you have?
- Commuting How do you get to school?
- Other Procedures The JET axiom is that "every situation is different." How is your situation? What's the procedure for taking sick leave? What other advice would have been very useful to you before you came?
- The Apartment How big is it? What does it come with? What's the landlord like? What are the neighbors like?
- Facilities Is there a gym nearby? Supermarket? Video Rental? Train Station? Bus Stop? What do you have and how do you get there?
- Hospital Information I know this counts as a facility, but this one is especially important. If you know of a good (and maybe English speaking) hospital near your house, tell them about it.
Things To Leave Your Predecessor
- Maps Do you have a map of the city? Of the neighborhood? A hand-sketched map of important landmarks (grocery store, izakaya with the friendly owner, etc) is always appreciated.
- Bus/Train Schedules
- Instructions For Appliances Though you might know now that 電源 means "power" on your TV set, your successor might not. Write them a note, or better yet, put labels on everything.
- Seating Chart It'll be a whole lot easier for them to figure out everyone's name at work with a cheat sheet. If you can, write each teacher's name in Romaji above their kanji.
- Anything Useful We've yet to hear from a new JET that their predecessor left too much information.
Cleaning Your Apartment
Every year there are a few JETs who do not clean their apartment or leave their affairs in a mess when they depart. This is embarrassing and has a big negative effect on the next person. As 99% of you already know, you need to clean your apartment completely before you leave. This may mean throwing away/recycling a lot of stuff (i.e. anything that is broken, any and all garbage including used batteries, personal decorations and trinkets, old magazines, etc.). Your successor will thank you when he or she walks into a clean and uncluttered apartment. Good karma! In the case that you do not have a successor, the degree to which you must clean the apartment and get rid of large garbage depends on your landlord and what your CO is going to do with the apartment.
Selling To Your Successor
In an ideal world, you would be willing to sell everything you bought to your successor for a reasonable, discounted rate, and they will be willing to buy all that you have to offer. Please at least give them the offer, and give them a fair price. If you bought it new, maybe offer to sell it to them for half price. If you bought it used, consider just giving it to them for free. Saying "Well, my predecessor ripped me off..." is no excuse for doing the same to your successor. Bad karma! You might have some goods that are worthwhile that they just don't want. If they aren't interested in taking your $2,000 flat-screen TV for the amazing price of $800, then you might want to try to sell it to a second hand dealer. Or you can always email other Wakayama JETs and see if anyone would be interested in watching their favorite anime in HD!
A document that you might need to get is a Certificate of Participation. Essentially, this is a bilingual document that certifies that you worked for your contracting organization on the JET Programme for your contract period. If you need one, contact your Contracting Organization and ask them for a Zaishoku Shoumeisho (在職証明書). If you want to know what it looks like, you can download a sample from Clair's website at Certificate of Participation.
After you go back home, some programs in some countries will require that you get a police clearance certificate (犯罪経歴証明書). For example, if you want to become a teacher in New Zealand, you will probably need a police clearance certificate to become registered.
Reverse Culture Shock
Thanks to Dr. Jim McRae from the CLAIR Counselling Committee
No matter what you may think now, chances are you will get some kind of culture shock on return to your home country. Home probably won't have stayed the same waiting for you to get back and neither will your friends and family. Certainly you have changed in some way in order to be able to function in Japanese society, and you may not function so well in your "home" culture as you used to. This is a stressful thing to come to terms with. Think about in what ways you and your home have changed since you've been in Japan.
Try to deal with the loss of Japan as much as possible while you're still here. Make lists of what you've achieved; what you would like to take home with you (abstract and concrete); and what you can't take home and will have to say farewell to. What you will really miss about Japan and what you really won't. Set long-term goals.
Be sure to have appropriate farewells with the people you may not see again for a long time. A big night out may be an appropriate way to say goodbye to some people but maybe not others. Think about how you want to say goodbye. Don't say a hurried farewell to your close friends because you're caught up in the business of preparing to leave. Emotional preparations are just as important as packing, holiday planning and preparing for your successor.
When you get home, be sure to take plenty of time to reflect on your Japanese experience. Probably you will be able to make sense of it all a lot better from a home (or is that foreign?) setting. Just as most of us learn a lot about our home culture from our time here, we can expect to realize a lot about Japan from home. Remember though that just because we are fascinated by the beauty and intricacy of Japanese culture doesn't mean that our friends and family will be. They can't possibly relate on the same level. Join your local JET Alumni Association, exchange language with a Japanese student, take night classes in Japanese - go looking for ways to keep your Japan connection going.
Don't stress about getting stressed! The worst re-entry shock you experience may be that you can't find your favourite soy sauce to put on your tofu. However, do take the time to prepare adequately for the emotional side of going home as well as the material stuff.
More information is available in the JET Programme General Information Handbook and also see the section Dealing with Reverse Culture Shock for more details.
During our time on JET, we have been paying into the Japanese pension system. After we leave JET, we are eligible to receive a portion of this money back. There are two payments we are eligible for: the Pension Refund and the Pension Tax Refund. Although we are eligible for these, you will not receive them unless you follow the following instructions:
Before Leaving Japan
- Choose a person you trust who is staying in Japan to be your Tax Representative. This can be a coworker or a close friend.
- Get the "Declaration Naming a Person to Administer the Taxpayer's Tax Affairs" (納税管理人の届出書 - Nozeikanrinin no Todokedesho) from your local tax office (either a Social Insurance Office or the Tax Section of your Municipal Office). Fill it in with your Tax Representative and bring it back to your local tax office.
- Make sure you have your Pension Book.
- Download the "Claim Form for the Lump-sum Withdrawal Payments" and have someone help you fill it out. The form can be downloaded from the Social Insurance Agency webpage: www.sia.go.jp/e/lw.html This form also goes by the name of "Request of Arbitration for Lump-sum Withdrawal Benefit" (or other similar variations).
- Turn in your Alien Registration Card at the airport as you leave the country.
The Pension Refund
- Now that you are home, send:
- "Request of Arbitration for Lump-sum Withdrawal Benefit"
- Your Pension Book.
- Passport Photocopies of the pages showing your name, date of birth, nationality, signature, work visa, and the date of departure from Japan.
- A document (copy of your bank statement, bank passbook, etc.) verifying the bank name, branch office name, branch address bank account number, and the full name of the account holder (must be your own).
- Mail the above documents to:
Social Insurance Agency
3-5-24 Takaido Nishi
Suginami-ku, Tokyo 168-8505
- You will receive the "Notice of the Lump-sum Withdrawal Payment" in the mail and the Pension Refund in your bank account. You can now file for the Pension Tax Refund
The Pension Tax Refund
- Make a copy of the "Notice of the Lump-sum Withdrawal Payment" and send the original to your Tax Representative.
- Have your Tax Representative go to the same tax office and file the kakutei shinkosho for you. They can go in person, or do this through the mail.
- The Tax Representative will receive your Pension Tax Refund in their bank account. They can then send this money to you.
Important Things to Remember
- The Pension Refund you get back initially is actually around 80% of your pension - what is left after taxes are subtracted. The remaining 20% are returned when you file for the Pension Tax Refund.
- In order to receive the refund, you MUST turn in your Alien Registration Card at the airport upon final departure of Japan.
- Application for the refunds must be made within two years of leaving Japan.
For more information, check out what CLAIR has to say here.
The above information was provided in part by the folks in Niigata
Staying in Japan
After you finish your contract with the JET programme, your contracting organization is required to provide you with a flight back to your home country. However, you are not required to take this offer. If you do decide to stay in Japan, you should make sure to take care of your visa/status of residency and your alien registration card.
Visas and Status of Residency
One legal matter you will have to attend to is your visa. As an ALT, your status of residency is "Instructor" (CIRs and SEAs have a different status). If you are going to continue working as an English teacher, and if your visa isn't about to expire, then you can continue working on the same visa. If, however, you are going to switch job types, become a student, or do anything else, you will have to get a new visa and status of residency. Your new job/school should help you with all of this paperwork.
You are required to turn it in upon leaving the country. However, if you move to a new place (in Japan), or if your status of residency changes, you are required to take your card to your local municipal office (市役所) so they can update it (nothing too fancy, they just write your new information on the back).