It is highly recommended that you only ship items which you can pack yourself. In many countries, companies specializing in international moving for individuals and corporates offer packing services, however, overseas moving services including packing is typically costly. Instead, if you only ship items you can pack yourself, you can perhaps save a lot of money. Thinks twice if it is worth shipping bulky items such as sofas or chests of drawers unless your employer pays for your move to Japan.
Unless you are shipping a large amount, it is normally recommended to ship by air. The air freight charge itself is quite reasonable for small consignments compared with sea freight because sea shipping is mainly for large shipments. Also, it is particularly important to be aware that:
1) Charges which will incur on the Japan side is considerably expensive for sea shipments compared with air shipments.
2) Japanese customs will do physical and through inspections on sea shipments once the freight arrives in Japan. Normally all shipments of personal belongings of people moving to Japan are inspected if they are shipped by sea.
3) International moving companies and freight forwarders overseas do not transport by sea unless everything is crated or palletized while they ship in loose cartons if it is air freight.
Even if the cost for shipping up to arrival at the Japanese port is less expensive than for air shipment, there is likelihood that you will end up paying expensive charges for sea shipment because of such expensive local charges on the Japan side.
As we mentioned, using the services of international movers who offer packing services can be very expensive. If you opt to use the services of an international moving company at the country of origin, it is recommended that you ship only items you can pack yourself and ship door-to-port. Another option is to use the services of some freight forwarder. Contact a few of such companies in your area and see if they show interests in handling your shipments. Freight forwarders normally handle business shipments only and most of them are probably not able to handle personal effect shipments but some of them may be able to help you with your move to Japan by offering a very simple freight forwarding service just like they would do for companies shipping commercial cargo. Note that usually these companies do not know anything about customs clearance on the Japan side. So, it would perhaps be important to contact a Japanese company specialized in international moving to and from Japan like ourselves. This way we or some other Japanese mover can even show you what sort of documents will be required on the Japan side and also how to make your packing list which will be essential at the time of customs clearance in Japan.
Although if you are moving from Japan to overseas, we recommend that you ship door-to-port to save money and also time, the situation will be different when you ship To Japan from abroad. Firstly, even if you ship by air, our main airport, Narita, is very far away from Tokyo, which is the capital of Japan and where most expats will move to. Secondly even for air shipments, they either inspect the packages or ask a customs broker to check the contents which will take some time. If your shipment is coming to Japan by sea, the inspection is extensive and you do not know when it will be over. So, perhaps customs clearance is better to be left to the hands of a company which is specializing international moving and shipping.