When my husband and I decided to leave Japan after living here for 23 years, I immediately jumped into action and made a list of all the things we had to do before leaving. There were the obvious tasks: inform work and the landlord, shut off utilities, close at least a few of the bank accounts we’ve accumulated over the years, and, of course, pack.

Then I looked up from my notepad and the enormity of our decision hit me. Although I’ve always considered my family to be minimalists, every closet, drawer, cupboard and shelf was full — and that was just the living room.

The Japanese are famous for their efficiency, and shipping companies here are no exception. When we moved in 2005 from Osaka to Kanto, five men descended on our home at the agreed-upon time and, in a whirlwind of activity, had our belongings packed and out the door in no time flat. It was so stress-free that we barely remember the move. As my husband loves to say, “We just appeared here like magic.”