With border restrictions lifted over a year ago and society returning to a state of semi-normalcy, some foreign residents are considering packing up and leaving Japan for good in the coming year. Are you one of them?

If you are, all I can say is, 心を引き締めておかないと (Kokoro o hikishimete okanai to, You’d better steel yourself). Making the permanent move home is a complicated logistical process, especially if you’ve been residing here for years. And as it turns out, it is alarmingly easy to make a mistake that will follow you back to your 母国 (bokoku, home country).

I heard about one particular 落とし穴 (otoshiana, pitfall) from a non-Japanese friend. Let’s call him “Guy Cocques-Jean.” Guy had lived in Saitama for several years and in Japan for even longer, but the COVID-19 era was lonely and he found himself thinking more and more about 里帰り (sato-gaeri, a return home). Although Guy had left Japan in his heart, he was still physically tied down by his possessions — his many, many possessions. Over half a decade, Guy had accrued a whole apartment full of them. And for him to depart, his things had to go first.