Ordering from Japanese websites

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Cyborg Ninja
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Ordering from Japanese websites

Post by Cyborg Ninja » Wed 12.21.2011 2:38 am

Is it possible for an American to order something from Japan? Like say I want to order a book from Amazon.jp; is that possible? Would it cost extra and if so, how much might it cost?

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Re: Ordering from Japanese websites

Post by Hyperworm » Wed 12.21.2011 7:00 am

I do a fair bit of importing, so I should be able to help here.

It's quite possible, depending on what you want to order. Some sites can't ship certain items outside Japan. Amazon JP refuses to ship video games outside Japan, for instance. (It should tell you it can't be shipped outside Japan under "Product Details" if you're displaying the pages on the site in English)

Prices on Japanese sites are often quoted inclusive of Japan's 5% sales tax (税込(ぜいこみ)).
(for "Excluding tax" you'll see 税別(ぜいべつ), or 本体 meaning "the product itself")

Provided you order directly from a site that ships from Japan, you won't have to pay that tax, but you may be responsible for paying customs charges (import duty plus state sales tax) on the amount.

Speaking from my experience importing to the UK, it's unpredictable and depends on your shipping method whether you get taxed or not. You're more likely to incur those costs when shipping by courier (FedEx etc.), and if you're using a company that pays those fees up-front for you to get it through customs faster, you may be hit with an additional service charge -- which can be disproportionately high >_>;

The main obstacle though, especially if you're importing books, is the actual shipping cost, which varies by shipping method. bk1 (another online shop, mainly deals in books) has a good page on this and charges the minimum they can for shipping as far as I'm aware, so I'll quote the prices from bk1's FAQ on shipping.
Weight Guidelines wrote:Normal comic: 150~200g
B6-format comic: 150~200g
A5-format comic: 200~350g
Bunko(bon), generally A6: 150~200g
Shinsho (larger books, more like Western-size): 200~250g
Bugeisho (western style heavy literature, often hardcover): 500~700g
CD/DVDs: 100~200g
Price Charts wrote:EMS (3-5 days)
<300g (minimum fee) : 1200 yen
<500g : 1500 yen [...]
<1000g: 2400 yen [...]
<1500g: 3200 yen [...]
<2000g: 4000 yen [...and so on...]

FedEx (2-4 days)
<500g (minimum fee) : 2000 yen
<1000g: 2300 yen
<1500g: 2700 yen
<2000g: 3000 yen [...and so on...]

SAL (1 week - 2 months, no tracking, usually arrives with me in a couple weeks I think)
100 yen per 100 grams, plus 80 yen

Air Mail (10 days - 2 weeks, no tracking)
Basically about 60% more than the shipping cost of SAL
As you can see, importing e.g. a single comic (costing about 400~600 yen and weighing about 150g~200g) is pretty bad value-wise. Including the packaging it'll probably be over 200g, which means even by SAL you pay 300+80 = 380yen, which is a huge percentage of the cost of the product. Plus any taxes you might get hit with. Not to mention that USDJPY has been getting considerably worse pretty consistently for the past four years.

I generally buy a whole bunch of stuff (around 2kg) and import via SAL, but any way you do it it's going to be pretty expensive compared to the product because books are cheap and heavy :|

Amazon only offers FedEx/DHL, I think. If you're looking for manga, there are other sites like cdjapan.co.jp too, which has a decent shipping calculator.

(Also look for point schemes. Many Japanese sites (including bk1 and cdjapan) use these, often in conjunction with promotions (キャンペーン). Beware of point schemes that can't be used outside Japan e.g. HMV's.)
fun translation snippets | need something translated?

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Re: Ordering from Japanese websites

Post by Ongakuka » Wed 12.21.2011 10:39 am

Am I being weird or do you think we should make this sticky?

Hyperworm-san's post is great and it seems like it could be very useful to a lot of people :think:

I'll just say that Rakuten has been very good to me as a foreign customer, and they sell things you can't get off the Japanese Amazon. But last time I checked ordering from Japan was NOT cost-effective.

Manga and games are cheap when you buy it in Japan, so if you go stock up on them (if you like them.) DVDs are usually expensive.

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