Tips for Shopping Online in Japan
By Lynn Allmon
Japanese websites can be fantastic for buying domestic items cheaply. Everything from electronics to groceries can be purchased online, sometimes at half the regular in store price. When shopping online in Japan, you’ll be at an advantage if you know some Japanese. Some popular Japanese sites include:
Sometimes the selection on Japanese sites just won’t cut it. The good news is that many foreign-based sites will ship internationally. Even more heartening, many of these sites will ship internationally for free!
Last year, Cynthia Popper wrote an article about clothing sites that ship to Japan, many of them doing so for free.
International shipping isn’t limited to just fashion sites, though. Stores such as Sears also ship internationally, so check out your favorite home-country store’s website to see if they ship to Japan.
One great thing about ordering items in Japan is that the items usually get shipped really quickly. Even when I lived in the countryside, items typically arrived at my doorstep within two days of ordering. Now that I live in Tokyo, items often arrive the very next day. The most-used companies for delivery seem to be JP Post, Sagawa, and Yamato/Kuroneko.
Of course, the speed is excellent, but with most sites, you can’t choose the time of the delivery. Depending on your schedule, catching the delivery person can be a little difficult. Since almost all packages ordered online require a signature to receive, this will mean that you have to get the package redelivered if you miss the delivery person.
The delivery person will leave an attempted-delivery slip in your door. The slip will give a phone number and a website for requesting redelivery. Most delivery services also have at least an English help-line and some have an English website. Both JP Post and Kuroneko have an English website for requesting redelivery.
The two most common options for payment when shopping online in Japan are credit card and bank transfer (振込, furikomi). In my opinion, the best way to go is payment via a Japanese credit card. You’ll encounter less fees and a higher rate of acceptance.
However, getting a credit card in Japan can be difficult, so the next-best option would be to use a credit card from your own country that is accepted in Japan. Unfortunately, you may get hit with conversion-rate fees and an over-seas transaction fee.
To avoid all these international fees you can use a Japanese prepaid credit card, available at most konbini stores. Cynthia has written a great article on using Japanese pre-paid credit cards.
The least-recommended way to pay is by bank transfer. The process can be confusing, time-consuming, and you may incur transaction fees. In order to do a bank transfer you first have to record the website’s payment details, such as their bank account name. If you have online banking, you might be able to do a bank transfer through your bank’s website. If you don’t, you’ll have to use an ATM or do the transaction with a teller.
Bank transfers through ATM are a little confusing and aren’t usually in English, so if you have any doubts, having a teller help would be the best option.
What are your online shopping tips? Do you have a favorite site you order from in Japan?