Tips for Shopping Online in Japan

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online_shopping
March 11, 2014

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:

Electronics

Groceries

Fashion

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.

Delivery Options

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.

Payment Options

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?

Topics:  

Spends weekends aimlessly wandering Tokyo.

Online Shopping in Japan: The Pre-Paid Card Primer

Pre-paid credit cards are available at all konbini stores but how easy are they to use for the non-Japanese speaker? We take a look at some of the most popular cards for shopping online.
  • Sheila

    If you find it hard or bothersome to do a bank transfer, you can go for COD or cash-on-delivery (if that option is available). It will have additional fees but I find it convenient as I don’t have a credit card. Next time, I wanna try the prepaid credit card.

    • http://www.gaijinpot.com/ Anthony Joh

      That’s a great suggestion. I’ve used the COD method before and it’s super convenient if you don’t have a Japanese credit card.

    • http://wandertokyo.com/ Lynn

      Good call! I shouldn’t have missed the COD — much more convenient than a bank transfer (ugh). Let us know how the prepaid credit card goes!

  • Ben

    What about taxes? I order a camera from the US, and got hit by import tax. Could you give us some details on this?

    • http://www.gaijinpot.com/ Anthony Joh

      I think it depends on who you ship it with. If you use UPS/FedEX they will charge you an import tax. I usually use USPS and don’t have to pay any tax.

    • http://wandertokyo.com/ Lynn

      Good question (which means I don’t have a straight answer, sadly).

      The taxes are fairly confusing, but according to some Japanese websites, these three types of taxes may be applied at customs on consumer items:

      *Tariff

      *Consumption tax

      *Customs clearance fee

      These taxes are calculated by 60% of the product’s price. For example, the consumption tax and tariff would be calculated using 12000 yen for a 20000 yen camera. The customs clearance fee is 200 yen, the tariff depends on the item, and consumption tax will be 8% from April. If a product is less than 16,666 yen, then the item won’t be taxed and the customs clearance fee won’t be applied.

      If you know Japanese, this site explains the import taxes best:
      http://amazon.free-note.net/etc/tax.html

      The site is a little old, so some of this may have changed. Also, several exceptions to the above-stated general rules do exist, as well as additional taxes on some items (alcohol, etc.)

      I found the official Japanese tariff rates in English here: http://www.customs.go.jp/english/summary/tariff.htm

      http://www.customs.go.jp/english/tariff/index.htm

      The tariff outlines aren’t clear and don’t seem to list cameras specifically, but might give an idea of what to expect on future purchases.

      Unfortunately, it seems it may be hard avoid taxes for items over 16,666 yen.

      • nevaeh

        I regularly buy organic beauty products, groceries and supplements from the US (it’s much cheaper and shipping is 4 days :D) the website clearly states that from 16500JPY there will be customs charges… So sounds about right!

        • http://wandertokyo.com/ Lynn

          Thanks for corroborating that! Whew, customs fees aren’t very kind on the wallet. That’s some fast shipping, though!

          • nevaeh

            Try it! http://www.iherb.com/?rcode=CAG402
            I buy over 500gr of gluten free oatbran for 350yen from here, can’t live without it and beats the sugary stuff at the supermarket. That and 100% peanut butter, vitamins, collagen, protein shakes, coconut oil, etc. **DISCLAIMER: CAG402 is my referral code, so you get 10$ off if you’re a first timer, but I also get a bonus for referring you :) The website is also in Japanese, because they have soooooo many japanese customers.

  • ookami

    I ordered from ASOS before, and I had to pay tax plus delivery fee(which the jap company charged me), so probably won’t order again.
    It sucks I used asos many-many times when living in Aus, it’s hard to give up on them…

    • http://wandertokyo.com/ Lynn

      That’s really a bummer. I feel sad when browsing former-favorite online stores and seeing the high shipping price.

    • nevaeh

      Did you put in a large order? I ordered some stuff a couple of months ago from asos and had no problem. I limit my imports to 15,000 yen per shipping, that has kept all tax collectors at bay… For now at least.

  • Bogdan

    On amazon I just pick everytime COD and delivery to convenience store nearby my home.
    So after work I can go even at 11 PM and get my package.
    I get it delivered at Lawson, you get full instructions in the email, you just have to print a receipt at their Loppi touch machines and then print it and present it to the cash register, then you will get your package.
    I think the only disadvantage is that you pay 300 yen for the COD service.
    I already ordered lots of stuff, very happy with amazon jp!
    Also very fast usually get the package the second day, even on weekends!

    • http://wandertokyo.com/ Lynn

      Good call on the COD! I completely forgot about that (shame). Thanks for the details on the COD fees.

      I do love Amazon.

      I’ve found that some packages can’t be sent to the convenience store, but that option is really useful when available. Most people in Tokyo seem to get home after 7pm and delivery companies typically only deliver until 8pm or 9pm! Being able to pick up a package at 11pm is extremely convenient.

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