Buying from Japan Guide!
I've been buying and importing things from Japan for many years now. Sometimes I see other people who are into stuff from Japan but don't seem to know very well how to buy things from shops that don't ship internationally, so I thought I would write a little guide on how I do it. Maybe there are better/cheaper options than what I use, but this guide is just simply my personal go-tos. There are probably lots of other guides for this on the internet, but whatever. I'm going to try to make this one pretty simple and easy to understand (hopefully).
It's actually very easy to buy stuff from Japanese online stores that don't ship internationally even if you don't have a friend who lives in Japan! There are two main different types of services that you will depend on. I'll point you to which you would want based on what you need!
● I want to buy something/s from a store that will accept foreign payment methods but does not ship internationally.
Then you need a forwarder
● I want to buy something/s from a store that will not accept foreign payment and does not ship internationally.
● I want to buy something/s from Yahoo Auctions.
Then you need a proxy
● I want to buy tickets to a live event that doesn't provide a method for people from overseas.
Then your options are a bit limited.
Important note for those living in countries that have customs fees/taxes on imported goods! (click me!)
If you're like me and live in a country that loves to tax you on your purchases from abroad based on the cost of your items, I would highly recommend you use a forwarder even if the store does ship internationally! Many forwarders and proxies will offer to undervalue the items in your shipments so that even if you get a pretty expensive shipment you can totally avoid the horrible customs fees! It's saved me so much money over the years.
So you want to buy from a store that accepts foreign payment methods (accepts foreign debit/credit cards, paypal, etc)? Using a forwarder is your best choice! Although a bit more of a hassle than using a proxy (especially if you can't read Japanese), using a forwarder is the more cost-effective option. Particularly more cost-effective if you're buying a larger amount of things, as forwarders will generally have a flat service fee.
When you use a forwarder, you're still going through the process of buying whatever it is you want yourself, but instead of putting in your own address, you put the forwarder's address in instead. You let the forwarder know it is you're expecting, and when they receive the package they'll get it ready for international shipping and charge you the service and shipping fees.
For a forwarder, I use Big in Japan
. I've been using them for many years now and haven't ever had any problems with them. Their forwarding service page (the page linked) explains everything you need to know to properly use their service.
Using a proxy is your only choice when you want to buy from places that won't accept foreign payment. Generally more expensive than forwarders as the service fee rates aren't flat. When using a proxy, you just let them know what it is you want to buy, and they'll handle everything from buying the product/s, receiving and preparing for shipment, and shipping it out to you. Probably the easier option to use if you can't read Japanese.
When I need to use a forwarder, I use ZenMarket
. Ignore their home page saying they're cheaper than using mail forwarding. That's a lie that conveniently ignores one type of their fees. I've checked out other proxies in the past, but ZenMarket seems to have the best rates and is the easiest to use of all the ones I've looked at. I've used them many times and only ever had one problem.
I had them preorder something for me once that was supposed to have a preorder bonus, but because of some kind of payment error on their end I guess they missed out on the preorder payment(?) and ordered it again after it came out so I totally missed out on a preorder bonus I had been really wanting... I'm still bitter about that...
Live Event Tickets
I've only done this once so I don't have much data on it/experience doing it, but I thought I should share the experience for anyone looking into getting live event/concert tickets. If there was more info on the internet of how to do this I probably wouldn't have bothered, but when I wanted to go to the Neoromance 25th Anniversary event I was desperately googling around for any information I could find on how to buy tickets with very little success.
All of the websites that the tickets I wanted were available on required Japanese phone numbers. And I don't mean like most stores that you can just put a forwarder's answering machine number and leave it at that, they actually have you confirm the phone number. And a lot of the options you could only pick up the tickets from special machines in convenience stores only in Japan. All-around very unfriendly to people from abroad...
Obviously using a forwarder is impossible for this, and most proxies won't buy tickets. When I was looking I could only find 3 or 4 different proxies that said they would actually deal in tickets, and all of them were kinda shifty looking places that I could hardly find any info on elsewhere online.
In the end I went with the least shifty looking website, which also happened to have the cheapest service fee of the options I'd found. I used Bridge Jpn
and they were absolutely lovely and super helpful. A lot of the process towards buying the tickets was correspondence via email. Since it was my first time buying tickets, and I was doing it very last minute, I was very worried of the chance I might not get them in time for my trip, and asked various questions. They were very helpful in ensuring that I would get my tickets in time, and sure enough I did!
The tickets I had bought weren't for an event that would sell-out really quickly, so I don't know how good they are for getting hard to obtain tickets, but for what I needed I had zero problems.
Also their website is cute.