Amazon Japan, if you don’t approach it the right way, can be a frustrating experience to say the least. It’s not clear which items ship to Japan and which don’t, how much shipping will cost if they do ship, and we all know what it’s like to get to the checkout page only to be told that the items in our cart aren’t eligible to be sent to Japan. What a pain!
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve tested all of the prevailing techniques and developed a process that makes shopping on Amazon in Japan much, much better. And you’re going to love how easy it is to do it.
Do you have four minutes to spare? If so, log in to Amazon.com and let’s get started.
FIRST: The 2-Step, One-Time Amazon Japan Setup Process
STEP 1: Bookmark your new Amazon Japan Homepage
Normally when you go to Amazon.com, Amazon assumes you are within the United States. And that’s a problem, because for those of us in Japan, we’re constantly seeing error messages when we reach the checkout page.
So instead of going to the Amazon USA page, it’s important that you start all of your Amazon journeys on the Amazon International page, which you can think of as the Amazon Japan homepage. Amazon makes it pretty tough to navigate here on your own, so just bookmark this page and start all of your Amazon searches from there moving forward. Using this page alone will make all of your searches much, much more relevant by eliminating items that can’t be shipped internationally.
STEP 2: Set up your 1-click Address
While searching from your new Amazon Japan homepage will tell you what items are eligible for global shipping, there are still some items that can’t be delivered to Japan. So to avoid those, you’ll need to tell Amazon that you only want to see items that are eligible for shipping to Japan.
To do that, go to Manage Shipping Addresses under Your Account and ensure you have your Japan address listed (if you don’t, add it as a New Address). Also, ensure that you have 1-click ordering turned on so that Amazon will check your address before showing you any item (Note: you never need to actually use the 1-click ordering functionality, but it’s still important to turn it on here). Then, once you have your Japan address set up, add it as your default shipping address, including 1-Click and gifting, as shown below.
FOREVER AFTER: Your New Amazon Japan Search Process
As a general rule, books, clothing and other mainstream media are almost always eligible to ship to Japan. But on the flip side, a lot of electronics – particularly Apple products – are not. Use the method below to shave down your search time to the bare minimum.
Here’s an example. I’ve recently been thinking about getting a Fitbit to track my workouts and monitor my sleep, so let’s assume I’m going to buy one and have it shipped to Japan. Here’s how I’d do it:
First, I go to my bookmarked Amazon Japan homepage and type “Fitbit” in the search bar:
Next, I refine my search to only include those items that can be shipped to Japan:
And voila! As you can see, the item ships to Japan.
Amazon Free Shipping to Japan
While you won’t find completely free shipping to Japan on Amazon, shipping is still very cheap. As you can see on Amazon’s Shipping Rate Chart to Japan, standard shipping costs $2-8 per item, while express shipping costs $10-20 per item.
Import taxes/duties on items purchased
Japan’s import duties are a bit complex, and you can read about them here if you want to. Luckily for you, Amazon adds this fee directly onto the total price when you checkout, so you’ll never be hit with an unexpected import fee when buying from Amazon. Some items like books, laptops and some electronics are eligible for duty-free import. An 8% consumption tax is also applied to all purchases shipped to Japan.
Who actually ships my Amazon items?
In most cases, it will be Japan Post Service who deliver your items, and they generally take 1-2 weeks to arrive. If you’re not home when Japan Post Service attempts to deliver, they’ll leave you a delivery notice and you can pick up your item from the nearest post office location the next day. It’s hard to find an official list of all of Japan Post Service’s locations, but Google Maps does a decent job of finding them. Here’s a partial list of the post office locations in Osaka (all of the tiny red dots are post offices).
How can I buy items that Amazon won’t ship to Japan?
There are some items that Amazon won’t ship to Japan, most notably their own Amazon Kindles and the new Amazon Tap and Amazon Echo Dot devices. Still, there is a workaround that you can use to get these items to you in Japan, which is using a third-party package forwarder. Here’s how to do it.
STEP 1: Sign up with a Package Forwarder
Open an account with a package forwarder, who will accept your Amazon purchases at their warehouse in the United States and forward them on to you in Japan. We recommend Borderlinx, since they ship with DHL and have fantastic customer reviews. Borderlinx will repack and consolidate your shipments free of charge, and they allow you to store your packages at their USA warehouse for up to 30 days (free as well) so you can take full advantage of that service and combine multiple Amazon packages into a single shipment. Their customer service is known to be excellent, too.
If you’d prefer to do your own research and assess other package forwarders as well, here’s a price comparison chart of the four major players on some common items you may be buying. As you can see, COMgateway has the cheapest price on 6 out of the 9 shipments, with Borderlinx being the cheapest on the other 3 and MyUS and Viabox consistently more expensive. If you want to get a Borderlinx price quote on a specific item, use their Shipping Cost Calculator here.
However, the features comparison table below uncovers why Borderlinx’s prices are higher than COMgateway’s. COMgateway’s shipments are considerably slower (6-8 days vs. 2-6 with Borderlinx), they charge $10 to repack shipments while Borderlinx is free, and they don’t include taxes and duties in their prices, which can lead to some nasty surprises when your items are delivered. When it’s all said and done, most people prefer Borderlinx.
STEP 2: Purchase your item
After going through “Your New Amazon Japan Search Process” above and verifying that you cannot ship the item you want from Amazon to Japan (maybe it’s the iPhone 6), send it instead to the address that Borderlinx gives you by copying and pasting that address into Manage Shipping Addresses under Your Account. Then you’re ready to buy! Keep in mind that you can still use your Japan address as the billing address on your credit card without any problems, but it’s still a good idea to double-check your shipping address to ensure it’s exactly the one Borderlinx gave you!
STEP 3: Forward your item to Japan
Borderlinx will email you when your package arrives at their warehouse in the USA, so all you need to do is confirm the shipping speed on the forward (priority, economy, etc.) and whether you want additional insurance (it’s already being sent with DHL, so you probably won’t need it), and then pay Borderlinx for the shipment forwarding. For something like a Kindle, the charge will be 2000 JPY or less.
Alternatives to Amazon in Japan
Between these two methods – searching for items that Amazon ships directly to Japan, and using Borderlinx to forward packages that Amazon won’t ship directly to Japan – you can get 95+% of the items you’d want into Japan. But there are still a list of items you are prohibited from importing into Japan, so those first two methods won’t work. So who do you turn to then?
Here are a few good options:
- AliExpress: Owned by Alibaba, the largest retailer on the planet, AliExpress is the Amazon of Asia, though significantly less refined than Amazon itself. Its sellers are mainly Chinese business owners displaying their goods to the world. Most items ship to Japan, and a lot of them will ship for free via China Post.
- eBay (EN / JP): The world’s best-known consumer-to-consumer portal for selling just about everything. This is a great spot to grab the electronics you can’t find on Amazon Japan.
- Rakuten (EN / JP): The largest online retailer in Japan, and one of the largest in the world.
- Yahoo Japan: Though it’s floundering just about everywhere else, Yahoo Japan continues to impress as a purchasing hub for hundreds of thousands of hot items.
- Origami and Sumally: A pair of apps developed in Japan that are making online shopping more social.
- Qoo10 (EN / JP): Not the prettiest site, but you can buy just about anything on here.
Also, since so many of you have been asking us for them, here's our full list of country-specific posts outlining how to ship anything from Amazon to any country in the world. Our 2-step method makes it as simple as humanly possible, and takes about 3 minutes total: Austria, Bahrain, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.