The ultimate guide about buying from Japan

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Last updated on July 28th, 2018

When I first started to buy directly from Japan I was confused by all the different services and shops which are out there. I didn’t know which were the good ones and ordering through a proxy shipper was completely beyond everything I have done before. If you find yourself in the same position I once was, this guide might come in very handy for you. I personally used all the shops and proxy shippers I’m recommending and only had great experiences with them. If you still have any questions or maybe even want to recommend your favorite place to buy from, just drop me a comment. It’s more than appreciated.

How and where to buy clothing from Japan

You probably know that I have a little thing for fashion from Japan. Unfortunately, most of the stuff is either not available in foreign countries at all or heavily overpriced. And that’s all because so many Japanese online shops don’t offer international shipping. It’s rare when one does, actually. This sucks because the good stuff is more than often sold exclusively in Japan. At least when it comes to Japanese brands. And don’ t forget about all these exclusives…

But we’re lucky: Some business-minded fellows offer a service called “proxy buying”. These guys buy the desired items for you and then ship them to your place. All this for a fee but it’s still a lot cheaper than buying Japanese brands from the UK or US where prices tend to be astronomical. 70£ or 90$ for a Bape Tee against the 6,000¥ it costs in its origin country is just ridiculous. Or more graphical: 80€ against 50€, or 90$ against 60$. For the same product.

Of course, you can always get hit by customs and if you add up duty fees and maybe a service charge for the proxy seller, the price difference might not be that big. But usually, it’s a lot cheaper buying directly from Japan. Not to speak of the fact that only a small portion of the Japanese brand’s output is available in the UK and the US.


Sometimes it’s even tough to find the right online shop inside Japan to order from. After all online shopping isn’t as popular in Japan as it is in the West (even if it’s getting more steam lately with thousands of people struggling to pay their bills from amazon and co). To help you out I’ll list some good places where you can order some nice Japanese brands from. But don’t forget: These will only ship inside Japan so you’ll still have to use a proxy!

A Bathing Ape | ア・ベイシング・エイプ – Zozo
Free shipping above 3000¥

Hands down, this is the best place to buy clothing from in Japan. At least if you’re looking online. They carry many big brands (including Bape and Human Made) and offer free delivery inside Japan when buying goods for over 3000¥. This comes in handy when using a proxy service because all the fees can really add up and domestic shipping isn’t as cheap in Japan as it is in other countries. 1000¥ is the usual rate for a small packet from my experience. Zozo is not shipping outside of Japan. You’ll have to use a proxy to get the stuff shipped to you, but it’s worth it. Especially if you’re considering to buy some Bape from the motherland. The prices are nearly half of what you’re paying in all the other non-domestic (Japan) Bape stores.

PLAY by Comme des Garçons | プレイ コム デ ギャルソンTrem
Free shipping above 10,000¥

Rei Kawabukos little side project started back in 2002. Polish artist Filip Pagowski designed the simple heart logo and submitted it to Comme des Garçons. In the beginning, there was never the intention to make a standalone line solely based on the logo. It eventually just happened to start off. Just some simple basic pieces which never go out of style. Not bound to any seasonal change or trends. I’m really a big fan of PLAY by Comme des Garçons and love to pick up some of their pieces here and there. Unfortunately, their prices in Europe are ridiculous. Just recently I was visiting Berlin and checked out their local PLAY store. Don’t even bother buying anything there expect you want to pay double the Japanese prices. Much to my regret, it’s not that easy to buy CDG PLAY stuff from Japan because most of the time the more sought after pieces are sold out. Make sure to check back on Ciacura regularly if you want a certain piece. They often restock their products.

White Mountaineering | ホワイト マウンテニアリング– Time-after-time / Thenatures

Just recently I became a huge fan of the Japanese brand which aims to fuse technical outdoor apparel with modern design. Everything is made in Japan and their quality is always on point. Buy some of their socks as well.

Master Piece Bags | マスタピース – MSPC Store
Free shipping above 10,800¥

I just love these extremely well-made bags, backpacks and wallets for men. Bought mine for just carrying my camera, set of keys and cardholder back in 2013 and am still a fan of that durable quality bag.

Medicom Toy | メディコム・トイZozo / C.J. Mart / Yahoo
Free shipping above 3000¥

It’s difficult to find 1000% Bearbrick figures outside of Japan and if you do they are quite expensive. Sure it won’t be exactly a bargain ordering one of these huge toys directly from Japan but at least you get quite the selection to choose from. I’m still searching for a decent figure and found the above-mentioned shops to be the most reliable for all things Medicom Toy. Always great shopping at Zozo where I did all my Bape purchases when I was still into the brand. Never used C.J. Mart myself but it’s pretty well known and regarded among toy collectors. Like always, you’ll have to use a proxy for both.

Akari Lamps by Isamu Noguchi | イサムノグチAkariLighting Factory

I always loved these incredible handmade lamps by Japanese sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi. Vitra has the rights for European distribution and their prices are astronomic. So if you were eyeing with buying one of these really gorgeous Japanese Akari lamps (like I did), do yourself a favor and just use fromjapan to order one directly from Japan. I just ordered the Akari 10A for myself which I wanted for ages and wanted to share that little tip here with you even if it’s not clothing.


Stores that sell used clothing & goods

RagtagRagtag Online
Great for Junya Watanabe MAN, CDG, Visvim, Bape

Zozo-UsedZozoUsed
Great for nothing specific. Never hurts to look around though.


Recommended Proxy shipper

Fromjapan:

Probably the biggest and most comfortable of all the proxy shippers. Everything is automated and you can even bid live on items at Yahoo Auctions. One of the biggest advantages is that you have multiple options how you want your items to be shipped. Most other proxy shipping service only offer EMS shipping which instantly makes it a very pricey affair and on top of that guarantees me that I’ll have to pay duty fees. Fromjapan is more flexible in this regard and offers many different shipping methods and carriers. Since they implemented a service to customize the item costs for an official invoice that comes attached to the package, it’s the perfect proxy shipping service for me.

Update July 2015: Since spebid was absent for a couple of weeks last December I had to rely on fromjapan and got pretty comfortable using their service. If you’re ordering through their business hours the make the purchase almost instantly for you and their packaging is always on point.

Maybe the biggest advantage over other proxy services is their live bidding service on yahoo auction items (or sniper if that is preferred).

The costs (Update August 2017):

  • Plan fee: The price you pay for their service. 700¥ flat if you want your items to be checked an repackaged (really cheap, used to be 5% of the items cost). 300¥ if you want the item to be forwarded as is. I always want my stuff to be checked (if damaged or it could even be the wrong item, you never know).
  • Shipping costs: EMS, SAL, Airmail etc. (I only use EMS nowadays because it’s usually the cheapest express shipping)

It’s that simple. No hidden fees or anything. Just to give you an example on the how much you can expect to pay: Recently ordered the 3 disc Blu-Ray LE of 君の名は (Your name) (through fromjapan. The actual costs were:

– 6,265¥ (君の名は LE) + 700¥ (Plan fee) + 2240¥ (EMS shipping to Germany)

The process:
When the item of your dreams arrived at the fromjapan warehouse you’ll get an Email which allows you to choose a shipping method. Next step: Your item gets packaged and you’ll receive another mail which lets you – again – choose the shipping method but this time displaying the prices for each method (because by now the actual weight and size of your order are confirmed.

Customs: Now you can state an individual amount that you want to be printed on the official invoice that comes attached to your order.

Update August 2017: If you sign up through my link we will both get a 500¥ reward which can be used for additional purchases through fromjapan. That’s not the reason why I support them but if they offer a program like that why not take advantage of it, right. Thanks for all your help and using my links. It’s always great when you can order a little treat from Japan through this site.

Update December 2014: I was just checking on zozo again to see what Bape was up to nowadays. Spotted a nice black PONR Shark and some yellow sweet pants (always wanted to have some). So I caved in and wanted to buy both. Unfortunately, spebid is taking a prolonged holiday and not available until January 20th. And even after that time, I’m not quite sure if he’ll continue his buying service but he definitely won’t be offering his yahoo auction buying service anymore. Had to go with fromjapan on this order.

Update July 2015: Over the course of the last months I’ve only used fromjapan more and more and am really pleased with their service. From time to time they’re offering 5% off on all purchases which make their buying service practically free. Got over 30+ packages from them and have yet to experience a single problem with them.

Zozo and Buyee

Lately, Zozo has been featuring Buyee directly on their site to route international customers to this proxy service. Same goes for Yahoo auctions. I’m sure it’s decent and heard from a couple people using it who were very pleased. But, it’s very expensive and the service fromjapan is offering is exactly on the same level (and lets you customize the invoice value for each item very conveniently)

Buyee is charging a 10% fee of the items cost! (fromjapan has a flat cost of )

Just keep in mind that there are alternatives out there and don’t blindly use Buyee without checking out fromjapan or other proxy services first. You can save yourself quite a bit of money especially when shipping heavier items. Because Buyee is only offering EMS shipping.


A Bape exception – an internationally shipping reseller

Pondon:

The site has been around for years and is widely known as one of the major Bape resellers. She can even make store pickups for you (spebid as well) and is 100% trustworthy (otherwise she wouldn’t be included in this list). Lately, I found myself buying more and more from her especially from her sale items. It’s pretty comfortable because you don’t have to go through the length of a proxy and her selection of Bape items is pretty great. The prices are marked up in relation to their original Japanese ones but still quite alright and cheaper than the ones of the foreign Bape stores. If you need a custom friendly invoice just sent her a mail. She’s always happy to help.


Great places to buy video games from Japan

Solaris Japan:

New and Retro stuff alike. Very helpful and nice staff. If you search for something obscure and can’t find it: Just send these guys a mail. I’m sure they can get it for you. They recently upgraded their shop which now sports a really beautiful design and expanded their selection to figures, art books, body pillows and DVDs/Blu-rays. The condition is always as described and (Japanese style) a lot better then you would expect. I really like the idea of bitcoin and am using it whenever possible. Solaris is accepting bitcoin as a payment as well (among PayPal/credit card) which makes ’em the perfect choice for everything who wants to pay with the cryptocurrency. Excellent packaging and make Solaris Japan an excellent place to shop especially for Japanese retro games.

Customs: Not a problem here. Solaris will down mark the prices according to your wish and will even send you a special bill with the amount you requested. I have never seen this kind of service anywhere else. So if you want to buy “bigger” things, this might be the place to order. There is nothing more moronic then writing a 7$ value on a package with the size of a PS4. Get my drift? Right.

CdJapan

Offers Pre-Order bonuses like AmiAmi and is mostly carrying the latest games. The even have a lot of exclusive bonuses as well. What makes the shop stand out for me is that they carry manga etc. too which makes it quite comfortable to shop there. Never had any problems with customs so that’s a big plus as well. The prices for games are usually on par with Japanese retail minus the Japanese tax which is already deducted from the displayed prices. I nowadays order nearly all my manga from cdjapan which makes it so attractive for me to just add a game to my order. The weight doesn’t matter so shipping is practically free when ordering coupled with books.

Customs: I recently had to pay customs when I received my Arale-chan figure. But it was quite comfortable with a real invoice on the outside which was accepted by the officials. I paid directly on my doorstep when the postman rang twice. Never had an issue with books though.

AmiAmi

New games only (And lotsa, lotsa toys and merchandise).
Great shop with very good prices which are comparable to Amazon Japan. Preorders are usually sold out quickly and a “backorder” can take a couple of days so you might want to pre-order early if you really want that title. After that, the game is usually sold out for good which makes amiami only an option for brand new releases. They always have “special” amiami editions which contain so-called bookstore-cards 図書か If I’m informed correctly these can be used as gift cards.

The shipping costs will be determined after ordering with an actual quote for prices. You can select different shipping options at the checkout but after ordering when AmiAmi gets back to you with a quote for shipping to your place they will have determined the prices for all shipping options and you can choose again.

Customs: They declare everything correctly on the package. So either you order cheap stuff or have to pay the duty fees. Even for small packages with just one game. Always had to pay my German taxes.


How and where to buy books and manga from Japan

I have already written a lengthy guide on where to order manga and books from Japan but just for completionist reasons will include some info here as well. Honto.jp is a great choice when ordering books from Japan but should have a decent Japanese knowledge because the whole site is in Japanese. Another reason to choose cdjapan would be that many had problems to get their credit card accepted. Never had any issues with mine though I can’t complain. If honto works for you, it’s a winner. If not just go along with cdjapan. The prices are the same and the selection is great as well. I nearly find everything on cdjapan I’m searching for.

Where to buy Japanese manga and books
Where to buy Japanese magazines (and make subscriptions)

If you want to share some great places to shop just drop me a line in the comments. It’s greatly appreciated

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