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Shipping from Japan: Your Most-Asked Questions, Answered

Time to read: 6 minutes

Japan is home to some of the world’s most unique products, from food to electronics and even handicrafts. Consumers love to buy Japanese products, but shipping from the country can be complex and challenging. This fact is especially true for merchants who want to reach international customers. There are many factors to consider, such as customs regulations, shipping methods, delivery times, and costs. Online merchants must know all the rules, rates, and best practices for shipping from Japan. By understanding the logistical complexities, you can avoid common pitfalls and optimize your shipping strategy.

Table Of Contents

Japan is a highly developed nation with a digitally sophisticated population, a high credit card and smartphone penetration rate, and enormous spending power. Japan offers straightforward tax rules and easy-to-navigate trade restrictions.

Japan’s economy depends heavily on foreign trade. However, there are significant non-tariff trade barriers in place, particularly in the agriculture sector. Japan is the fifth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer of products globally, with 37% of its GDP coming from international commerce. Japan is also the world’s second-largest exporter of automobiles, accounting for 18% of total exports. Top exports include machinery, electronic equipment, commodities, and optical and medical device components.

Doing business in Japan | Exports to Japan | Discover DHL

Japan’s eCommerce growth of 10.29% (CAGR 2023-2027) is a little below the global average but is a respectable number for a developed nation. Online shopping is still growing in Japan, with total user penetration expected to hit 78.5% by the end of 2023. It is important to remember that Japan is the third largest economy in the world, right after the USA and China. So, while Japan has been a little slower to adopt online commerce, it is still a double-digit billion-dollar market.

A Crash Course in Shipping From Japan

You must understand a few fundamentals to send goods outside of Japan. There are forwarding and shipping businesses that can ship internationally from Japan, and each follows unique protocols. It can be challenging to figure out where to ship your goods and how to do it. Here’s what you need to consider and figure out when it comes to having Japanese items sent abroad.

How to send packages overseas Beginner’s Guide – Japan Post

Parcel Services

There are several services available for use when shipping from Japan. These can be divided into two groups: private and public. The domestic mail service in Japan, known as “JP Post,” is considered a public service. It’s similar to government-backed shipping services like the United States Postal Service (USPS). Shipping through JP Post can be more affordable, but it’s limited to what products you can send over and the total weight. This option is better for sending over small packages such as souvenirs or items for personal use.

Private shipping firms cover a broader range of shipping enterprises that provide international shipping services. Among the most well-known businesses are Sagawa Express, DHL, FedEx, and Yamato Transport (formerly Kuroneko Yamato International Ta-Q-Bin). Compared to governmental services, these companies typically charge more and offer more specialized services. This is the preferred method when shipping delicate items or oversized products such as appliances and furniture.

Modes of Transportation

Japan is an archipelago, so there are only two ways to get items into and out of the country: airfreight and ocean freight. 

The most popular shipping option chosen by importers is ocean freight. It allows the transport of small and large shipments for a lower price compared to airfreight. Shipping costs can even be optimized by choosing the appropriate type of container. Full Container Load (FCL) is used when shipping larger and heavier shipments that can fill up a 20’DV or 40’DV container. Less Than Container Load (LCL) is used for smaller shipments that would not fill up a whole container.

Online merchants must consider lead times when shipping through the sea. Ocean freight is the slowest shipping option available when importing from Japan. On average, Japanese shipments arrive on the US West Coast in 15-20 days. Ships dock at ports located on the East Coast in 25-30 days.

Some of the most important ports in Japan include Nagoya Aichi, Chiba,  Yokohama, and Tokyo. These locations have easy access to the capital city.

Air freight is more expensive to send items from Japan to anywhere else. Because of the increase in cost, it is a less common choice than ocean freight. Due to fuel considerations, oversized shipments cannot be delivered via air freight. Airports provide more security steps, so it’s better to ship smaller, more valuable products via air freight.

The travel times that air freight provides, however, constitute a significant advantage. Orders shipped via cargo airlines can be delivered within two to four business days. This makes it a significantly faster shipping method than ocean freight. Like ordinary air freight, using express shipment reduces transit time by eliminating the need for convoluted paperwork. Major airports in Japan include Narita and Haneda, located in Tokyo, and the Kansai International Airport in Osaka.

Legal Requirements and Import Taxes

When sending a package abroad, you must submit the recipient’s and sender’s details and any other pertinent information through customs. It can be achieved in different ways. An EAD (Electronic Advance Data) must be completed before sending via JP Post. Essentially, this is an electronic sending label you can print and attach. Handwritten ones are no longer accepted in some countries. If you choose to work with a private freight company, you might have to handwrite the label in English or the language of the country of destination. You may also have the option to fill these details up digitally. 

You will need an import declaration form, which includes all the details about the goods you are shipping from Japan. Other important documents include:

  • Shipping invoice
  • Bill of Lading
  • Certificate of Origin
  • All licenses and certificates required by your state of origin
  • Customs duty payment slip

For low-value freight (priced at less than ¥200,000 or around $1,337 at ¥150/$1), such as small packages, Japan has a streamlined tariff system that makes determining tariff rates easier. This technique reduces customs broker fees and eliminates the need to classify the goods and assess their value precisely. Importers can choose between the basic tariff and the standard rate, which varies based on the goods. You may get the complete details on the Japan Customs website.  

Tariff classification and duty rate judgments can be obtained in advance from Japan Customs. Japan and its partner nations have many foreign trade agreements (FTAs). As a result, numerous tariff reductions are available to importers, allowing more commodities to be imported with reduced charges. However, aside from your state’s sales tax, importers must pay customs duty on any orders over the duty-free level.

Making the Most of Shipping From Japan 

Japan has a rich and diverse culture, a strong tradition of craftsmanship, and a reputation for quality and innovation. There is a massive demand for products from Japan in the global market. That’s especially true if you sell anime merchandise, electronics, cosmetics, or fashion. If you do plan to import Japanese products, here are some tips and best practices to ensure you make the most of this lucrative opportunity.

Be Familiar With the Prohibited Products

While there are many items from Japan that you can import, certain goods are restricted for safety and health concerns. Illegal substances, firearms, and counterfeit products are prohibited from import. Some consumer goods that are restricted for air freight include alcoholic beverages with more than 24% alcohol level, hair dyes, nail polish, lithium batteries, and flammable substances. These items pose a safety risk when subject to air cabin pressure.

Compare Freight Services for the Best Price

Compare different carrier rates for various modes of transportation. Understand what product you plan on shipping from Japan, and then decide whether you want to go private or public. If you need those products sooner, consider express air freight (which is more expensive). Buying in bulk and sending them through sea freight is a more cost-efficient option. But you’ll need to plan the delivery schedules thoroughly to receive them in an acceptable time frame. 

Shipping from Japan can be a rewarding and profitable venture for online merchants who want to tap into a large and diverse market. As the online global market is growing rapidly, bringing Japan’s products closer to the world is an exciting opportunity. Take advantage of competitive shipping rates and reliable delivery services from both public and private freighting companies. With careful planning and compliance with various rules and regulations, you can ensure a smooth and successful shipping experience. 

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