Buying & Shipping Items from Japan

There are many Japan proxy and auction services available for US residents looking to purchase stuff from Japan.  In “Selling to Heroes, Villains and Geeks”, is discussed extensively.  However, Buyee ( is now my preferred proxy purchasing agent.  Why?

  1. Simple fee structure
  2. Surface mail (Seamail) is offered as a shipping method

Let’s focus on shipping.  The shipping cost is by far the largest expense when shipping multiple items from Japan.  Shipping methods offered by Buyee include:

  • EMS (Express Mail Service)/USPS
  • Air International Parcel
  • SAL International Parcel
  • Seamail International Parcel
  • Air Registered Small Packet
  • SAL Registered Small Packet
  • DHL
  • UPS (Whoa! Too expensive)

All proxy purchasing agents or baggage forwarding services offer EMS as the preferred shipping method for parcels because of speed (7 days or less) and reliability.  However, when shipping multiple large boxes this becomes a drain on your profits.  Enter Surface Mail/Seamail which is typically 50% less than EMS. Surface Mail is the most cost effective option if time is not of the essence.  It can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months for your packages to arrive since land & sea are the only transportation modes used.

Choosing Surface/Seamail does require advanced planning since your packages won’t arrive for 2+ months. But the significant savings from the lower shipping cost can’t be ignored.  Those savings can be reinvested in more inventory or increased profit margins.

Tracking is available through USPS for seamail. You’ll see that your package has been processed through KAWASAKI PORT, JAPAN and the familiar “Origin Post is Preparing Shipment” status.  For my shipments, the status didn’t change for 65 days until the package arrived in Jacksonville, FL.

Buyee allows you to purchase from the most popular online stores and they frequently offer up to 50% off EMS if you purchase from Rakuten or other stores above a certain dollar amount.  Buyee is fully integrated with Yahoo Japan (auctions) so bidding is automatic and, of course, they offer sniper bids.

I recently used Buyee for 39 (yes, thirty-nine) orders, mostly auctions.  Through their Consolidation Service I was able to fit all the items in 5 large boxes. Yea!  If there are 2 packages the fee is 500 JPY.  If there are 3 or more packages the consolidation fee is 1,000 JPY.  To be honest, the 39 orders presented a bit of a problem for Buyee’s systems and I had to send several emails to Customer Service but the Customer Service Representatives were FANTASTIC!

When selecting Consolidation, I couldn’t choose all 39 orders for consolidation since Buyee’s system would deliver an error message saying the orders were over the EMS (default setting) size limit.  So, I could only select 10 orders at a time for consolidation. But, the warehouse people packed all 39 orders in the most efficient manner which resulted in 5 large boxes. I should note that while it was 39 orders, it was well over 200 items since I won several auctions with multiple items, and there were several very large (43cm) plushies.

The Seamail cost per box ranged from $45-$55 while EMS was over $100 per box.  PLEASE NOTE: I mainly ship plushies through SEAMAIL! So, it’s impossible for them to be damaged if the box is handled roughly during its 2+ month’s journey. If you are shipping fragile items opt for Buyee’s protective packaging service (1,500 JPY).

You may be telling yourself, this sounds too good to be true! Well, it’s almost too good to be true.  There is one downside with Buyee. Their proxy purchasing service is only available for the most popular Japanese websites (Yahoo Japan, Rakuten, Amazon Japan, Yahoo Shopping, Zozotown, etc.).  If you want to purchase from a website not on their list of partners you are out of luck. Boo!

What to do? What to do if you want to purchase from another website not supported by Buyee? Stay tuned for my next post on another proxy purchasing service that will place your orders on any Japanese website and offers surface mail.

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