So you want to buy merchandise…

It's all mine.

We got some questions on Twitter about buying merchandise from Japan, and I figured I’d be able to answer them better here. This is all based on my experiences so your mileage may vary. Note also that I live in Europe. It is cheaper and faster for me to order directly from Japan than wait for American sellers to stock these items – and eventually some of the merchandise will get a release in the States for the fans there, it has been confirmed by Viz.

1) Insane shipping cost: shipping costs more than what I was buying.

Let’s face it, buying items internationally usually means shipping is going to be expensive. There really is no other way around it than to pick places that offer multiple shipping options. EMS and other express shipping options will always cost a lot (most I’ve paid is triple the value of the item in shipping), so picking SAL – in some countries it’s called Economy Air Mail – will save you a lot of money. The downside is that you will often have to wait several weeks to receive your order. For some reason – at least for my country – registered SAL is much faster than unregistered. Unregistered can take 2-3 weeks, registered is usually here in a week. So far I have never lost a parcel from Japan shipped by SAL unregistered, but the mail service in my country is also pretty reliable in general.

Personally, my preferred method is Registered Air Mail, which usually is only a few days slower than EMS and costs 1-2k JPY less depending on the order. Another way to save on shipping costs is finding a friend who wants to order something from the same place and splitting the cost.

2) Exchange rate: some sites list prices in JPY only. How do you know the cost in USD/EUR/GBP/[insert local currency here]?

For example Amiami, Hobby Search and CDJapan have built in currency conversion options. It seems Amazon Japan doesn’t show conversion on the item pages, but there are plenty of currency converters online. Just google for “currency converter” or “exchange rates”, or whatever it is in your own language for local versions. If you have Win7 (I think this was also in Vista), there’s a desktop widget for currency conversion – it’s what I use.

Note that you will be charged in JPY if the shop you’re buying from is located in Japan. If you pay via Paypal you must place the payment in the currency the shop requests, and Paypal will perform the conversion for you, charging you according to the day’s exchange rate. If you pay by credit card, you must also pay in the currency the shop requests and your bank will perform the conversion and charge your account accordingly.

3) Out of Stock: with T&B being so popular both in Japan and here things are selling out fast and may not get restocked. Has that happened?

This has happened quite often, actually. Especially with the figures (good luck getting one if you didn’t get a preorder in) but also with other merchandise. Limited Edition Blu-ray volume 1 sold out ages ago. The first Official Hero Book seems to be out of print (you may still get lucky if some store has stock left) so it might be hard to find. Gossips book is selling really well so it might go out of print soon, unless the publisher decides to print more (update: it got a reprint in October). In general, I think that it’s better to preorder if there’s something you really want than wait for it to be released and then order – especially if it’s a figure (but then you better be ready to fight the bloody preorder war).

4) Amazon.co.jp and Amazon.com gift card: does Amazon.co.jp accept Amazon.com gift cards?

As far as I know and have been able to find out, the answer is “no”. Gift cards are region specific.

5) Trustworthy shopping services that won’t require me to sell my organs to afford getting the item here?

I’ve had good experiences with Yokatta shopping service. Their commission is affordable, I’ve gotten good service, and they have good communication. There are many other options, it’s best to do some research and ask around to find the one that you’ll be comfortable with. Many shopping services only accept Paypal.

The thing you should note with using a shopping service is that the final price of your order will be item price + domestic shipping within Japan + shopping service commission + international shipping from Japan. This can really hike up the price, but a lot of the T&B merchandise is available in stores that already ship internationally so it’s best to do some research before you contact a shopping service. Places like Animate, Premium Bandai, and some places that sell fanmade items require you to use a shopping service, though.

The downside of using a shopping service may be their reaction time. Differences in timezones, local holidays etc. may delay the placing of your order and stuff may get sold out. I often look up alternative items incase something has sold out.

6) When you preorder do you have to put money down or will you be billed later?

Depends on the store, and every store has a FAQ describing the order and preorder process. It’s best to read the store FAQ carefully before placing an order because some have restrictions on order cancellations.

Preordering through shopping service always requires payment in advance, and usually you will be asked to pay in two installments, item price + domestic shipping + commission when you place your order, and international shipping once the shopping service has the items for you.

Recommended stores for official merchandise:

  • Amazon Japan
  • CDJapan
  • Amiami
  • Hobby Search
  • Hobby Link Japan
  • YesAsia
  • OtaCute
  • Animate (requires shopping service)
  • Premium Bandai (requires shopping service)

Fanmade merchandise (mostly doujinshi but also other things):

  • Mandarake (also sells second-hand items that may be hard to get)
  • Toranoana (requires shopping service)
  • K-books (requires shopping service)
  • YouClub (requires shopping service)

There are other options, but these are the ones I have some experience with. Most of these places accept Paypal, though Mandarake has restrictions when ordering adult oriented items. The sites that don’t ship internationally and require the use of shopping service are only in Japanese so you’ll need an online translator or at least basic knowledge of the language to navigate them.

If you’re looking for lists of available official merchandise, check out Sternbild Central Market. They also have a more comprehensive list of retailers.

Last updated 2011/12/12.

36 comments on “So you want to buy merchandise…

  1. Thanks for such a detailed guide!

    Regarding Yokatta shopping service, how does their fee work for shop orders? I’ve looked through their FAQ but I’m still confused. They mentioned that “700 yen is maximum to three items per seller”. Does that mean for a fee of 700 yen, you can only order a maximum of 3 items per shop order?

    Thanks in advance!

        • I remember taking a look at Treasure Japan, too. I think it depends on what you’re ordering, Yokatta seemed the cheaper option for the order I was researching back then and since their service was good I stuck with them.

          • Yeap definitely, especially if the items ordered are pretty expensive, Yokatta seems the way to go. I’m guessing I’ll most probably be switching services depending on what I buy. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I would also like to recommend http://www.i-tm4u.biz as a reliable, affordable shopping service.

    I’ve a few things through them and their fees are very reasonable (better than ye olde Crescent Shop and significantly more communicative and better English than… one other one that I tried using several years ago but forgot the name, involved “Ya” — sorry that’s not very helpful). I’ve known other people who have used ITM4U for Yahoo!JP auctions and they spoke highly of them as well.

    • Thanks for the recommendation! I very rarely buy from auctions so I don’t have much experience which shopping service works best for them. I used Rinkya a few times years ago but their fees can get really steep.

  3. Thanks for the detailed guide. Buying anything T&B is becoming really frustrating, especially if you luck out on the preorder war. Was lucky enough to secure Bunny but still no luck on Tiger (do you think they’ll restock by Xmas?)

    I like to call this the Star Wars Syndrome – where production was panned and no one believed in them. Then when everything hit big, we get the empty box Xmas (not enough toys/merch for the demand) and to a degree, w/ the lack/shortage of merch, it’s that all over again.

    So good luck to all you guys trying to get the goods.

    Me, i’m going to steel myself for the Sky High preorder war – coming soon to a galaxy near you in December… (christ, i never was a buyfag until this show)

  4. Amazon Japan is rather expensive to be honest in the shipping department. It’s kinda annoying really.

    HLJ you need to remember to login and confirm to ship available items if some are on back order or out of stock, else they just wait until the item is permanently discontinued to send your other items. They’re good for pre-ordering.

    As for the SH Figure Arts, I suggest using BigBadToy store for the figures if you’re an American T&B fan. RightStuf puts up pre-orders sometimes as well for T&B merchandise.

    As for a shopping.deputy service, I suggest Celga. They are quick with ordering and replying. A few of the members have spotty English, but they at least try your best to accommodate you. They’re also not blacklisted (right now) by some of the doujin consignment stores. Shopping Mall Japan is currently blacklisted by MelonBooks. I sometimes do group orders on LJ to cut down on costs for myself. (much for fun dividing the shipping and fee cost among everyone proportionally ))

    I tend to wait for the merchandise to appear on Yahoo Auctions Japan. Can sometimes get it cheaper.

    • Forgot to add: RightStuf and BigBadToystore usually don’t fill up as quickly. HLJ and the other Japanese based stores are the first to fill up. HLJ, especially. RightStuff has a bit better price than BigBadToystore, but BigBadToystore usually has the pre-orders up longer for the figures

      • agree – got Bunny off of BBTS, as well. tried Amazon.jp but can’t seem to get past the international address deficiency… so for now, i guess i wait. again.

      • No problem. I also do group orders on doujinshi. I try my best not to charge any extra (just their portion of the shipping, commission fees and more). Some of the doujinshi consignment shops have started to ban ordering services. Melonbooks and its BL side are among the main ones to ban.

        HLJ is another offender on the expensive to ship group. Hong Kong and China based sellers on eBay try to do the same (worst offenders really). Always keep an eye out for the proper stickers and such that indicate it’s real (more so on Gundam items than any other). Many of the Japanese sellers on ebay as well will lower shipping costs if you private message them, especially with group orders. Don’t let them bully you into $30 SAL shipping costs, trust me they should know better.

        Doujin ordering I suggest finding a group order.

        • Gah forgot to sign in above. Anyways, Celga’s fairly easy going about how long you leave things in storage. I ordered some Tiger & Bunny doujin back in May, and I just sent the shipping request.

  5. Hey, there’s a site that I ordered from called yesasia.com that has free economy shipping. There’s a lot of Tiger and Bunny stuff, but you have to search just “Tiger Bunny” to see all the items they have, because for some reason the search bar doesn’t register the ampersand properly. I’ve ordered from there and they have pretty good service, so I think you should check it out.

  6. For those who want them – Bunny and Rock Bison are still listed on BBTS (Big Bad Toy Store). Looks like Bunny just got restocked because he’s been sold out for quite some time now. Get ‘em while they’re hot, guys.

  7. Pingback: It’s not a real TaiBani figure release if an online store doesn’t go down with it | This is Sternbild

  8. For Yokatta do you pay when the item reaches their warehouse or upfront? I can’t seem to find it on their FAQ D:

  9. Hello! Your guide is pretty informative. But I must admit my current concern now is buying doujinshis. I’m looking for Watanabe Asia’s “Candy Man Vol. 1″, but apparently, it’s all sold out, except in Yahoo!Auctions (and I don’t think they accept Paypal). Since Comiket is just around the corner, do popular djs like the one I mentioned above get restocked/resold in Mandarake? I think that’s the only option I have for buying djs at a more affordable price. Ebay’s prices (including shipping) are much too steep.

    • Mandarake does resell doujinshi but not all of them get stocked on the international site so you may have to use a shopping service. In the past I have asked them to stock something from their Japanese site to the international, but recently the communication hasn’t been so good in my experience. If you can’t find it anywhere else, you can still shop at Yahoo! Auctions through a shopping service. Most of them accept Paypal, but there will be additional fees for their service.

      • Urgh. Using a shopping service is actually the one thing that I want to avoid. I was able to get a copy of Candy Man Vol. 1 for myself and it cost me $120 because of the shopping service fees and shipping. I wanted to give a copy to a friend. The fees are outrageous, considering that I live in the Philippines which is a bit close to Japan. I was shocked that the dj ended up being more expensive than the S.H Figuarts Wild Tiger because of the fees. :(

        • I feel your pain, I live in Europe and even buying directly without any middlemen the shipping costs here are horrible.

          If you want to avoid using a shopping service, then keeping an eye on Mandarake’s international site is probably the best choice. There are also a couple of doujin selling communities on Livejournal (if you happen to use it) that might be of help.

          It seems that it’s really hard to get some of the most popular circles’ doujins, there’s one I’ve been looking for months but the price’s always been too outrageous to justify buying it. :/

          • Do you think you can provide me with the links to these Livejournal doujin selling communities? (I don’t even want to imagine the shipping costs to Europe. T_T)

          • Thank you, thank you very much for the info! I’m pretty much limiting my T&B purchases to those that I can buy here in the Philippines. I was pretty lucky to get the S.H Figuarts of Wild Tiger and Barnaby.

          • But, sadly, we can’t get everything. The books are definitely not available here. The CDs and BDs too. Even the figures themselves are very expensive from the local shop here called GreatToysOnline. It’s buying djs that’s a long time frustration of mine. :(

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