Considering our modern busy lifestyles and the prevalence of technology, it’s no wonder that many of us gravitate towards shopping online.
But, shopping online in Japan can be very different that what you’re used to. In this guide, we’ll take a look at online shopping in Japan, major retailers, shipping and payment options, as well as introduce a few international favorites that ship to Japan.
The Big Three
If you have an Amazon account in your home country, you’ll still need to create a Amazon Japan account. The good news is that you can use your current email address and password over on Amazon Japan.
Amazon Prime in Japan is a far more economical option than in the US. Sign up for a year in advance or have it billed monthly for 400 yen. You’ll get free expedited shipping on many items and unlimited streaming of music and videos.
Rakuten, with its cute panda mascot and Rakuten Card Man superhero is a fixture on TV commercials. Everything from insurance, banking, travel reservations, applying for credit cards and more can be done through its home portal.
Rakuten’s biggest draw is there are no monthly fees to access prime features like free next day shipping and Rakuten Mama Wari. Instead, Rakuten has a point scale ranking that helps you earn more points, which can be used on any Rakuten affiliate. These points can be converted into electronic money and used at brick and mortar retailers across Japan. Learn more here on our guide to point cards.
Softbank customers benefit greatly from shopping on Yahoo as they automatically qualify for Yahoo Premium membership and earn 10 points per 100 yen spent online.
If you have a T-Point card, consider making Yahoo shopping your to go place for online shopping. You’ll be able to earn points which, like Rakuten points, can be used as electronic money in brick and mortar shops across Japan. Learn more here on our guide to point cards.
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Lifestyle and Specialty Stores
Nissen is a great place to start if you’re new to shopping with online Japanese retailers. Originally a mail order catalog, you can still find Nissen in supermarkets across Japan. You can furnish your home and kitchen, purchase clothing for the entire family (pets included!) and cosmetics and perfume too (Japanese Language only).
Belle Maison mainly sells apparel and accessories for women, babies, and young children, though they also sell school clothing and product name printed labels, home furniture and decorations. Many of the products you see on the pages of Japanese parenting magazines are from Belle Maison. Like Nissen, Belle Maison is also a mail order catalog (Japanese Language only).
If quirky, original items are your style, you’ll like Felissimo. There are several lifestyle niches on its portal site that sell everything from clothing, home and kitchen accessories and stationery. Felissimo also has monthly subscription services (定期便/ていきびん/teikibin) so you’ll be able to get the latest items at your doorstep (Japanese Language only).
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You will find that shipping in Japan is very efficient, thanks to the tireless efforts of Japan Post and courier services. A majority of online sellers offer free shipping (送料無料/そうりょうむりょう/souryou muryou) if your total is over a certain amount.
Courier service (宅急便/たっきゅうびん/takkyuubin)
The most common form of shipping when you shop online is takkyubin, or courier service. Your purchases will be shipped by Yamato Kuroneko, Sagawa, or any other takkyubin provider. If you opt for takkyubin you will receive a tracking number.
Credits cards are closely associated with online shopping. You might wonder how to shop online in Japan if you don’t have one. The great news is that in Japan you have an advantage.
One of the biggest perks of online shopping in Japan is that cash is still king in this country, meaning that you can pay for your items upon delivery or pay for them within a designated time frame.
Cash On Delivery (代金引換/だいきんひきかえ/daikin hikikae)
Cash on Delivery (代金引換/だいきんひきかえ/daikin hikikae or “dai biki” for short) is nearly obsolete in countries like the US. But, in Japan it’s still very much a popular way to pay for items. This will cost you an addition 260 yen and it’s best to have exact change on hand.
Bank Transfer (振込/ふりこみ/furikomi)
Another form of payment that still is in use a bank transfer. You can send a bank transfer for your goods through your bank’s website or at an ATM. You will pay a service fee if the recipient’s bank is different from yours.
Paying at Convenience Stores and Post Offices
If you chose this option you will receive a payment slip (払込票/はらいこみひょう/haraikomi hyou or 支払用紙/しはらいようし/shiharai youshi). This slip typically comes with your invoice. Carefully tear along the seams. The result is a payment slip that looks very similar to a utility, tax, or pension bill slip.
Be sure that all three parts are intact. One section is for the place where payment was made, one section goes to the seller, and the final section is your copy. Be sure to keep this in a safe place as it is your proof of payment.
Convenience Store Machines
You can print out payments slips at one of the many multipurpose machines located in a convenience store. If you choose this option, the seller will send you an email with directions on how to use the machine. Note that the machine does not actually handle cash or credit cards. For the actually payment you will have to print the print out to the cashier.
Placing and Confirming Your Online Order
After your items are in your cart, it’s time to check out. You can shop in English at Amazon Japan and Rakuten Global Mart. Here’s a look at how to place and confirm your order in Japanese.
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Online Shopping Options Outside of Japan
While shopping online at Japanese retailers can give you a sense of security there are just some products that are hard to obtain. However, shipping to Japan can get pricey! What to do? Here’s a look at some retailers that offer free or friendly shopping fees to international customers.
Asos – Has all the latest trends for less plus free international shipping on all orders.
The Book Depository – Shop a large selection of English language books and get free international shipping.
Iherb – A great place to get a hold of homeopathic and natural remedies, healthy snacks, supplements, beauty products and more. Free shipping on orders over 40 USD.
Pottery Barn – For stylish home furnishings and decor, as well as seasonal decorations.
Next – Look no further for maternity, baby, and kids’ clothes; Next has you covered!
Sephora – Get the latest fragrances, beauty and skin care products for a flat shipping fee of 1,500 yen on orders over 10,000 yen.
Target – One stop shopping for clothing, shoes, accessories, home decor, and more.
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Shopping Online in Japan
Written By: Teni Wada – A work-at-home-mom determined to find the perfect work-life balance in the bustling city of Tokyo. Find out more about her life as a new mom in Tokyo over at her blog, babykaiju.com.