Buying from Japan
Finding a Middle-Man/Proxy
There are a lot of sites out there that offer Japanese middle-man (aka proxy) services. They are all a bit different in terms of what extra fees they have, how they handle bidding for you, etc. Most of these sites all have an English version to them so you should do your research into what is best for you.
Here's what you should research:
- How do you bid? Is this an automatic bidding service that interacts directly with the shop/auction, or do you have to wait until a person manually bids for you? This can make a big difference if you want to buy something quickly before another person, or if you want to sniper bid it.
- Do you pay before or after? Most proxies require you to have a deposit stored on their website for you to bid. This prevents them from being stuck with a winning bid but the buyer doesn't pay. These sites tend to be more trustworthy and have lower fees than the sites that allow you to bid without a deposit.
- What's the fee per item? Every proxy is going to have some sort of fee for using their service. Most of the time it's a percentage of the item value, but some sites have a set rate based on number of items.
- How can I pay? PayPal is widely accepted on most sites, but there are few where it isn't.
Here are few recommended proxies:
Making a Bid (YJA)
I'm just doing this section on Yahoo Japan Auctions, since most other Japanese shops just have a buy now button.
Once you have your proxy, now it's time to buy that item! As stated above, depending on your proxy you may have to make a deposit to the website before bidding.
Here's a quick look at what certain parts of Yahoo Japan Auctions page mean:
Google translate is your friend! Be warned though, it often messes up the time remaining for some reason.
Your proxy will walk you through actually bidding on the item, and also on what fees you may have. You'll have proxy fees, but also the charge of shipping the item from the seller to your proxy. Some sellers do list shipping cost directly on the auction page, so that's something to look for.
One thing to note with Yahoo Japan Auctions is sniper bidding. This can actually be confusing as it's a bit different than eBay. If you place a bid within the last 10 minutes of an auction, the auction time is extended by an additional 10 minutes. This means that you can't full on "sniper" an auction, and the auction can go on a lot longer than you might expect! I personally have had an auction get extended for 3 hours over the planned end time because someone else kept trying to bid just a bit higher than me O_O
Once your proxy lets you know they have the item, time to choose shipping! Some proxies will hold items for up to a month without extra fees if you want to combine shipping on items.
Here are the common Japan Post shipping methods:
- EMS - Fast shipping. About a week.
- Airmail - Fast shipping (1-2 weeks). Highest price.
- SAL/Economy Air - A few weeks to a month.
- Surface Mail - Very slow, but very cheap. 1-3 months.
Most of these can have tracking added on if not already provided, which is highly recommended for the cheaper shipping options. You will also have to declare a value on the package. You can choose a lower value which may lower shipping cost, but note that if your package gets lost or damaged you can only get reimbursed up to that value.
At this point, your proxy will probably have a total for you to pay which includes the proxy fee, seller-to-proxy shipping charge, and final shipping charge.
Don't Want to Use a Proxy?
If you don't want to use a proxy, but still want to buy some Ginga merch, here are a few sites to look at:
- CDJapan - Books, DVDs, CDs
- Futagoshop - Bit of everything! Be sure to change your language and currency at the top of the page
- Mandarake - Occasionally has cels and other rare items
- EBay - Don't think I need to explain this one!
Easy Yen to USD Conversion
Remember that you can search Google with "# yen to usd" (or other currency) to get a very accurate calculation with current exchange rates. But if you just want to eye-ball really quick how much an item is in USD, this works well. If you have a trick for other currencies I'd love to put them up here too!
Example: 40500 yen
What to do: Just add a decimal point! The result will be a bit higher than the actual cost, but I tend to like that as I can "pretend" it includes the proxy fees.
So 40500 yen is approximately $405.00 USD (Google conversion: $364.86 USD)