Last updated on April 25th, 2017 at 01:53 pm
So you want pretty, expensive Japanese things but you don’t live in pretty, expensive Japan, huh? Amazon’s Japanese branch has recently become a lot friendlier to importers, so if you want Japanese games, figures or other collectibles, it’s a good time to try them out. Here’s how to get started!
Table of Contents
Create an Account and shop in English
Using Amazon Japan in English has never been easier with this English landing page.
Alternately, just click the globe dropdown at the top left of the page here:
It’ll open up this menu, just click “English” then the dialog itself and most of the rest of the site translates itself immediately.
Finally, create an account with the fully english form in the top right! It’s separate from your Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com account, but you can use the same email if you want to keep things simple.
Not everything in the store is translated: A great deal of item names are still only in Japanese, so Google Translate can help a lot, as can looking through higher order categories looking for thumbnails of what you want. Chrome make translating the easiest, offering Translate as a right-click context menu item. Failing that, dump the URL of the page you want translated into the Google Translate input box and let it do its thing.
It can help your search to find the name of the game/item/series you’re looking for in official Kanji/etc and search the store using that. The “related item” utility will often be your best friend.
Not everything ships everywhere, unfortunately. To avoid using a shopping service (which I won’t cover in this guide), you want items marked with Amazon Global.
Narrowing your search from there should be pretty easy as the side bar is now (mostly) in English, so it’s closer than ever to just shopping on Amazon.com.
Payment and Shipping
In case you’re new to imports, you’re not exactly going to get free two-day shipping from Japan to the United States (or pretty much anywhere but Japan). You can expect to pay a fair bit extra for shipping, often $5-10 worth per item in my experience.
Unlike AmiAmi for example, Amazon uses a fairly fast shipping as their default shipping method so you can expect packages a bit faster than if you always order SAL from AmiAmi. Amazon JP usually uses DHL which requires either a signature or permission to drop off if no one’s home. Just let them know ahead of time if no one is there to sign.
Try to consolidate orders instead of buying lots of small orders, they’ll be grouped together by default to save you (and Amazon) the most on shipping.
Also, generally you’ll want a credit card that lets you pay in Yen directly, as Amazon.co.jp will convert currencies for you, but it’s always pricer than paying directly in yen in my experience.
If you’re only making one purchase it’s not a big deal, but if you’re going to import regularly, it’s a good idea to get a card that pays in yen (this can help on other sites that let you pay in yen instead of USD too). I’m no…credit card…guy, so I’ll leave that aspect of research up to you.
At checkout you can confirm your card is paying in Japanese Yen (and change it if it’s not).
Amazon Japan is very often the cheapest or pretty close if you can get an item brand new and nowhere else is discounting it. For older items, sold out/non-global shipping items, or just to be sure you’re getting the best deal, you’ll want to shop around.
My first stop after Amazon Japan is always AmiAmi, they’re a little complicated and slow, but they have a good selection.
PlayAsia is often more expensive but frequently has stock, especially for games, longer than AmiAmi, so they’re a good place to check if other sites are sold out. Play Asia’s whole deal is being an import shop not incidentally importing, so they’re easier to use and contain less un/poorly translated Japanese than AmiAmi or Amazon Japan.
J-List is another commonly used one, they’re often best for food related items others don’t have/ship (but they stock figures and games as well). Like PlayAsia, J-List is designed for an English-speaking, importing audience, so it’s a bit less confusing to use.
For older items you can also check eBay as you might find a place with cheaper local shipping, but this is often only useful for more common and cheap items. I’ve had good luck getting Manga from eBay.
Disclaimer: This guide (and website in general) uses affiliate links. This doesn’t make anything more expensive for you, but it helps me support my site and writing when I help you find something you like.