Guide to Shopping and Importing from Japan

If you ever keep yourself up-to-date with the latest news about products in Japan I’m sure there are a lot of exclusive items you’d want to get a hold of.

So, here’s a guide with a list of services I’ve used over the years and a number of things you should be aware of if you’re in the UK.

Fees, Fees, Fees – Foreign Exchange, Customs and Courier Administration

As you know, everything in the UK is sold with VAT (Value Added Tax) which is 20% of the item value. When you import something, this is added to your items too:

  • Anything classified as a “gift” such as something you’re sending to a friend and is over the value of £39.
  • A “commercial good” which is something you bought from a shop and is over the value of £15.
  • The total value of the goods in the package is over £135.

The only exceptions are food and books which are exempt from this.

Other than customs charging VAT on your import goods, the courier such as Royal Mail or Parcel Force will also slap on an extra “administration charge” for handling the customs clearance procedure. This has been a minimum of £20 from my experience.

It’s why whenever you buy an item from overseas via a site like eBay, you often find the item underpriced to something like “1USD” to avoid custom charges! It’s risky to do this of course. You can get yourself into trouble and you also won’t be able to claim the full insurance that some P&P (postage and packaging) services offer such as EMS of course.

So, check what the custom fees are in your own country before importing. It will be at your own risk if you choose to use the same tactic as some oversea sellers to avoid import duty.

As far as P&P is concerned, EMS is the fastest but also the most expensive. Just shipping a PS3 game (or regular blu-ray disc) can cost £15 but you can get it as fast as the next day after shipping. If you don’t mind waiting a month or so, some of the sites listed offer economy delivery by ship which is the cheapest at around £5 for the same item but doesn’t offer tracking or insurance.

Other than customs, admin fees and P&P, you also need to take into account the foreign currency commission charges your bank will make which, is usually in the range of 1-2%.

In other words…

Import Good = Goods Price + Foreign Currency Commission + P&P + Customs Charge + Admin Fee

So, as you can see importing isn’t cheap! But if you are undaunted and think it’s worth it, here’s a list of sites I’ve used

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Sankei Miniatuart Ghibli Papercraft – No. 2 My Neighbour Totoro, Kusakabe Residence and Cat Bus

Decided to build the second Totoro papercraft I bought while in Japan this time, the Kusakabe sisters and the Cat Bus. I actually wanted to buy two other Totoro ones – one with the famous bus stop scene when Satsuki first meets Totoro and also the one when the family was moving into their new home.

Unfortunately space is limited so I had to be selective ^^;

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Your Name Art Book Review

There has been an artbook released for every Makoto Shinkai movie so far and Your Name is no exemption – not surprising considering its run away success and that it got a special “Collectors Edition“.

Unlike the visual guide book, it does not contain concept art or storyboards but the format is no different, once again in B6 paper back size.

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Dragon Quest Builders Review

Basically Dragon Quest meets Minecraft which means you build and explore with a purpose. The world has been destroyed by darkness and you as the hero/heroine is the only one that can remember how to build things. Silly plot eh?

Each land represents a level and your objective is to build up the town and then eventually defeat the boss before moving on. You have to start over with each new land but you get to keep the old objects you’ve discovered and the scenarios are different so it gives some variation.

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