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If like me you’re still checking government websites daily to see if you can travel to Japan, you’re probably disappointed with what you find.
Fortunately, there are ways to experience Japan from the comfort of your own home. Online retail therapy is one of the most fun ways!
Quick note: If you’re looking for an entire section of the site devoted to exploring Japanese-themed products and websites, we’ve got one!
Should I buy products from online Japanese stores?
I won’t lie to you.
One of the simplest and easy ways to find Japanese-themed things or even things directly from Japan is on Amazon.
Simply head over to Amazon and type in something like ‘Japanese Gifts‘ into the search bar and you’ll be met with a whole host of gift options. (I’m assuming you’re from the US, but this works in pretty much all countries)
But, if you’re a little more adventurous than that (and I bet you are!), let’s learn about some of the way more interesting places to get your Japan on! ^_^
For any self-respecting Japanophile, having a room (or even better, a house) stocked with Japanese products and memorabilia is probably rather high on their bucket list.
Sometimes however it’s not easy to pop over to the other side of the world when you feel like it just to bring a few souvenirs back.
Many Japanese items are available exclusively in Japan which makes acquiring them without going to the country or having friends there, a difficult task. This might include retro consoles, fashion brands, skincare, or traditional handcrafted goods. For the latter of which, I highly recommend BECOS. A fantastic online Japanese store to buy authentic and handmade items!
One thing you may have noticed if you’ve ever bought anything from Japan on eBay is how immaculate its condition is. I could write an entire post on the exceptional care Japanese second-hand sellers and collectors take with their items, but that’s a story for another day!
The point is, you can rest assured that if you buy something off a different Japanese auction site that you don’t recognize, the same care and attention will likely be taken with the items and you should have nothing to worry about!
In fact, the same can probably be said for almost all online Japanese stores. I recently purchased some coffee from my good friend Kei over at the Japanese coffee company and was greeted with a handwritten note, a beautifully packaged parcel, and a little origami crane.
It’s little touches like this that clearly represent Japanese customer service as some of the best, if not the best in the world.
Here are a few questions you might have about buying products from an online Japanese store:
Can I buy from any Japanese website and have them ship internationally?
Japan is well known for being a pretty insular country, or at least it was for a fairly long time. Unfortunately, the problem most people come to when buying gifts or items from Japan is that most of the shops don’t ship internationally.
There are also other problems when buying from Japan such as:
- Non-translated websites
- Foreign payments not accepted
- Auction sites may favor Japanese people. This is particularly prevalent when selling limited edition or pre-ordered merchandise.
But fear not my Japan-loving friends! Hope is not lost!
Most of the first-hand online shops will offer shipping to pretty much any place in the world. But with limited edition and second-hand items, things get a bit trickier. But not a lot trickier!
What are proxy companies? How can they help me buy things from Japan?
Proxy buying services are companies that help you get past the problem of no international shipping.
How it works:
- You purchase the item from a Japanese website and have it shipped to the proxy company located in Japan, or you purchase directly on the proxy website (normally they are already in contact with major companies making the whole process a lot smoother).
- The proxy company receives the items from your order and waits for you to pay for them.
- Once payment from you has been secured, the Japanese proxy company will ship your item to you.
When buying from these proxy commerce sites, you’ll usually have access to a wealth of products from other Japanese suppliers which will make your Japanese online shopping a far more seamless and bearable experience than using google translate to attempt to buy things from Japan.
1. Tokyo Treat – Best for those who like surprises
I’m going to start this list with what I believe to be possibly the greatest online store. Technically it’s a little different from the others, but it HAS to be on this list. Let me explain…
After subscribing to one of their plans, either monthly or annually, you’ll be treated to a hand-curated Japanese snack box each and every month.
Not only is it a fantastic way to experience Japanese culture at home, but it’s also up to the professionals to give you the most diverse look at Japanese snacks. I normally choose anything that looks cool when I order mine, so it’s nice to have a real representation of some of the best sweet treats!
One thing that sets Tokyo Treat apart from the rest is that they give a true representation of Japanese culture through snacks. A lot of the other boxes on offer only seem to include the “weird” and “wacky treats, but Tokyo Treat is different.
Each box comes filled to the brim with 15-20 snacks each time, that’s bigger than any other box available!
They also offer worldwide delivery, a 24-page culture guide, and, for me anyway, the feeling of Christmas every time I see the box turn up at my door!
You can also take a look at this beginner guide they’ve created to show you just how awesome the idea is. I’ll be honest, I was hooked from the moment I saw their past boxes, haha!
I truly cannot recommend these guys enough. It makes everything super easy and instead of scrolling through pages and pages of food, wondering what you will and won’t like, it’s all done for you!
P.S If you’re still undecided, I’ve reviewed Tokyo Treat thoroughly so I know how happy you’ll be with it!
2. From Japan – Best for limited edition and second-hand items
From Japan is perhaps the most well-known Japanese proxy buying service, so it’s the one I’ve chosen to talk about today.
Why should I buy from From Japan?
- Members can regularly enjoy 10% discounts from big Japanese retailers.
These include but are not limited to:
- Rakuten – The Rakuten shop is a little like amazon with thousands of products for pretty much anything you could ever need.
- ZOZOTOWN – Japan’s largest online fashion store.
- Rakuma – An online market place similar to eBay, run by Rakuten.
- Amazon Japan – Amazon’s Japanese website
2. Shipping discounts up to 10%
Shipping can really sting your pockets if you’re not careful, especially from a country as far away as Japan. Fortunately ‘From Japan’ offers up to a 10% shipping discount depending on your member rank tier.
Basically, the more you spend and buy through them, the less you’ll have to spend on shipping fees.
So if you don’t want the fuss of going to multiple online Japanese stores to make your purchases, picking a proxy service and sticking with them for a few years whilst you rack up points seems like a sensible idea.
3. Shop Safely
Even with the best will in the world, online shopping isn’t always safe.
Luckily for only 300yen per item, From Japan will ensure your orders against non-delivery and loss or damaged during shipping.
No matter the value of the item!
4. Free consolidation
Absolutely no extra charges for combining multiple sites or sellers’ items into one order. Pretty handy if you get carried away with your buying!
5. Get access to auctions and marketplaces only found in Japan
If you’re after a one-off or one-of-a-kind item in mint condition, this is the place to find it. Unfortunately, lots of these marketplaces aren’t available to anyone that lives outside of Japan which makes securing the items next to impossible.
To sum up, if you want any limited editions or one-off items from Japan you need to sign up for a buying service.
In fact, even if you don’t think you do want any of that, sign up anyway and have a look at what’s on offer, I bet there’ll be a few things to tempt you!
What can I buy at ‘From Japan’?
Literally, anything you can think of.
I’m not kidding.
It even features in another article I wrote about the best places to buy anime figures online, and some of those things are incredibly rare.
From pet supplies and watches to fashion and antique collectibles, I’m honestly not sure any other shopping categories exist outside of this website.
Take a look at this page and have a click around. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, well then you’ve clearly got some very unique tastes!
It’s an especially good website if you’re looking for anything second-hand or limited edition as they connect directly to several auction houses and marketplaces.
As it’s so easy to navigate through, does it give me an excuse to spend way too much money on an anime figure?…
…Well, I’m doing it anyway!
3. OMG JAPAN – Best for Study Material and Snacks
Ships to: Everywhere other than North African countries and snacks cannot be sent to Brazil
OMG Japan is a personal favorite of mine and I’m about to show you why it should be a personal favorite of yours, too.
In fact, in my opinion, it’s one of the best Japanese online stores on the list because it has something for everyone if you’re interested in Japanese culture.
When I first traveled to Japan, I made it my mission to buy as many children’s books and study materials as possible as I knew they would be easy to find and cheaper to buy.
But now I’m back in England and the only place that has a somewhat decent selection of books is Amazon. The trouble with that is I honestly don’t know which books will benefit me and which won’t. Whilst I could look through the many reviews most of them have, my time is limited and I’d rather my shopping experience was a little more streamlined.
OMG Japan’s study book collection is beyond crazy.
At the current time, I’m writing this (July 2021), they have over 800 books! (that’s 34 pages)
Update 2022: It’s still exactly the same!!
Beginner, intermediate, advanced, JLPT study, specific series, brands, they’ve got it all!
The two most impressive ways to filter through the vast selection of books is by subject or by type. The following is a list of both of them which will prove to you that no matter what area of Japanese you’re studying, you’re covered!
Business, children’s book, dictionary, discounted set, flashcards, graded reader, manga, mock tests, posters, textbooks, vocabulary, and workbooks.
Business, Business Japanese, Communication, Computers, Conversation, Customer Service, Gakken, Grammar, Hiragana, Hospitality, IT, kana, kanji, Katakana, Listening, Nursing, Reading, Science, Speaking, Tour Book, Travel, Vocabulary, Writing.
As you can see, there are more categories than you could imagine which means you’ll never be left wondering what to study next!
Plus, it’s much nicer to be looking through a website designed specifically for people who want to buy Japanese items. So once you’ve bought your study material, you can grab some Japanese snacks to treat yourself!
OMG JAPAN also has hundreds of Japanese-only snacks, drinks, candy, chocolates, pringles, etc. (It’s a really long list…) as well as beauty, fashion, lifestyle, stationery, toys, figures, and several other shopping categories for you to browse through.
One benefit of buying from OMG JAPAN instead of the above proxy services is that there are no other fees and quicker delivery time. Whilst OMG JAPAN is technically a subsidiary of White Rabbit (Which is a proxy service) the website acts like a normal online shop so you don’t have to worry about where your items are coming from.
You simply change the currency button at the top, order anything you want, and it’ll arrive pretty dam fast!
Don’t go too mad, though. You need to save all your pennies for that flight to Japan! 😉
4. fake food Japan – Best for… fake food?
I’ve always been told never to eat in a place that has pictures of the food on the menu, let alone giant models of the food in the restaurant window! But it’s actually an incredibly normal thing in Japan, and absolutely not something to be worried about.
The fake food industry in Japan is worth an estimated $90 million. Madness!
If you’ve ever been to Japan you know it’s a staple of Japanese culture, and the folks at ‘Fake Food Japan’ have caught onto this and made a completely unique online Japanese store that sells fake food for pretty much any occasion you can imagine!
Fancy a Katsu curry smartphone stand? You’ve come to the right place!
What about a sushi wall clock? Yep, they have that too!
Or maybe you’re after an octopus outlet cover?
Whatever Japanese food model you desire, chances are that ‘fake food Japan’ will have it in a variety of strange and interesting mediums!
And whilst Fake Food Japan won’t appeal to everyone, it certainly wins the prize for the most unique store to buy Japanese items from online!
5. Japan Centre – Best for the weekly shop!
If you happen to live in England and you love Japanese food, you’ve probably heard of the Japan Centre.
A stone’s throw away from Leicester Square, the Japan Centre has hundreds of food products from Japan as well as books, tableware, gifts, and its own food hall!
So what I’m saying is that if you live near London you probably don’t have much use for this list.
However, 90% of my audience on here are from the US so why is the Japan Centre on the list?
They have an almost incomprehensible amount of items on their website (by far the most food) and they deliver to 99% of the world. So if you’re planning a Japanese banquet in the near future then this is the place to be!
Oh, and invite me to it? Please!
A quick look around the site will reveal just how much the Japan Centre offers as an online Japanese store.
We already know it’s the perfect choice for ordering your Japanese groceries, but what else does it offer?
Drinks and Sake
Over 260 varieties of Sake, 170 different teas, 150 soft drinks, and 120 different alcoholic drinks.
I remember last time I was in Japan I got to try Sake for the first time and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, that trip was only three weeks long and I bought the sake near the end so wasn’t able to try anything else.
That’s what makes the Japan Centre such a good online store, I don’t even have to be in the country and I can continue to eat and drink like I was!
No more post-holiday blues!
Bento and kitchen
Get original Japanese kitchenware and start building the kitchen you’ve always dreamed of!
My favorite is this cute Cuckoo Rice Cooker! So Kawaii!
It’s likely that some of the things in this section will be completely new to you, but that’s all part of the fun! You can even find wooden Masu cups to drink that limited edition Sake you’ve just bought.
And then there are the standard strange items that you’re more than likely accustomed to now if you’ve stuck around here for a while.
Square omelet pan, anybody?!
A collection of items from all over the store that makes perfect gifts for family or friends! Or let’s be honest, for yourself!
Magazines, books, and crafts
As I’ve already said, this website is best for food, but it still has a collection of study material, stationery, and books to satisfy your Japanese reading.
I’m particularly a fan of these samurai sword-style scissors. A little over the top maybe, but at this point, I’m so far into Japanese culture that it probably doesn’t matter!
A great selection of DIY food kits with a few Japanese cocktails thrown in, too!
6. Kokoro Japan – Best for skincare, cosmetics, and beauty
Kokoro Japan prides itself on stocking the absolute best in Japanese skincare and cosmetics.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve already heard about how popular Japanese skincare routines have become in the Western world, but the problem is sourcing the products.
Kokoro Japan is a Japanese store that has literally hundreds of Japanese skincare products for you to try. It’s absolutely the best way to get cosmetics and other healthcare products from Japan when you can’t get to the country.
If you want a good place to start, I suggest looking at the list of the top 100 best sellers.
OR if you want a far bigger write up on the best places to buy Japanese skincare online, I’ve done that too!
7. UNIQLO – Best for Japanese fashion
Perhaps the most well-known online Japanese store in the world is UNIQLO. It’s a brand that also has stores in several of the world’s biggest capitals and makes Japanese fashion accessible to millions.
Uniqlo believes everyone can benefit from simple yet well-designed clothing. So you can expect to see signs of minimalism, zen, and simplicity in their clothing range.
I love keeping my wardrobe simple and to have something like that with influence from Japanese culture is pretty much a dream! (And I’m not talking about Harajuku street fashion!)
It even made it onto my list of top Japanese minimal clothing brands to buy from!
So there you have it, a few of the best online stores to buy Japanese products from. Obviously, the ideal situation is to be in Japan and go searching around one-of-a-kind vintage charity shops, but as always Japan is more than a 10-minute walk away for a lot of us!
Let me know what your favorite online Japanese store is and where you buy your Japanese memorabilia from in the comments below!