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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 being one of the most fun ways!
Quick note: If you’re looking for minimal Japanese clothes brands you can buy online, I’ve written a post on that too!
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)
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, skin care, or anything to do with pop culture.
One thing you may have noticed if you’ve ever bought anything off from Japan on eBay is how immaculate it’s condition is. I could write an entire post on the exceptional care Japanese second hand sellers and collectors take with there 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 dont recognize, the same care and attention will 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 hand written 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 favour 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.
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 it.
- 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.
Lets take a look at two of the most accessible and popular Japanese ordering services available.
1. 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 – Japans 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’ offer up to 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 in shipping fees.
So if you dont 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 insure your orders against non-delivery and loss or damage 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 to 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.
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 cant 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 conenct 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!
2. 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 favourite of mine and I’m about to show you why it should be a personal favourite of yours, too.
In fact, in my opinion it’s the best Japanese online store on the list because it has something for everyone if you’re interested in Japanese culture.
When I first travelled to Japan, I made it my mission to buy as many childrens books and study material possible as I knew it 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 wont. 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)
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, 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’s more categories than you could image 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, stationary, toys, figures, and several other shopping categories for you to browse throuhg.
One benefit of buying from OMG JAPAN instead of the above proxy services is that there’s no other fees an quicker delivery time. Whilst OMG JAPAN are 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 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! 😉
3. fake food Japan – Best for fake food?
I’ve always been told never to eat in place that has pictures of the food in 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 wont 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 stones throw away from Leicester Square, the Japan Centre has hundreds of food products from Japan as well as books, table ware, gifts, and it’s 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!
Bento and kitchen
Get original Japanese kitchenware and start building the kitchen you’ve always dreamed of!
My favourite 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’s the standard strange items that you’re more than likely accustomed to now if you’ve stuck around here for a while.
Square omelette pan, anybody?!
A collection of items from all over the store that make perfect gifts for family or friends! Or lets 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, stationary 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!
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.
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 worlds 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!)
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 round 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 you favourite online Japanese store is and where you buy your Japanese Memorabilia from in the comments below!