Figuring out how to save on international shipping fees is everyone’s worst nightmare when it comes to buying products from Japan.
While buying from Japan can be very affordable, especially when buying preloved goods from places like Yahoo Auctions, not knowing how to navigate international shipping can lead us to spend more than we want to!
While every country is different with regards to the shipping services able and some of these helpful tips may not be available to a few of you, many of you should be able to benefit from the information packed into this article.
In today’s article, we will be sharing 6 useful tips to save on international shipping from Japan.
This article is especially helpful for those who:
- Want to purchase from Japan’s online e-commerce sites—such as Rakuten or Amazon JP—but are turned off by high international shipping fees
- Don’t understand Japanese and have a hard time researching the variety of international shipping options from Japan
- Regularly buy from Japan and Japanese online shops but want to further lower the costs of shipping from Japan
- Just want to mail packages from Japan to their home country
How much is international shipping from Japan?
Now, before we dive into how to save on shipping, we must understand what affects international shipping fees from Japan. Here are the 4 main factors that could determine how high or low your shipping fees are when you buy online:
- Size of the parcel (the total volume of your parcel, e.g. height x width x length).
- Weight of parcel (how heavy your items are).
- Value of the parcel (how much your item costs. This is especially important for customs duty and tax payments).
- Shipping method (which courier or postal service you select).
This is a great list to keep in mind when you are looking to ship items internationally. You can try to think about if there is any way for you to lower shipping fees when keeping these factors in mind.
Without further ado, let's get into the top 6 tricks to save on shipping from Japan!
1. Choose The Right Shipping Service
There are two channels you can use to ship your goods out of Japan:
- Postal Service (such as EMS, Airmail, SAL, Surface)
- Courier (such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, SF Express)
What does that even mean? Put simply, postal service refers to the public shipping service, and a courier is operated by a privately owned business. In the case of Japan, is one necessarily better than another?
No, not necessarily. It depends on what your priorities are.
- FedEx, UPS, DHL, and private carriers.
- SAL or Avia.
- Surface Mail.
EMS is typically reliable.
However, the most reliable will depend on where you are shipping your items.
Cost is tricky.
Depending on the size/weight of your package the cheapest option varies.
(see paragraph below).
Different couriers also have different areas of specialization.
This might affect how quickly and how cheaply they can ship.
For instance, SF Express only ships to East Asia.
So it is probably better to use SF Express if you want to ship to East Asia.
Another important factor to keep in mind is, what are you allowed to ship?
Private courier services undergo stricter customs checks and this has all kinds of implications. More often than not, if you are buying food, skincare items, clothing, and drinks to import, some kind of documentation will need to be provided.
If you do not provide the proper documentation, your items may be refused when you attempt to ship or import them to your home country.
Due to this ZenMarket will not ship some of the above-mentioned items with selected private courier services as we want to protect our customers from getting any nasty surprises at customs.
Postal services do not allow shipping speakers, but they do allow you to ship alcohol that is 24% or under. (Alcohol above 24% can be shipped with DHL).
However, it is important to understand that for different sizes and weights, the cheapest shipping service provider will vary. It is not always the case that one shipping service provider will always be cheaper than another.
Here’s a useful calculator that will point you to the right shipping. The prices shown by our calculator are estimates and are typically lower than the standard prices as ZenMarket is able to get discounts with certain shipping partners.
Please note, the calculator can only produce an estimate of your shipping costs. If you enter only the weight and size of your items, the additional weight and size of the packaging will not be calculated in the estimate.
The exact international shipping price that you will have to pay can only be provided once we pack and weigh your parcel.
2. Rearrange Your Packages
The size and weight of your items determine how much your shipping costs will end up being. Since that is the case, if the item you purchased has a huge discrepancy between its size and weight, there is definitely a way to save on shipping fees.
Courier services when calculating your shipping fee will take into account your parcel's weight, size, and volume weight.
This means if you are trying to buy something like a Large anime plushie, even though the item is light, the courier service will still charge you more than you expect due to the size and space the parcel occupies.
In contrast, postal services like JP Post will calculate the shipping fee of your parcel based on weight alone!
This means if you are shipping large, but light items, you can end up saving a lot of money shipping with Japan's postal service, although the delivery time may be slightly slower.
In cases where you are trying to send a lot of items that would place your parcel over SAL or Airmail's 2kg weight limit, you may want to consider splitting your items between several different parcels instead of trying to send one large parcel.
(Unlike similar services, ZenMarket can split your orders into several parcels on request, but note that a single listing/item with a unique code may not be divided into multiple parcels)
This would mean that your items may take longer to arrive, but if you don't mind the longer wait, you could end up saving a decent amount of cash!
This can be a good habit to develop as heavy packages are generally more expensive and more likely to be checked at your home country for customs (see the section below).
3. Check Tariffs And Custom Duties In Your Country
Prior to shipping purchases from Japan, you should check if your country imposes a tax on imports from Japan.
If it does, check the value threshold for your tariff. Australia, for instance, collects 10% GST for all packages sent to Australia with a total value of 1,000 AUD or less.
If such is the case, it might be useful to put multiple items within one package and ship them together, rather than separating them into individual packages.
Other countries impose taxes when the value of imported goods exceeds a certain price. In those cases, it is wiser to break items into smaller packages and ship them.
Customs duties and taxes are at the expense of the customer, so please check beforehand the rule on the delivery country. You can read more about customs duties and taxes here.
FAQ: Customs Fees and Duties
4. Consolidate Your Products
If import tax is not applied in your country or has certain tax free allowances, then you should try to consolidate your separate items into a single package.
However, when shipping to a country that has set tax fees for types of items, it is better to focus on saving money on shipping, not customs fees - Since you would be paying the same amount in taxes regardless of how many parcels you send your items in.
(Note: ZenMarket’s service fee includes consolidation of items and repacking orders into one parcel for you)
5. Check Package Dimensions
If you are not using a shopping service like ZenMarket and instead use a standard shipping forwarder, where you may be unsure of how well your items are arranged into packages, make sure the items you are shopping for will fit within the package dimension of your preferred shipping service.
If you don’t have package dimensions in the back of your mind while shopping, you might find that your packages are arranged in a nonsensical way that results in unnecessary large shipping charges.
Thankfully at ZenMarket, we will often arrange boxes to make sure they fit your items perfectly.
Not only does this make sure items do not move about during shipping, keeping them safe, but it also means you will pay less when using private couriers since your parcel will be no bigger than is needed.
6. Buy Items With No Domestic Shipping Fees
Sites like Rakuten often offer “no shipping fees” promotions and options if the total cost of your items exceeds a certain amount. As such, it is wiser to buy your items on a single e-commerce site rather than across multiple platforms to save on domestic shipping fees whenever possible.
International shipping fees from Japan can be hard to grasp at first. But if you only take one thing away from this article: use the package calculator to determine the best shipping service provider before you post your purchases. Otherwise, keep the 4 major factors that affect international shipping fees, that we mentioned at the start of this article, in mind when making your next purchase from Japan.