The Best Online Stores For Buying Imported Goods | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan
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The Best Online Stores For Buying Imported Goods

By Emma Saragai Sep 5, 2022

Moving away from your home country and leaving behind a support network made up of your family and friends is a difficult step for anyone. However, knowing where to find imported goods from home can make the transition just that little bit easier!

Buying Imported Items in Japan

When importing things into Japan, it’s important to remember that you may be asked to fill in several documents when your items arrive and that if you’re importing items of value, you may get slapped with an import tax.

What’s more, Japan has strict border controls, some of which prohibit the import of a variety of products (including some medicines), so it’s important to check what is allowed in and out of Japan before spending money having something sent over from abroad.

Where to Buy Imported Goods Online

The Meat Guy

As you can probably tell from the name, The Meat Guy is an online site specializing in importing meat into Japan. Whether it’s ostrich, alligator, or simply a whole chicken you’re after, The Meat Guy’s got it all. Since The Meat Guy is a wholesale retailer that operates completely online, their prices are usually more competitive than places like Costco, which is great news if you’re looking for rarer cuts of meat!

However, it’s not just meat The Meat Guys offers – though the name would have us believe differently – they also offer harder-to-find food items such as brussel sprouts, harissa and plant-based meat substitutes.

If you live on the Japanese mainland or Shikoku, shipping is 980 yen, while it costs 1,150 yen to ship to Kyushu and Hokkaido or 1,750 yen to ship to Okinawa, with next-day delivery possible depending on your location. However, if you order over 10,000 yen worth of meat, you may qualify for free shipping, which is perfect for those planning a large event (or who have a big freezer).

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Sartaj Foods

A Japan-based online store specializing in shipping Indian food and beauty products to Japan, Sartaj Foods is the perfect place to find everyday pantry items from Basmati rice to guava juice. The site is home to several well-known brands, including Vatika, MDH and several of Sartaj’s very own products.

The best thing about this online shop is that it offers daily deals on household items while also giving customers a chance to return items within seven days if they don’t like a product.

Shipping ranges from 600 yen for those on the mainland to 2,000 yen for those further away in Okinawa and Kagoshima, while cold produce requires a separate shipping fee from other orders. For orders over 6,000 yen (or 8,000 for cold products), however, shipping is free, which means it’s often better to stock up and buy all in one go rather than buy in small increments.

Kyodai Market

Kyodai market is the place to go for all things Latin American! Located in Shinagawa, Tokyo, Kyodai Market is home to food and beauty products from all over Latin America, as well as a small hot food counter where you can enjoy homemade empanadas. However, they also have an online store that ships to locations across Japan, which makes it an easily-accessible place to get everything you need to feel at home in Japan.

From curly hair products to cactus leaves, this shop has it all when it comes to items that are specific to Latin America or are a lot more difficult to find in Japanese or other international stores. 

Shipping to most of Japan is 600 yen (900 for cool shipping); however, orders over 6,500 are eligible for free shipping! (For shipping to Okinawa and remote islands, there is a 2,000 yen surcharge).

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If you haven’t come across iHerb before, iHerb is a blessing for those looking for American imports and health-related products. An American online shop that focuses on exporting health-based food and pharmaceutical products to the rest of the world, the entire site focuses on providing customers with healthcare and beauty products rather than food and snacks as most of the other shops on this list. Find everything you need, from Honey Dijon Kettle chips to SheaMoiture shampoo to Biotin supplements!

The best thing about iHerb, however, is the abundance of reward schemes and deals and the fact that the site is often offering some kind of sitewide discount (currently a 15% Obon discount). Even better, those who are new to the site can get 25% off their first order, while members can get credit to use on the site for writing reviews, answering other customers’ product-related questions and referring a friend. Alternatively, those who download the iHerb app can enter daily prize draws for a reward of up to five hundred USD to spend in-store.

Since some of iHerb’s stock includes medicines and multivitamins that contain ingredients banned by Japan’s strict import laws or require extra import tax, you should always check for prohibited items (check here) before buying. Shipping costs depend on the shipping company and method you choose (Global Air with tracking, Sagawa, Yamato Transport or Japan Post); however, orders over 5,000 yen (limited-time deal) are eligible for free shipping.

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The British Cornershop

If you’re a Brit (or a fan of British snacks), you’re in luck, as the British Cornershop has you sorted! From toiletries to teacakes, they’ve got it all in the way of food and pharmacy. What’s more, if you’re a fan of M&S, even better, since they have partnered with the British Cornershop to bring you your favourite M&S items.

While their main focus is exporting the tastes of the English, they also have small Welsh, Scottish and American corners (however, these are extremely scarcely stocked).

Shipping rates are split into three bands, with anything up to 1kg coming to £6.99 (1,140 JPY), packages of up to 2kg coming up to £12.99 (2,118 JPY) and packages of up to 20kg coming up to a grand total of £44.99 (7,335 JPY). 

Considering the range of products available on the site and the reasonable cost of international shipping (sending a 2kg package to Japan from the U.K. costs around £21 [3,424 JPY] via the Royal Mail), the British Cornershop is a great option for those looking for an affordable way to kick those homesick cravings.

Reddit Snack Exchange

While Reddit’s Snack Exchange subreddit can’t really be classified as an online shop, if you’re truly unable to find the food item you’re searching for, this subreddit may be able to help. Created to accommodate snack exchanges between pairs of people in different countries, you can send out a request for a general package or one with specific requests. 

However, before requesting a package, you should read the group rules and bear in mind that if you are requesting a package, you need to send one (a good one!) back, or you may be barred from the group.

The Reddit Snack Exchange subreddit is host to thousands of members, which means there’s a good chance of finding exactly what you’re looking for in a more casual environment. However, as there are no official protections in place, make sure to only request an exchange with someone you’re sure about.

Find Familiar Imported Items From Home Online!

While moving abroad can be difficult, being able to enjoy life abroad while also having access to the products you did at home makes it all worthwhile, so why not try and see if one of these online stores has what you need?

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