I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Monday, September 1, 2014

nikala's Online J-Music Merchant Guide. Part 2: Middleman Services

So you've searched everywhere for some rare item and still can't find it in any of the stores mentioned in my other entry. The only places that do have it don't ship outside of Japan. The next step (other than waiting indefinitely for some luck) is to order it via a deputy/middleman service based in Japan that will deliver it to you for an extra charge. You basically make a deposit on their site and they store it in their warehouse. When you've ready, just request a delivery and method, and they'll repack and send it to your overseas address. Obviously this process is a tad lengthy. Sometimes it takes a couple of days for the middleman service to even pay the original seller for the item after they placed an order. Beside the item value cost, you'll definitely be paying a special service fee (which itself depends on the item cost), for domestic shipping to the warehouse within Japan and then shipping to your address. Often, you'll also pay a repacking fee, bank wire fee between the original seller and the middleman, and sales/consumption taxes. Depending on where you live, you may have to pay 1.5 or twice the value of the original item.

The stores that don't ship outside of Japan include Yahoo! Japan Auctions (and other Japanese auction sites), Tower Records, and various Amazon and Rakuten marketplace shops. There are numerous other small independent shops. All these places have one thing in common: lack of information in English. If your Japanese is poor, I suggest translating the pages and item descriptions through Google Translate to get the idea of what the condition is like, edition information, missing components, etc. The translation won't be perfect, but it'll help you pick up some useful words. Some middleman websites have an automatic translation feature to help you out before you commit to buy.

I've used a dozen of deputy services over time, but there's no need to list the inferior ones. This brief list contains all you need. They all handle PayPal.

Noppin, the King of Auctions. They offer a separate shopping service for places like Amazon and whatnot, but the fees are little steep. There a better option for those, listen below. Like all the other services, Noppin charges a fee per auction, but it's only 500 yen for the auction value of up to 4000 yenHere's a page listing all their surcharges and it might seem like a load, but if you read carefully and calculate, it's not that much. The bonus is that they hold your items in the warehouse for free for up to 60 days in case you win multiple auctions and want them consolidated together. Other services will start charging you extra if it's more than 30 days. Noppin also lets you bid in real time. Even the deposit process is automatic thanks to the pre-authorized PayPal deposit feature. And there's no need to deposit the total amount. Let's say you deposit 2000 yen, so with the multiplier of 3, you can bit for auctions of up to 6000 yen. Lastly, the search and bid pages all include an English translation interface. All in all, I can't recommend Noppin enough. Check them out.

For shopping other than auctions, I almost always use Tenso. Check their fees: relatively cheap. The neat thing about them is that up until the item arrives at the warehouse, you do the shopping yourself. No need to send them a request with the link asking them to buy for you manually. Once you register, you'll be given a unique Japanese address (of a storage box with your name and account number within the warehouse) which you'll enter as your delivery address on a given shopping site. When it arrives at Tenso, they'll give you an option to request shipping to your home address, or you can wait and consolidate multiple items together using their consolidation service. Of course, there are weight restrictions and time limit of up to 30 days.

The only reason not to use Tenso is when the original seller doesn't accept foreign-issued credit cards (those shops don't offer PayPal to begin with). Or your particular card just doesn't work. I've never had this problem myself, but you never know. So far the folks on Amazon and Rakuten I've bought from charged my Canadian Visa with no problem. Same with Tower Records, except so far I've only bought from there within Japan, but still with the same Visa. But if you do have this problem, direct yourself to the following.

Japamart and Celga, aside from the usual auction services, offer webshop services. Whereas Japamart has a separate set of fees related to it, Celga's are the same as the auction ones. Depending on the item value, you may prefer one over the other. You'll register there, and then everything is done through a special order form where you link the service to the item page and tell them which one you want. In case of Celga, they'll need to make a 100% before submitting that form and then they'll buy it for you. Japamart's process is slower: submit the form, wait for the total, you pay, and finally they buy. Then again, I haven't used these two for a while, so please check their guides to verify.

Now, Japamart and Celga mostly specialize in popular webshops like the ones mentioned above. If you want to buy something from a small independent shop, there's no guarantee they'll be willing to create an account for it and go through extra hoops to get the item for you. Sometimes these shops don't even have an automatic order system; you need to email the seller in Japanese. So even Tenso won't help you here. If that's the case, I suggest contacting Masa for his Otokichi Premium Middleman Service and he'll be happy to help you out. I didn't mention it up until now because there's an extra request fee on top of all the other surcharges. But a courteous service in rough situations like this is always welcome.

So yeah, such is the tough life for overseas buyers with a niche hobby. Hopefully you've found my guide helpful. You're welcome to mention the other middleman services you like in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. I use this site for buying LPs
    They sell a lot of City Pop and you will also often see albums by Haruomi Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto in their updates. You will come across rare items here and pricing is pretty fair I think. Highly Recommended.


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