Buying things in Japan – A look at Japanese ecommerce sites

December 22nd, 2010By Category: Mail & Shipping, Shopping

Even in Japan, a big part of the holiday season is about the rush to the shops, buying presents and what products are at the top of everyone’s wish list. We recently had a look at what products were the top 10 most talked about last year, according to the research division at Dentsu, as well as predicted what might be about to happen in 2011, with the help of the Nikkei.

Getting hold of these products, however, often involves the inevitable standing in lines at department stores, electronic retailers and various malls scattered around the county. But for those living outside of Japan, or those living locally who just want to avoid the big squeeze, then there are a number of foreigner friendly and reliable web stores that you can send your browser off to.

Here we take a look at just a few. We will, of course, miss a few, so feel free to add any others in the comments.

First up, we will get the obvious ones out of the way. Like many other markets, Japan has its own local version of Amazon (hiring on GaijinPot here). Like its international brethren, they stock everything you could ever want in books, DVDs and other media alongside plenty of other goods, including Japanese fashion, kitchen items and electronics. They have a pretty good English language interface, but a basic knowledge of Nihongo is advised.

Ebay never took off in Japan and most Japanese web users will only know the brand if they are heavy users of Sekaimon. Translated as ‘World Gate’, Sekaimon helps shoppers in Japan find and bid for items on the various international versions of Ebay. A sister service of Sekaimon, helps shoppers from outside the country have items delivered by acting as a mail forwarding service.

Other big players in the Japanese ecommerce space include Yahoo! Japan shopping and Rakuten. With a reported 47 million registered users, its own baseball team and international staff, Rakuten is one of Japan’s biggest web success stories. Unlike other ecommerce sites, it does not stock or distribute items itself, instead providing an online ‘mall’ for smaller shops and traders to sell their goods.

The company has recently begun making a move into the international market and has a complete multi-language website which serves customers in the US, UK, France, Canada, Singapore, China, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and China. Its trend lists are updated consistently and their experience in the Japanese market make it a great stop-off point for the kind of things that you can only get in Japan.  Access their international portal here.

Yahoo! Japan remains a challenge for non-Japanese speakers but there are a number of ways around that. Rinkya and Japan to Door are two services that give you an English language shell on top of Yahoo auctions, allowing you to browse and search through the listings while they will handle the transaction and shipping.   Rinkya has also just launched its own direct store too, with a limited set of items available here.

FlutterScape is an innovative Japanese start-up that brings a social networking aspect to the realm of online shopping and is especially useful when looking for something specific that you just can’t seem to find elsewhere or for discovering things that you didn’t even know you wanted. Shoppers outside Japan simply have to request an item and one of the site’s Japan-based users will let them know how much it will cost and when they can send it. That power of the masses also means that there is always something interesting up on the site.

Are there others? Sure, it is a big market. Here are a few that we do not have space for here: Zozotown (Japanese only), Bidders (Japanese only), Netprice (Japanese only), Azoocha (Japanese only) and Japan Trend Shop.  If you are specifically after hobby goods then give J-List or HobbyLink Japan a try.

Picture credit: 自己撮影 / Wikimedia

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GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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