How to buy Japanese products (specifically Digimon) online

Often people ask me where I buy my Digimon merchandise online, and my usual answer is ‘Ami Ami, HobbyLink Japan, Nippon Yasan, and, as an expensive last resort, eBay (usually in that order as this is how I would rate them – HLJ is possibly better than AmiAmi but AmiAmi is cheaper)’, but when it comes to popup shop items and premium items, these sites can be a little less useful (except for eBay but the mark up is pretty extreme – a five dollar keychain going for 50 dollars? No way.)

Lately I’ve been investigating other options for buying things online using forwarding services or proxy services.
The websites I’ve tried and that I will be talking about for this blog post are: CDJapan (which recently introduced the ability to be a proxy service), Tenso, Buyee (owned by Tenso), and FromJapan.
Tenso is a bit different from the other three so I’ll discuss it last.
This blog post will first discuss each site that I’ve used and then I will provide some tips on using them.
I should mention that for all services I have used EMS shipping to Australia and both orders with Buyee and From Japan used their respective consolidation services. I’ll also mention here that I noticed that each service was very fast.
Also, I should mention that I’m from Australia and shipping is usually rather expensive to and from there.
CDJapan’s service has a request page where you write in the name of the item and provide a link to it. This is a pretty standard request form, you can also browse Rakuten and Yahoo Japan from the CDJapan website. You can do this without knowing Japanese, however, some item titles are in Japanese and it would be easier if you searched using Japanese words instead of English words. I will talk about useful words and tips once I’ve run through each website.
For consolidated packages. you can merge orders together after making them but it’s easiest if you make one order with all the requests and request everything at once.
As for prices, each item has a different acquisition fee. This is usually around 500 yen.
Once every requested item in an order has arrived at CDJapan, you can pay for shipping. The shipping prices are the same as usual and this is standard across each of these websites.
The interface is pretty basic but it’s easy and honestly that’s what’s important.
A negative that I noticed was that in the majority of orders I’ve made with them they had to send me another invoice because prices were more than what they had quoted me. This was usually a few hundred yen though so it was never a huge thing. What makes CDJapan different from Buyee and FromJapan is that you pay the acquisition/procurement and shipping fees after you make the order and not when you get it shipped out. So there’s really only one action and payment when you make the order so it feels easier than the other services. CDJapan also give you an estimated time of ordering and receiving each item you purchase through them. I feel that CDJapan wasn’t as expensive as FromJapan and Buyee but I did make multiple, smaller orders through them.
Buyee is a proxy service which is recommended by Yahoo Japan. I used this instead of Tenso as Yahoo Japan kept telling me I needed a Japanese mobile number in order to shop there. They’re website is in English, however, the listings are in Japanese (same as CDJapan) as that’s the language their sources are in. It’s a really easy to use website – search their sources for an item, click buy (or bid), pay the invoice, wait for it to arrive, pay for shipping, get it delivered. It’s probably the easiest service on the list and the interface is very user friendly. It’s also got a page to make requests if the sources on Buyee don’t have what you’re looking for. Consolidation isn’t free and costs around 1000yen which is more than the other sites, however, if you don’t mind this I would definitely recommend Buyee for its easy to use system and user friendly interface. When you pay for shipping you will also pay for the shipping Buyee paid, the procurement fee, and any extra fees like protective packaging or consolidation fees.
FromJapan was another website I tried which is very similar to Buyee; you can search through sources (either individually or all together) and also make requests from sites that you can’t search on FromJapan. However, the interface isn’t as user friendly and it took me a while to find where my in process orders were. Besides the harder interface, another thing I didn’t like was the fact that if you made a bid (or even if you chose to ‘buy it now’ on an auction) you would need to put a deposit down which you would need to specify. This was in addition to paying for the item, you do get the deposit back, but it added a few extra steps to the buying process and was always really annoying.
If an item isn’t an auction, you are taken to a request page with everything prefilled in, you just need to specify any notes and then click ‘OK’. This is similar to CDJapan’s workflow when you select something from one of their sources.
However, something that FromJapan does better than Buyee is that there is no consolidation fee! This is great and means that the price will be cheaper than if you bought on Buyee. Another positive is that when your order arrives you’ll notice that each item that you’ve purchased has been combined into one box. What I noticed with Buyee is that they seemed to just combine the items in the boxes that had arrived at their warehouse, meaning that the box was a lot larger than it needed to be.
Finally, Tenso (which owns Buyee) is a company that gives you a Japanese address so you can buy things online. Once something arrives at your forwarding address, you will receive an email notifying you. You can then choose to either ship out straight away or combine with another order using the consolidation fee (a few hundred yen). Items are held at their warehouse for 90 days and orders that arrive within 30 days of each other can be combined. I used this service to make an order with the NJPW online merch store so I didn’t use the consolidation service as I only had one order.
Since I had to make the order myself, obviously, I didn’t have to pay Tenso any ‘acquisition’ fees nor did I have to pay Tenso for the domestic shipping as I already had paid that. Therefore, the price I had to pay Tenso for them to ship my order was just the cost of shipping to me (which came to about the third of the price of both Buyee and FromJapan).
The interface isn’t much to look at, but unlike the above websites and services, you don’t really spend much time looking at it anyway.
Due to the fact that you must make the order yourself, you will need to know enough Japanese to not only find what you are looking for, but to provide payment and shipping information to the website in Japanese (unless the website has a language change option). Tenso, however, makes it pretty easy for you to provide the shipping information though as it gives you a little guide.
As for which service I would recommend, it depends on if you know Japanese or if you are comfortable enough with limited Japanese to navigate around a website, buy things, and ship them to a Japanese forwarding address. This is the cheapest option and it’s annoying that I couldn’t get this to work with Yahoo Japan.
If you can’t set up an account or don’t know any Japanese, and this is a hard one which service to recommend here as both Buyee and FromJapan has negatives.  It depends on how much you value a good interface or free package consolidation and marginally cheaper postage. If you want to save money, I’d recommend FromJapan but if you’d prefer and easy to user interface, I’d recommend Buyee.
However, if you don’t mind not having an in-website item search (like Buyee and From-Japan). CDJapan is the cheapest.
In the end, all the services listed are pretty good. They all have there ups and downs and none of them are severely worse than the others.
There are many other services you can use, I just find these are the easiest because it means I don’t have to find my own middleman and email them. However, this is more expensive than that I’m sure. It’s still all cheaper than the markup from eBay though.
Now onto some tips now you’ve hopefully chosen a proxy service to go with.
First of all, I’d recommend trying to learn Kana (i.e Hiragana and Katakana – the most basic of the Japanese alphabet). You can learn this in the first few lessons or Duolingo or Memrise or basically anywhere on the Internet. This is to help you find what you’re looking for either by searching or reading the item titles. If you don’t have the time or just don’t feel the need to learn Japanese, I recommend looking for basic words of things that you’ll be searching for. For example, if you’re looking for Digimon items you could just copy and paste デジモン (Digimon) in the search field, if you wanted to just look for Tri stuff you could try デジモン tri, if you’re looking for any specific popup store item you could find somewhere online for the Japanese title of the popup store and use that (WithTheWill has good sources where you should be able to find that Japanese titles of stores), and, if you’re just looking for any specific character, you can use a Wikia like Wikimon to get the character’s name in Japanese (ミミ is best girl so you’d probably just need that one though!).
As for apps to use to make this process easier, I’d recommend Google Translate (it’s actually quite good now! Just copy and paste words you want to know the meaning of or just translate the whole page) and Rakugo (which is a browser extension for Japanese learners where you mouse over some Japanese and it gives you the meaning and reading!).
Good luck and feel free to let me know in the comments what services you use!

What are your thoughts?