Have you ever wanted to buy stuff from a website, only to find out that they only ship within Japan? I have definitely encountered this with doujin items. Recently, I wanted to get a dakimakura cover from one of my favourite artists, Korie Riko. She was selling it on booth.pm, which is a subsidiary of pixiv, one of the (if not the largest) art sharing websites used in Japan. What can you do?
Luckily, there’s a market for this sort of thing. The thing that you have to use is called a proxy or forwarding service!
What is a proxy?
Like in its definition, to simply put it, a proxy is a company that acts as a third party to receive your packages in Japan. You get a Japanese address to ship your packages to domestically, which is typically the same physical address for everyone except for a special user ID at the end of the address. Once they receive your package, you pay and get them to ship your package back to yourself internationally. In addition, if you decide to buy from multiple shops, you can get them to consolidate your packages within Japan and ship one internationally-bound package back to yourself, saving yourself multiple international shipments and its associated cost.
In terms of technicality, a proxy can also refer to a company that helps buy items on your behalf. In this case, you do not receive a Japanese address. I haven’t explored this case, but from the preliminary research I did, it appears that you request items to be bought through the site, so there will be a time delay between you submitting the request and them actually ordering. This could potentially result in your interested item becoming unavailable.
Of course, because they are a business, you are charged a usage fee for the service itself. The rates depend on the company you use, but I am currently trying out Tenso. As of today, they currently charge a handling fee based on weight + standard shipping costs (depending on the shipping method you choose). If you consolidate your packages, there is another separate fee you pay. To consolidate two packages, it’s JPY 500 (200 for service fee and 300 for each additional package after the first package).
How to use a proxy?
Using a proxy is pretty straightforward. It basically involves the following steps:
- Creating an account on the proxy site. This gives you a proxy address to use within Japan that uniquely identifies you to the site when you ship your packages to the proxy’s warehouse.
- Verifying your identity to the proxy site. This is to ensure that you are indeed the correct person and to prevent fraudulent activity.
- Purchasing item(s) from a Japanese site and shipping it to your proxy address.
- Paying the proxy fees and shipping the item(s) back to your home country.
- Receiving your items.
My experience with using a forwarding company actually started in mid-September. On Twitter, one of my favourite artists that I follow, Korie Riko, was selling some Princess Connect! dakimakura covers on booth.pm. They were all R18 and would not ship out of Japan. At around the same time, I had a friend that wanted to get a CD from booth.pm, but unfortunately, that particular store did not ship outside of Japan. Given that consolidation was a thing, I created an account on Tenso to get an address to send the items to. That process was pretty straightforward: I gave them my full name, address and phone number, and submitted a copy of my identity, and I was on my way. I opted to take a photo of my drivers license, but you can provide them with a photo of utility bill or a passport, among other options.
Back to how this all started, I actually ended up not getting the R18 ones because of some weird payment issues: my credit card kept getting declined. I’m inclined to say it was because the shipping address didn’t match the one on my card, but it was apparently an issue for some others too. I ended up getting a more “safe” one, so it went through on my credit card via PayPal.
Ordering was pretty simple: I just copied and pasted the address given to me on Tenso, along with the provided phone number. Payment was as usual. My friend’s CD shipped and arrived first, at the start of October. Domestic shipping was pretty quick: took 2 days to get to the warehouse. Since the daki cover I bought was made to order, it shipped later. I anticipated around late-October, and it shipped out just in time for it to make the consolidation request period of 30 days.
When each package arrived, I was asked to specify the monetary value of the items in the package. If you really wanted to, you could undervalue your items to reduce import tax, but I highly recommend against it, since in the event that the package arrives damaged, you can only claim compensation for the amount you declared (not to mention falsifying import documents is illegal).
Once all my packages arrived, I applied for consolidation, and then proceeded to pay to get my package shipped out. Shipping is typically done by standard national courier and you can choose the type of service you want, but because of COVID-19, DHL was also offered as an option. In my case, I chose to use the familiar Express Mail Service (EMS). Although Canada is currently facing a delay of up to three weeks due to fewer flights from Japan to Canada from COVID-19, this particular package arrived in a week. Pretty fast during these times.
In the end, I got the daki cover I wanted, so I’m happy. Consolidating the other packages for my friends also definitely helped us save a bit since we didn’t have to ship each thing out separately, so that was nice.
Anyways, that’s all I had this time around, until next time!