Have you ever wanted to buy certain products from Japan but found it difficult to do so? You may not have realised, but there is a special space occupied by companies whose mission it is to help you do exactly that! Tenso.com is the largest and most trusted service to help you buy the things you love from Japan, and its helped me and many friends get our hands on unique Japan-only items for years. In fact, I was so interested, I ended up getting a job there!
You may have seen a recent guest post of mine on Tofugu highlighting the shipping service Tenso. It was a special campaign for readers to grab a whole bunch of money to buy stuff from Japan, so if you wanted to order something online from a Japanese store but lacked the means or the funds, you could! The campaign saw hundreds of responses from readers around the internet, gaining somoe 250 comments on the Tofugu post alone!
Why did I run this campaign? Since summer 2012 I’ve been working at Tenso. After my 3-year stint as a Coordinator of International Relations (CIR) at a city hall in Japan (through the JET programme), I finally decided to make the move to the private sector and learn about business. It’s been a great learning experience over this first year being given all manner of tasks to do. As the company is still quite young, the startup mentality is strong, so it fosters a real driving mentality towards getting things done, and doing the tasks yourself. It’s learn or burn!
As such, I’ve experienced a whole different side to working in Japan; it’s taken my Japanese to new levels and given me a lease to stretch out into new fields. I’ve had opportunities to go out doing sales and work on promotions with large corporations such as Rakuten (Japan’s largest online marketplace) and in the office I do a variety of work, from web development to marketing campaigns, managing the identity verification team, data extraction and analysis and of course menial tasks such as answering telelphones and filing the monthly invoices. It’s the busiest I’ve ever been in my life, but the work is constantly pushing me to improve and grow.
As a part of that work with Tenso, I really wanted to bring my experience online and run a campaign with Japan bloggers. Who better than long-time friend Koichi of Tofugu fame! I managed to wrangle some great prizes for his readers (40,000 yen for item value alone!) in exchange for being able to introduce them to Tenso’s service.
Despite obviously being slightly biased because I work for Tenso, I honestly do think that they perform a great service that is really useful to people overseas. If you’ve ever wanted to buy something from Japan but couldn’t, Tenso can help. As such, I’d like to introduce a little more about what they do. I don’t get any kickbacks or incentives for writing this post (or the post on Tofugu) – it’s purely an extension of the work I’m doing for Tenso and because I feel it has value for people interested in Japan.
How Tenso Works
Basically, if you’re confident enough to navigate Japanese websites and order the things you want to buy, just sign up to Tenso and get your own Tenso mailing address in Japan. When you place an order on a Japanese store, you use the Tenso address (a domestic Japanese address that is Tenso’s warehouse) to send the items you buy to Tenso. Once done, Tenso registers your package and informs you of the price for international shipping. You pay for international shipping and the goods are on their way to you!
If you aren’t confident to navigate Japanese stores or buy the items yourself (or if the Japanese store does not accept an overseas credit card), you can apply for Tenso’s buying service. Tenso will then buy the item for you and have it shipped to their warehouse. Afterwards, follow the same process as above for international shipping. It’s that simple.
Another nifty little feature that I like is the Package Consolidation Service. Since international shipping is usually quite expensive, one of the ways overseas customers can make it more cost-efficient is by grouping items together. What makes this really cool is that you can group items from different stores. For example, you might order a CD from Amazon Japan and a book from Rakuten and have them both shipped to Tenso. Once there, you can apply to have these items consolidated into one box, reducing the packaging (in most cases) and saving you money because you only need to ship a single box.
One final service that I’d like to mention is Buyee. This is a sister service to Tenso that was built since I joined the company, launching in December last year. Currently it’s a portal to Yahoo! Japan Auctions for overseas customers. Anyone who has ever looked for some retro or vintage item from Japan will have come cross the auction site. It’s a goldmine for finding unusual stuff that regular stores don’t sell. The only problem is that you are required to have a Japanese address in order to use the site, and most sellers will not ship overseas.
Buyee solves that problem by hooking directly into the Yahoo! Japan Auctions API. In fact, you’ll see adverts for Buyee on Yahoo! Japan Auctions itself if you access the site from overseas, making it possible for customers overseas to place bids in real time and win auctions, just like on eBay. The growth even in just half a year has been pretty incredible, and the Buyee team size already rivals that of Tenso! I highly recommend you give both services a try if you’re curious about buying something from Japan.
So those are the two services we operate. Obviously I didn’t go into great detail about some of the finer points, such as restrictions on items when sending overseas and service fees, but the Tenso fees are competitive and come with the assurance of great support in English (as well as 4 other languages). I mentioned that I’m involved with running campaigns with other companies such as Rakuten, so if you sign up to the email magazine and Facebook page, you can be informed when those happen (savings of up to 4,000 yen on international shipping!)
Hopefully this post hasn’t sounded too much like an advertisement! As I mentioned, I’ve not been comissioned in any way to write about our services, but I’ve found that there are many people abroad that weren’t even aware such services existed, so I hope that in some way it’s been enlightening. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!
P.S. If you would like to run a campaign with Tenso or even work here, please get in touch via the Tenso website. Tenso is always looking for new engineers and talented individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit :).