How to Buy the Things you Love from Japan

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 21 Comments |

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!

tenso-top

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.

tensofugu-1280

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


Tenso offers two main services: A Forwarding Service to send packages from Japan to overseas destinations, and a Buying Service where they purchase items on your behalf.

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.

tenso-delivery

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.

sending

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.

buyee

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 :).

21 comments on “How to Buy the Things you Love from Japan
  1. Rhonda says:

    I am trying to order form a site called Belle Maison. It is not giving me the option for English translation.
    Is there some other way to purchase from this site?

  2. Mira says:

    Thanks for the article, Michael! A couple of months ago I was looking for a package forwarding service with purchase and shipping help, I found several – Tenso, Opas and Parcl. I tried the last one Parcl.com, it was good. There’s a person there, who helps me with placing orders in Japanese shops and shipping packages to my address. So, it’s another alternative in case you need one.

  3. Malia says:

    I tried to use Tenso, but they ask for a city in Osaka, and Tenso did not provide one. Thanks in advance!

  4. Sarah M. says:

    Thank you, Michael. After your post I’ve been using Buyee service for buying and shipping doll figures, I’m collecting, for several months. But recently getting more and more negative about their work and customer support. What’s going on with the service? Buyee fees are highest on the market. Now I’m looking for some new buying service from Japan with lower fees and without offensive errors. Negotiating with Remambo.jp for couple of days and I think will finally move to them, their fees and discounts look pretty attractive.

  5. K says:

    Would Tenso allow me to order Strong Zero (chu hi) and be shipped to the U.S.?

  6. dara says:

    I’ve tried Tenso two times. Now I use zenmarket.jp. It’s not mailforwarding service and they charge 300 JPY per 1 item but it is so much easier. Highly recommend!

  7. Mike says:

    I have been using tenso for a year and still use it from time to time. From my experience I can say that tenso is cheaper when you buy many things from one shop. When you have to buy from different shops it is cheaper and easier to buy with zenmarket.jp They just do everything for you. Now I use tenso only when I buy long fishing rods over 150 cm.

  8. Josh says:

    Tenso provides really good service. Anislo is also ok, though. I really had hard time registering on Japanese online shops. They just kept saying I entered something wrong. Uhhh… I used Noppin.com several times as a proxy. Now using Zenmarket.jp , it is really cheap, comparing to other buying services.

  9. hilvortan says:

    HI
    , ty
    Pls send me the delivery price to West Malaysia

  10. Raymond G. says:

    Hi Michael.
    I have already signed up with Tenso and I have a Japan address and number. Now my question is, when I went to verify my identity, what type of picture is needed to upload to the site for verification purposes? Please let me know. Thanks!

    Raymond.

  11. Aleta says:

    Hooray! I have registered with Tenso. I’ve been using Noppin for my shopping and shipping service, but they are rather pricey. Looking forward to seeing how Tenso compares. Thanks heaps for the info and the link.

  12. Vanessa Huang says:

    Hi,

    I have been wanting to buy some items from online in Japan.

    Unfortunately, they can only send the items to a Japan address.

    Can I still order through using Tenso?

    • Yes! That’s the entire reason Tenso exists. You sign up to get your own Japanese address to send the items to, and then ask Tenso to send those items to your address overseas :).

      • Vanessa Huang says:

        Hi,

        Thank you so much for your promopt reply..

        I have registered on Tenso already..

        May I ask if I can combine items I intended to buy from different website and send them all together in one shipping?

  13. Vanessa Huang says:

    Hi,

    I tried to order some items from rakuten websites… but online seller only allows the items to be sent to a home address… if that is the case, can I stil use tenso for delivery?

    • Hi, Yes, please use the Tenso address for this purpose. Think of it as your very own address in Japan :).

      There are occasionally problems where a store will not ship to the Tenso address, but these are quite few and the store will usually contact you if they will not ship to the Tenso address.

  14. L says:

    Hello

    I had a question on Tenso’s proof of identity requirement. I wasn’t aware of this when signing up for the service and I’m a little leery of forwarding personal info (IDs, etc) to a company I’m not at all familiar with.

    Is this requirement unique to Tenso, or does this verification policy apply to all forwarding services in Japan? Thanks!

    • Hey. Unfortunately it applies to all forwarding services in Japan as of April 2013. You can blank out all personal info except your name, DOB and current address though. Thats all that needs to be confirmed :).

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