No matter how cosmopolitan Japan gets, there will always be that one item that’s impossible to find from back home. Amazon fills the gap a little bit, but there are still some items that won’t get shipped to Japan. In those cases, I tend to use a remailing service to help fill the gap.
What’s a remailing service?
These are services that provide a local address in a country that you can have things shipped to in order to receive packages and mail from services that can’t ship internationally. They will collect all your packages from in-country shopping services and send them to you here in Japan in one big package to save you money. Many can be used on a case-by-case basis or you can set up a subscription service that provides other benefits such as having a permanent address for important mail to be sent to you, and in some cases even have the ability to scan and email your mail for you.
Which do you recommend?
Because these services greatly depend on the country you’re actually shipping from, it’s a bit difficult to rate everyone out there. Instead, I’ll pitch some of the ones I’ve dealt with over the years while living as an American expat in Japan; hopefully this will guide you to selecting your own.
Why no sales tax?
In the US, certain states have very low or even nonexistent sales tax. The days of online retailers not charging tax isn’t yet over, but many larger ones calculate taxes based on the state being shipped to. So if you’re making a high dollar purchase, this may be important to you. Some remailers like MyUS have special deals where they are given a tax free zip code so no sales taxes can be collected on purchases at all. Neat! Many others have the same options, so check around for that.
I need some help!
If things go wrong, you might need to chat with someone; no online shopping experience has you on pins and needles more than having both the online retailer and the shipping company say they don’t know where your package is, right? It’s even worse when one of the companies is halfway around the world and is sound asleep when Japan is awake. With Shopfans, you won’t have that problem because they have a few online staff members that keep Japanese hours, so you can engage in a real-time chat if necessary.
Is there an app for that?
Of course, many of these services have their own app available for you schedule and track your packages from end-to-end. ClevverMail’s app will let you check to see exactly what’s heading your way from your smartphone. Even if an actual app isn’t available, usually a mobile friendly website is there for you to log into.
This was just a sample of a few of the remailers I’ve dealt with personally. If you’ve been using one of these services, or have a different one you’d like to let us know about, please let us know which one and what country you’re sending from in the comments below.
— Jason L Gatewood