To be edited as time passes...~
Feel free to correct me if you feel my information could be adjusted somewhere, or to tell me your personal experience with ___ (I don't mind hearing about them!!), or to attempt to convince me that one store is better for me than another for ____ kinds of products.
My current buying priorities (here for past priorities):
1. Google Play Gift Cards for my Fire Emblem Heroes and Tales of the Rays husbando collecting >_>; I do have a steady seller (I can recommend) who offers cards at 12% off and is flexible with any denomination (ex: $100 for $88, also has App Store etc too), but I'm of course always open to better deals!
2. Various other Tales/Fire Emblem things here and there. Occasionally some other game-related things.
3. Pokemon merchandise (figures, plush, cards, calendars, books, whatever other oddities have captured my attention). Currently trying to stick to just TOMY Moncolle, Sitting Cuties, and other oddities I find unique.
4. BL Novels from CDJapan when I have points I need to use? XD
Last updated: May 2, 2021 - Due to massively increasing shipping rates, in particular to the US, I'm weaning off importing from Japan as much as possible. I should be doing this anyway considering the limit of storage space in my house lol... I'm just glad to have gotten through my urges for the most part before it came to this point. Despite this, I still have like over a dozen packages from Japan already preordered for this year by itself...
July 26, 2018 - More than a year passes so quickly... I've since gotten my own house and adjusted buying priorities since I'm getting pickier with Pokemon merchandise and expanding on different things instead. There's more preordering going around, less auction bidding... but overall I've still been using the same services for the past few years.
Nov 9, 2016 - Nice, just over a year since my last update. Added more input overall as I've gained more experience at various stores.
Previous: Nov 4, 2015, June 12, 2014
Big fat general note:
For now, we are stuck with DHL and FedEx which are both considered express premium, Air parcel is generally best middle-ground if offered, or 2+ months waits on Surface if offered.
Online shops I frequent
-Good points program, along with periodic nice promotions (They used to have many more promotions, but now it's maybe 2 decent ones or so a year).
-Fast and reliable shipping (I always use SAL unless I have a specific reason to use another carrier)
-Early item listings (for the most part)
-Convenient item moving system (move items to other orders as long as they're not beyond "in shipping progress" which starts a day or two before release)
-Very good with preorder bonuses, in fact there's even a counter that will say how many preorder bonuses are left if they're in limited supply.
-Best packing quality out of my general online shopping experience. Expect no mistakes in brand new item condition.
-Have to contact support to cancel items
-Some items have a tight stock limit during the preorder period, so you have to be pretty fast to order depending on the item. Things like limited edition clotheswear and such go out especially fast. I swear some items they'll list without any intention to stock them in the first place =_=; I do forgive them on this generally since these items weren't the focus of their site originally anyway (originally for CDs, durr), and there are usually other places to order... but from a business standpoint, they should REALLY improve on this aspect if they want to get more sales.
-Excessively heavy weight estimates lead to higher shipping totals than they should be, especially on their books. And they won't cut down on the shipping total if the actual shipping happens to be lower, unless you harass their customer support to get them to reconfirm the weights... but that's a huge hassle to both parties.
-These guys have gone through extra lengths to stock items upon my requests. They also get things shipped out VERY fast. Even items that are listed "May take up to 1-2 weeks after the release date" rarely (if ever) get delayed beyond release dates. Add in the points program, and they keep me coming back again and again for more. <3 ~
Also, early item listings are so important for me I can't even.
Last but not least, they don't emphasize this on their site at all, but for each order you get shipped from them, they'll email the same 1-minute survey which you can answer and get 50 points (you may have to check that you're opted in to receive these emails). Those points really add up if you frequently buy.
Rating: 9/10. They've been carrying more and more hobby items as time goes, sometimes with better discounts than other sellers... at which point I preorder from them. By the end of 2014, I've weaned myself away from the anime magazines and multimedia I used to frequently purchase there. They are still a VERY good and reliable source for things, with pretty much the most generous points system to keep you spending there over the years. My biggest gripes with them atm are their 1) iffy support response times, 2) the crazy estimates on their shipping charges which they don't adjust to your advantage once items are in their stock. These things combined bring my rating down with them .5 points each.
-Early bird discounts for up to 20% off on many items (usually it's just 10% now though)
-They basically keep old items around in their stock forever until they sell it, unlike other stores that will just lose the stock somehow after a period of time.
-Warehouse option (they will store items you've ordered from them for up to 60 days in the case you order something else along the time and want them to bulk ship)
-Automatic shipping estimates which from my experience have always ranged from reasonable to better value for the customer (I'll never forget the 20lb of bathbombs I got shipped for like $20)
-They sometimes list up some collectibles that no other sites stock (ie gachapon sets, things from special makers)
-Order stops: Many items they have for preorder they will put on "Order Stop" because they order very limited qualities of those items, and then they don't put the item up for preorder again until the item is released. It's a lot of waiting around to order something when it's more than likely you'd be able to order the item after the release anyway, so why block people from preordering? D: I guess it's to prevent cancellations, but it's still a bit nerve-wrecking imo. Their preorder window is generally way better than CDJapan's still, if anything.
-Poor customer service: I've contacted their customer service a number of times, inquiring about order specifics and item stock requests, and every time, I get a generic answer that doesn't resolve anything. They have some kind of spokesperson on myfigurecollection.net and he encourages us to contact their support, but then their support comes back to us with these unhelpful generic responses. Very, VERY lame. They've gotten a bit better on this over the years, but they're still slow, and it's still a painful process.
-Once in a blue moon, they'll COMPLETELY fail to fulfill your preorder... this is very case-by-case, and in my recent case it was for the Chokkori Eeveelutions. They were able to get me 5 out of 9, and the other 4 are never to come even though I ordered them all at the same time. :\ With no clear explanation why they failed.
-I've shopped from them for a full decade and I'm glad they're still around. Their warehouse service is GREAT! You can instantly cancel any amount of items ordered to the warehouse all the way up until they request payment for the items. I especially love that you can add/delete each item in the warehouse to fully customize what goes in each package.
They also used to be slow with shipping, but they've totally sped up recently and are now on par with the other big sellers. It's great!
Rating: 8.5/10. One point down on order stops--large setbacks on their quality of service overall. .5 down for the customer service, which is improved from a full point, since they've somewhat improved over the years.
-GREAT discounts on certain hobby items
-Recently added in a points system, although it's kind of small
-No-cancel policy (if you are in good standing with a lot of orders with them, they will allow you a cancelation here and there, thankfully)
-SLOW--have to wait for a manually-sent invoice from AmiAmi before sending payment, which slows down the entire process. A slight advantage to this is that the shipping for each order is tailored to your items to spare you in shipping costs at least. Or at least ideally--They have a tendency to overpackage items, which adds to your shipping costs because they're paranoid about receiving complaints about damaged goods upon arrival. CDJapan packages things much more efficiently.
-SLOW with getting items shipped out (Most of the time I have to wait a few days after payment to receive a shipping notification. I'm generally peeved when major sellers do not ship out within 1 working day of payment.)
-Not reliable for preorder bonuses.
-One time when I ordered a figure from them, the figure's box came baaadddly punctured because the packing boxes they use are flimsy and they don't reinforce anything for puncture safety. Fortunately, the figure itself was okay, but the box is no longer valuable due to poor packaging methods. They use paper for padding instead of any bubble wrap or air bags--the paper is not only heavier, it's also less protective in the end. :\
-I hate preordering from this site if it's an item I want to get relatively quickly, even with EMS. Notedly because they are slower compared to the other big shops and NO CANCELLATIONS POLICY is terrible. But the discounts are really worth it on certain occasions, and they stock quite a few things that most other sites don't have for NEARLY as good of a deal.
I also hear a lot of Tales fans especially dismayed at AmiAmi for assuring them preorder bonuses if they "ordered early enough", only to have the preorder bonuses distributed by LOTTERY afterwards. A huge backstab ploy to get people to preorder early without benefit. Myself, I preordered Xillia from them EXTREMELY early on, even contacted their customer support to ask about preorder bonuses, and I STILL didn't get the preorder bonus Mascot item when it arrived. I ordered my next Tales game from Nippon-yasan instead, with their 100% preorder bonus guarantee, and probably got a better price on top of it all. CDJapan is also much better with preorder bonuses.
In addition, I've heard horror stories about figures arriving in bad condition. Of course, AmiAmi is of course not responsible for it since the damage happens during delivery, but it would really be nice if they just took more accountability to package things better to avoid damage in the first place. Especially since valuable figures are the largest part of their business anyway... If any time I have the opportunity to get something at similar price at CDJapan, I'd pick CDJapan any day, or any store, really. The one and ONLY thing AmiAmi has over other sites (if they do) is the initial discount of their sale listings.
Still, they have definitely improved their service over the years. They've also finally started using more appropriately sized boxes for smaller orders! They used to send single CD/DVD/bluray/book shipments in giant boxes, now they finally have something smaller and economic. Keep it up! They still need to learn to use something more secure/lightweight like basic BUBBLE WRAP instead of flimsy/heavy giftwrap paper to cushion their packages.
Rating: 8.5/10. Points down on slow shipping, no-cancellations policy, inefficient packing methods, and preorder bonus mishaps. Despite all these, I still buy from them quite frequently as their discounts are rarely beaten. So the only reason I recommend them at all would be for their discounts.
-Huge discounts on DVD/bluray and games (but they won't ship games overseas)
-Huge selection and stock, of course since it's Amazon.
-Don't have to contact customer support to cancel items for the most part, since you can just cancel them yourself.
-The system will automatically give you the lowest price for preorders, if the price changes during the wait.
-Although there's only express shipping option, items are shipped by DHL. Add your phone number to your order and you'll get a text when it's on route, where you can authorize to have the package left without signature--BIG PLUS.
-No economical shipping options--makes shipping certain items SUPER expensive.
-They won't ship games and certain other products overseas. (codes are okay, so things like downloaded Switch games are a great option)
-If you order a combination of items currently in stock and items for preorder, they have a bad habit of separating shipments even if you specifically ask them to keep all items in one order. At least they don't change your shipping charge in order to do so (whatever they charge in the first shipment, they charge the rest of the original total in the next shipment), but it can be a REALLY inconvenient situation personally for EMS shipping because I may have to plan my availability around EMS shipments (not really an issue with DHL in the equation now).
-They don't accept Paypal, but that's not such a huge deal imo
Ideal purchases are smaller items bluray or book release, since the shipping charge on small items is relatively decent when you factor in the great discount on the bluray itself. I now also rely on them for certain Pokemon Center JP releases, as PCJP won't accept overseas CCs anymore.
Rating: N/A since a majority of their items can't be shipped to the US without a proxy. They are of course good for what they can ship, though!
Other places I get from on the rare occasion and just want to blab about XDD;
-Early listings for games (for the most part...)
-Cheapest shipping methods compared to other stores (since they're HK-based), even free shipping to US (for games only?)
-$5 coupons commonly available for orders over $60, if you know where to look
-Weekly and Daily sales for many popular games. It's worth adding yourself to discount mailing lists if you're looking for a deal on certain games, and you can sign up for individual titles.
-Prices are a bit heavily marked up USD values that don't match up with current yen exchange.
-Games are all they really focus on, so there's not much of a selection on other products to combine orders and save on shipping--That was in 2014, but they've expanded their site over time to add more and more collectibles. However, shipping rates are all over the place with these expanded categories of items.
-No cancellations on collectible preorders. They're very inflexible about this, and I learned this the hard way, so they should only be a last resort.
-HK-based, so Japan exclusive preorder bonuses almost never come with their games--They've gotten better with this over time and for the most part can get preorder bonuses. Check item descriptions, or even ask their customer support to be sure!
-Since these guys are HK-based, the pros and cons go hand-in-hand with their location. Inflation has certainly impacted how much they've marked up their games over the years. Their coupons changed from being able to use them on $50 orders, now the orders have to be over $60. Starting mid 2012, they've been offering free shipping on games to the USA though, big bonus!
Rating: 8/10. Tentative, as I honestly have not shopped from them for years and these comments could be very outdated. Score is lowered from recent experience of not being to cancel an order. They should only be used as a last resort. Please update me if any of my info is wrong D:
-Plenty of Animate exclusives.
-Generous points system.
-They only ship within Japan, so I either have to get items sent to a friend in Japan or use deputy service.
-Similar to AmazonJP, they don't accept Paypal, but it's minor. At least they accept my credit card at all, unlike many other JP-only sites.
-If they would just ship overseas I would definitely buy from them more often, maybe even enough to replace CDJapan (gasp). Exclusives are hard to pass up if it's a series I like enough *cough*Inazuma*cough*
-These guys seem to be a potential steady for my certain gaming shopping. I ordered the Fire Emblem Kakusei 3DS edition from them at a MUCH cheaper price than Play-Asia had it, but it did take them an extra 3 days after I sent payment to get it shipped. Their store seems to have a good listing of the rarer, harder-to-get gaming items from Japan such as those special edition consoles.
I also preordered Tales of Xillia 2 from them. They ask for payment a week or so before the item is released, so that when they do get the item in they can ship it immediately. Sure beats the slow process at AmiAmi... AND they understand collectors' needs for preorder bonuses and guarantee them in their listings. Even CDJapan doesn't "guarantee" preorder bonuses (although I've always gotten them when I ordered there anyway).
Warning they seem to have fallen on hard times, so take caution before preordering in the meantime...
-Free international shipping on orders over $39!!
-They stock BL Novels, even if somewhat sporadically. This is a unique plus for me. :B
-Free Gachapon omake offer if you get 2 qualifying items in a single order
-Helpful customer support for putting up item listings not on their site yet
-HUGE markups on their prices for anything other than CDs, even more than Play-Asia.
-Sporadic item listings for preorders (but if you bug customer support they can generally put the item up for you)
-Also HK-based like Play-Asia, so also a tossup with Japan exclusive preorder bonuses.
-I've been shopping with these guys since 2004, back when they offered free shipping on orders over just $25, and one time an order got lost in the mail completely and they sent a new shipment without charging anything more whatsoever. I don't know if they're still that generous now since I haven't had lost packages since.
But this place is awesome if you want to get a whole bunch of stuff new or old and can wait for the free shipping. They also take in product listing requests if you can show them another site that has the listing already (this is what I do for BL novels/manga they haven't listed)!!
The huge markups seem to cover up for their free shipping gimmick, but if you select smart, you can still get great deals on this site.
Rating: 8/10. Tentative, as I honestly have not shopped from them for years and these comments could be very outdated.
-I've only purchased from them like... twice, so I honestly can't say much. My general impression is that they're like CDJapan except with only EMS shipping available, which makes them like AmazonJP... without super awesome discounts. They have SOME discounts, but not as much as AmazonJP anyway. They at least WILL ship games overseas. Other information (preorder bonuses), I'm not too sure about. Can't say there's any reason to get from them regularly, just only if they happen to have a better deal than all the other sites--That which I have not seen happen since the last time I bought from them many years ago.
-Nice discounts all across the board, including occasional promotions
-Not much selection
-I've also only purchased from them like... twice, and that was also many years ago, so I honestly can't say much. Similar situation with HMV, except 1999 carries more hobby products instead of music/video.
tl;dr Use DeJapan and don't bother with anyone else, UNLESS you need to get something ASAP for running-out-of-stock reasons and you can buy it yourself, using Tenso as a forwarding service.
DeJapan - RECOMMENDED
-Flat fee that is better than any other proxy I've tried so far, NO CATCHES. No stupid wiring fees for transactions that never used wiring in the first place like many other proxies apply.
-Transparency about why their service is as generous as it is.
-All the relevant shipping options available. Reasonable shipping practices in general thus far.
-Automatic systems? (I haven't tried them for auctions yet, mind you)
-None so far, tbh
Zenmarket - DO NOT RECOMMEND
-Last I checked, but it's been a long time--Flat 300 yen fee per item. No "wire transfer fee" BS. No "consolidation fee" BS. NO CATCHES.
-Pretty decent website for navigation
-45-day storage for free (50 yen a day after)
-Fee is per item, regardless of same seller/same date or anything. So even if you want to get a bunch of items from the same seller, you have to pay the fee per item. This is something I REALLY hope they improve on in the future (maybe even offer a reduced 100 yen fee for additional items from same seller/day).
-NO Unregistered shipping options. Everything has to include tracking, so that means an extra 410 yen per Small Packet SAL package. It really adds up.
-Their response time was excellent back in 2016, but now it's dead last come since mid 2017. I'll often have to wait up to 48 HOURS for a shop purchase quote, NEVER within 24 hrs, when other proxies pride themselves in doing it in less than 24 (and oftentimes within 12).
-What's even WORSE about their slow response time, this also applies to their packages. So if you have an item that is reaching the 45 day free storage limit, anticipate having to pay extra because they will be SLOW in packing your items. Over 48 hours slow. I had to pay an extra 100 yen the last time this happened (meaning they literally took 2 days past the date to respond and then made me pay for it), and this has definitely been a huge minus in considering future services with them.
-They tack on some small amounts of strange "insurance fees" to your packages if the value of them are too high for whatever shipping method you're working with.
General note: They are SLOW AND OVERCHARGING COMPARED TO OTHER PROXIES. They've become "too popular" for their own good and it shows in their slow service, and yet they apparently aren't scaling to accommodate. After using them frequently throughout 2016-2017, I've come to dislike how slow they've become.
-Moving forward, I intend to use Zenmarket ONLY for large single items that I intend to get shipped over by DHL Direct. Good candidates for these are large lots like Kuji cartons.
FromJapan - DO NOT RECOMMEND
-One-time 300 yen fee for the same seller/same day/same order.
-Pay on the fly--No need to keep a deposit, and they don't charge if you don't win your item.
-They are pretty lame in terms of flexibility of the things you order actually QUALIFYING to be shipped as Small Packet. I've only ordered a few times in 2018, but half the time the items SHOULD have been able to ship Small Packet, but because of the lack of flexibility in their system, I had to have them shipped using other methods.
-Have to stress again how inflexible they are to customer requests during shipping process? I'm giving them one last chance now...
General note:These guys went to amazing, to terrible, to back to OK? It used to be around 200 yen + a bullshit bank wiring fee when I started out, then when I left, they had a gross combining fee on top of inflated fees, and now they are down to 300 yen flat fee with much more transparent extra fees if applicable.
FJ will "shrink wrap" your item with cardboard below it, but it's not actually shrinking anything, and the cardboard just makes it so things like plush that could be compressed to fit into small packet requirements don't fit anymore.
Shopping Mall Japan - DO NOT RECOMMEND
-Last I knew, they offer media mail shipping for US people (super cheap)
-Initial deposit required (you have a spending limit of 5x your deposit, I believe), this is normally not a con, BUT... deposits are all processed manually and delays things greatly.
-Limitation on preorders (if another user on their site preorders the same item on animate before you, no one else is able to make a purchase on the same item even if multiple orders are supposed to be allowed ._.;)
-Their "mass shipping" system isn't good for certain orders, especially for orders that can't take advantage of media mail shipping anyway. It even slows down the process because that just means they have to ship and process the item in two places instead of just sending it from Japan to you.
General note: I DO NOT RECOMMEND THEM. I used them as a proxy from 2007- June 2014. I withdrew my $45 deposit I had sitting with them the entire time. Many of my points might be outdated and not apply anymore, but I'm 99.9% confident that any "improvements" they might have made won't get me to come back to them. I was tired of having to email them twice to get my credit card payments processed, and they were just overall slow/expensive when there are better services out there.
-SMJ fees rant
I've also used Celga, the rates are realllly close, but at least they don't seem to have limitations (they don't really have enough users for that conflict to happen anyway). Disadvantage is the system is manual and price needs to be paid upfront, so you have to wait for someone there to make the order. Nice thing is though, they're very personal about each order. Almost TOO personal, the last time I ordered from them I had to e-mail them on 3 separate occasions just to let them know why I needed my item shipped SAL instead of EMS, before they finally let the item get shipped SAL =w=;
-Service on more personal level
-They have some pretty cute omake available depending on the occasion, check their facebook to see what they have
-Smaller userbase, so limitations are not as much of an issue
-Everything is handled manually, which slows down the process and there is a chance they will not see your email before a listing is over...
-Full price has to be paid upfront
Tenso (They also own Buyee which I have not personally tried since the fees are more expensive than most other services, but I'm sure is as reliable as Tenso)
-Be in control of what you order yourself
-Get items before they potentially sell out while waiting on another proxy
-When your packages arrive, you can send an inquiry to have them repack items to fit into small packet shipments and they'll do it free of charge (except if items need to be split into multiple shipments, each shipment will have its own initial fees)
-Higher learning curve
-Initial fees are very high compared to other proxies
Tenso's process is very different from most others in that you need your own account on the JP site you want to buy from, and then you buy items yourself and have things sent to Tenso's address. This is very useful if you want more control in the buying process (for example getting JP Pokemon Center releases before they go out of stock, instead of waiting for a proxy to manually make the order after receiving it from you). If you don't know Japanese, this can be a very daunting process.
Other services to look into (If you want to tell me about your experiences with these, PLEASE DO!):
Below section under construction:
J-Subculture: I'm working off what I remember about using these guys for over 300 shipments back when they had absolutely free commission fees, which was a crazy blessing in itself--alas, all good things come to an end some day. Since then, it has been over a year since I have used their service, so I will need to update this review as I start collecting more experience with them again from here on.
First and foremost, these guys by far have impressed me with their PACKING above ANY other online shop I've been with, be it Japan-wise or even domestic US. In terms of light-but-effectively-PROTECTIVE packaging, these guys do it so well and I've learned a lot about packing from them myself for my reselling processes. The boxes they use are durable but LIGHT unlike many other shops which use grossly heavy boxes that really aren't that much better. Boxes have the potential to get punctured, regardless of how thick they are, and in my experience, lighter boxes actually get treated better by mail carriers anyway. J-sub is also generous in using bubble wrapping to protect your items, unlike many other shops that will use inefficient (and heavy) paper as "padding". Finally, they have managed to send some soft items (especially plush, clothes) in PAPER BAGS which may sound scary, but actually it works SUPER WELL and reduces shipping costs dramatically compared to boxes. I've suggested that they use polymailers instead of paper bags--they responded thanks for the suggestion, though I don't think they'll implement it. That's the final touch to make their shipping methods actually perfect, imo.
Customer service-wise, they do operate in Japan time zone so my questions get answered late at night, like almost any other proxy. Even so, their response has been faster than other proxies I've dealt with (Zenmarket, FromJapan).
Anyway, after not using them for a full year, and using Zenmarket and FJ instead on a less frequent basis (my needs have been reduced since then as well), I believe I'm finally ready to take on J-sub's revamped services... Even by going with their Business User status which requires a wire transfer of 50,000 yen (~$500 USD) to initiate. I would love to know if anyone else has had experience with them in the past year, and I hope they are still the same awesome service (aside from their fees) after this time I was absent from them.
SAL Small Packet UNREGISTERED packaging, for the win and this is one of the few proxies that still offer that reasonably (FJ still does but they are VERY stupidly inflexible with how they will handle your items to meet the requirement). Zenmarket does have the excellent DHL Economy shipping method to their arsenal, which is great for bulkier purchases, but for various small purchases that I tend to do more often, Unreg SAL Small Packet is still what I desire the most.