Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Search For & Purchase Kawaii from Japan

Hey guys! I am taking a break from big kawaii purchases due to financial reasons but I thought it might be helpful to share some information on searching for kawaii items on Japanese websites and how to order those items via a shopping service.

My three favorite non-English websites for kawaii are Yahoo Japan auctions, Rakuten, and mbok. You can browse Rakuten in English but a lot of sellers don't ship outside of Japan so for the largest variety of items available, I almost always search in Japanese.

It can seem very daunting to browse in another language but Google Translate and copy+paste become your best friends! I have a little text file on my computer filled with the hiragana/katakana/kanji equivalents of my favorite kawaii search items and when I want to look for something, I just consult that text file, copy the item, and paste it into the search engine. Saves TONS of time and mental energy. Yes, it's lazy, too ;)

Many browsers also offer to translate a page automatically and that can also be very, very useful. I use Chrome and it always asks me if I want to translate a page from Japanese (or whatever other language) to English. This feature is nice if you'd rather browse for items instead of searching for something specific. I've found some awesome plush toys in this way~I go to Yahoo Japan (sometimes referred to as YJ) auctions, select the Toy category (if you have the page translated to English, you'll see this on the left side), and then select Stuffed Animals on the following (translated) page. Then you can narrow it down even further.

So, let's say that you want to order an Arpakasso plush. The Japanese word for this is アルパカッソ. You'd copy that, paste it into the search bar of your preferred shopping website, and then browse the results.

Example Search

So, I'm going to search for Arpakasso on mbok.

That's what the page would look like with Arpakasso in the search bar. Click the search button (the orange one with kanji).

Here are some of the results that come up!

So, I browse through the items (there are three pages) and I find a plush I like on the second page:

A cute Strawberry Arpakasso plush <3

Well, I decide I MUST have him. What do I do now? First, I check his price and pictures to make sure I can afford it and that everything looks good. You will probably want to translate the description text to check on any defects listed and shipping within Japan (domestic shipping). It looks like this plush's domestic shipping is 390 yen. You'll want to factor this amount into the price of the plush you're willing/able to spend.

If you're ordering through a shopping service, you'll end up paying for the item, its domestic shipping within Japan to the shopping service's warehouse, the shopping service's fees (sometimes including bank transfer fees), and international shipping to yourself. This can add up quickly, especially if you're buying larger, heavier items. The shopping services I've seen have a fee scale (usually there is a higher fee the more expensive the item is, and a separate fee for each item/auction) and some require a bidding deposit upfront for auctions. But we'll get to that in a moment.

Let's look at some more of the listing's information:

That first box gives me some information about the seller. This one has 915 feedback and 167 items for sale currently. The second box gives me the current price (1200 yen), the time left (1 day), the time the auction ends (March 20th around 11 pm Japan time), the quantity of items (1), the the highest bidder's name (there is none on this auction so it says なし or 'none'). The third box is the bidding box, where your shopping service (or yourself) will be bidding for this item.

The item checks out and I'm good with the price. Now I need to find a shopping service that will buy from mbok.

My favorite shopping service is Japonica Market. They have fair prices, fast shipping, and excellent communication. They also offer shopping services for all three of my favorite Japanese shopping websites. Browse their website and check their commission fees, shipping methods and fees, deposit information, policies, and other important information.

If you'd like to order via this website, you'll see an Order Form link near the top right corner. Click that and a box with text will come up. You'll want to copy that Auction/Shopping Order Form and paste it into an e-mail to Japonica Market.

Japonica Market has a little 'cheat sheet' to the right of to the order form box to help you find out where the seller ID, auction ID (for mbok and YJ auctions), and item URL (if you're ordering from a shopping website like Rakuten) are in a listing. The Item Name seems to be more flexible~I believe you can enter 'Arpakasso plush' or something more specific (the translated item name) and the staff should be able to figure it out since you're also providing an ID or URL. This is also a good place to list color choice (if that's offered-obviously it isn't here). Because this item is an auction item, your deposit for it will be your maximum bid price you're willing to pay. Let's say I'm only willing to pay up to 1500 yen for this plush, before domestic shipping. Snipe Bid isn't allowed on Mbok, I'm pretty sure, and Buy It Now isn't offered for this particular item, so I'd choose Instant Bid. There is only one payment option (PayPal) offered. Shipping often depends on the weight/size of the item(s), so even if you choose Registered Airmail, if the item is too large to ship in this way, Japonica Market will notify you of EMS shipping costs. EMS is very fast but often expensive (but sometimes it's the most economical way to ship, depending on your package). Then of course you list your PayPal e-mail and your address. You can also add a note to the seller

So my order form would look like this:

[ Auctions / Shopping Order Form ]

Seller ID : Meemee ★ 
Item Name : Arpakasso plush
Auction ID / Item URL :
Max bid Price :   1500 yen
Bidding Options : Snipe bid / Instant bid / Buy it Now

Payment : ( Credit Card/Bank through PayPal ) 
Shipping Options : EMS
PayPal Account :
PayPal Confirmed Shipping Name and Address : 
Jane Doe
1234 America St
City, State 12345

note : Thank you!

So, because this item is under 2500 yen, if you look at the Commission section on the left side of the website, you see that the fee for this item is 500 yen. Remember that domestic shipping is 390 yen. So, Japonica Market will invoice you for 1890 yen (max bid + domestic shipping + fee) and you must pay this amount before they will bid on this auction for you. It looks like Japonica Market does check out the seller's feedback and item details before bidding to notify you if there is a problem, so that's nice.

Once you send the invoiced amount to Japonica Market, they place your bid for you. You can't cancel a bid after making it so be sure you want the item before placing the order. If you don't win the item, JM will refund your deposit. If you win the item at less than your max bid, that overpayment will be credited to whatever you owe on further fees, like international shipping.

Let's pretend like we win the plush at 1200 yen, yay! Japonica Market will send you a message stating that you won the item and to please wait until they receive the item from the seller. Once JM receives the item and inspects it/and calculates international shipping, you'll receive another invoice. Remember that international shipping can be expensive! Pay this invoice and JM will ship your item(s) to you!

YJ auctions works very similarly, except that Snipe Bid is allowed there. This means that the shopping service waits until the auction is nearly over to bid~to try and get your bid in as the final one.

Rakuten does have auctions but I have only purchased items as Buy It Now via that site. And of course you can always browse other Japanese web shops!

Another shopping service I've used in the past is Celga. I've not used them in years but I always had positive experiences when I did use their service. Celga does require a bidding deposit (half your max bid) before they will bid for you and they do charge a bank transfer fee. However, their commission fees are in USD and are a bit less than Japonica Market's.

I hope that this guide has been helpful! Please comment if you have any other questions :)


  1. Oh really interesting and informative I ´ll save the link to this post for my future purchases.


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  2. Thank you so much for this guide!~ ^__^

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