Buying From Japan

MiniDisc was wildly successful in Japan, moreso than probably anywhere else in the world, so it's a great place to get equipment. With the advent of proxy services, its now easy, logistically, to buy products from sites like Yahoo! Auctions or Mercari, where lots of secondhand sales occur.

There are a few things to look out for when purchasing equipment from overseas:

Decks and bookshelf units that require wall current will use 100V, 50/60Hz, in almost every circumstance. To use these devices outside of Japan, it's highly recommended you acquire a step-down transformer to convert your local voltage to 100V. This is especially important for bookshelf units (with amplifiers.) If your local current is above 120V, plugging a Japanese device without a transformer is a good way to watch a single, brilliant firework.

While many Japanese items are in excellent condition, even for items the age of MD gear, there are of course exceptions. Thoroughly review the photos for the listing (ideally by going to the source auction/store page, not just the page of the proxy - some proxy services only show the first X pictures, for example).

In addition to the photos, it's important to understand the condition as described in the listing itself. Many sellers of MD equipment don't have or claim to not have MiniDisc media, and use that as an excuse to not test a device. If a listing does not specifically mention test results in the description, you should assume it does not work. Most listings will mention the phrase “動作確認済” (“Operation confirmed” in English) for the parts of the device's functionality that were tested. Even this, however, does not mean that they will still work when they arrive to you.

It's highly recommended you copy and paste the entire description into a translation tool like Google Translate or DeepL. If you are unclear about the translation, sometimes using only smaller sentences can yield more clear results.

Finally, the vast majority of listings that show up on auction sites at reasonable prices are listed as “junk” items - while this can mean what it sounds like, this often is just a synonym for “untested”. If you choose to not buy anything listed as 'junk', you'll likely pay more than you need to. However, it is more likely (though not certain) to get a tested and working product if the description does not mention 'junk'.

Certain devices may require accessories for testing or to confirm that they power on - a good example are Panasonic portables, many of which use a 2.5mm jack for the primary output so a remote is necessary for testing purposes. Carefully review the description of the item to make sure that the accessory you think is included from the photos is actually part of the listing. Most listings will clearly indicate if they are the main unit only, or if accessories are included.

Some services allow you to search in English, converting to Japanese equivalent words in the background. However, you'll often find better results by searching in Japanese. Watch this space for a list of common keywords to help start your search.

Japan Post Shipping Costs as of July 2021

Beyond the cost of your listing, there are other costs that must be paid when buying from overseas. Most Japanese sellers will not ship directly overseas, hence the use of proxy services. Here's a listing of the most common fees you'll encounter when using a proxy service:

Domestic shipping - The charge to ship your item from the seller to the proxy service. This is often free, but even then, your proxy service may require tracking numbers which can sometimes have an extra cost. Look through the listing to determine an estimate for domestic shipping, but be aware this isn't always listed.

Consumption tax - If you purchase your item from a store, your proxy service may charge you Japanese consumption tax in compliance with Japanese law. Currently, consumption tax is 10% added on to the item price.

Proxy service fee - The proxy service will charge a fee, either percentage-based or flat-fee, for their service of buying the item, accepting the shipment and holding it, repackaging or relabeling it to ship it to you, etc.

Payment service fee - Some proxy services charge extra for each completed auction or each seller you purchase items from, to cover the cost of processing your credit card or the cost of bank transfers to the Japanese domestic seller, etc. These are often a few hundred yen.

Currency conversion - Some services will list your pricing and their fees in Japanese Yen, but charge your card in your credit card's currency. This also generally means that they choose the exchange rate, and it may not be as ideal as a charge in yen.

International shipping - Obviously, you have to pay shipping to get the item from Japan to you. Different proxy services offer different types of shipping service, but you should be prepared for this cost - it can lead to sticker shock, especially if you purchase an oversized item like a storage rack or a deck.

Optional services - Many vendors offer optional services like package consolidation (opening multiple boxes and consolidating items into one box), additional packaging, photos, inspections, shrinkwrap, insurance, etc. All of these services generally attract extra charges. Consider each one carefully. Please note that in rare circumstances, consolidating packages may lead to a higher expense than shipping the packages separately. You generally can't estimate this in advance, but this is especially likely if you are including multiple oddly-shaped items.

There's generally not one. Consider everything, even 'operation confirmed' devices as final sale.

Some items may be unwieldy or very expensive to ship, and some items may only be shipped via certain methods. A notable example that comes up when purchasing MD related equipment is that Japan Post will generally not accept speakers for shipment. (There are some exceptions for speakers that come with special documentation about the magnets inside, but you should not expect that this will be the case for any particular listing.) Because of this, some proxy services will scan the text of listings for the word 'speaker' and try to block you from bidding, or will restrict shipping to (generally more expensive) couriers rather than the Japan Post-powered airmail, or SAL options.

本体のみ | Main Device Only - no accessories will come with the auction, even if they are in the picture.

パーツ | Parts - often used to indicate the device is (or may be) broken and should only be used for parts.

修理 | Repairs - see “parts”

ジャンク | “Junk” - see the “item condition” section above.

保証 | Warranty - almost always used in the context that there isn't one.

通電 | Energized - generally used to tell you the device turns on. Without further explanation, you should assume this means there was no testing done.

  • guides/buyfromjapan.txt
  • Last modified: 4 weeks ago
  • by specialk