I know how frustrating it is to get excited about unusual bento boxes and accessories on Japanese websites, only to find out that the online stores won’t ship outside of Japan. Mail order companies that wouldn’t ship internationally were a pet peeve of mine when I lived in Japan, especially when looking for clothes and shoes. Being 5’10″ with size 11 feet made it hard to find properly fitting things there — my nickname “Biggie” is short for Bigfoot, after all! Anyway, I digress.
There are a number of online companies that will act as your own personal shopper or “friend in Japan”, placing bids on Japanese-language online auctions, accepting packages you order from mail order stores that won’t ship internationally, and shipping them over to you (for a price, of course — the low end is around 10%). This opens up the bento treasure of Japanese online stores (in addition to J-List, which does ship their bento stuff overseas). I’ve put together a list of some of these shipping and auction agents, some bigger online stores, and translation tools to guide you. (Read on for the full list.)
Overseas shipping and Japanese auction services
These online companies offer a variety of services, acting as your own personal shopper in Japan, auction agent, domestic mail order recipient and forwarder. Most will help guide you through the otherwise daunting process of placing online orders or bidding on auctions in a foreign language; check their websites for details. They don’t do this for free, of course — commissions usually start around 10%, but can run much higher for auctions (read the fine print — buyer beware!).
I haven’t used any of these services, so this is not an endorsement and I’d welcome feedback from people who have used them. If are a merchant with an established, relevant Japan shipping or auction service you’d like to be included, please leave a comment on this post or send me e-mail at lunchinabox (AT) gmail (DOT) com. Unrelated commercial spam will be quietly deleted.
- Abidko: Online shopping and auction service that handles Yahoo! Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
- Akibado: Online shopping and auction service, but looks pricey (20%+ commission).
- Baggage Forward: shipping service will combine shipping from multiple sources
- Celga: Auction agent for Yahoo! Japan
- DankeDanke: Shipping service and auction service (bilingual site with shopping portals)
- Goods from Japan: Shipping service, personal shopping and auction service
- i-TM4u: Shipping service and auction service (down until March 26, 2008 for site revamp)
- Japan Auction Center: Auction service with straightforward fees (800 yen + 8% per auction) and shipping at cost
- Japan to Door: Shipping service, personal shopping and auction service
- Ooh! Japan: Online shopping, shopping portal and auction service. Here’s a link to their bento products.
- Rinkya: Online shopping and auction service with handy auction search (Yahoo! Japan, Japanese online stores, and Rakuten online stores). Watch out for fees, though.
- Rtecec: Online shopping and auction service
Online stores with bento gear
- Rakuten: major auction site and online store with multiple sellers (check out their bento section here)
- Amazon Japan: Amazon Japan does ship books internationally, but not bento gear (although they have a good selection). Use a shipping agent to buy their bento boxes and thermal lunch jars, drink containers, kitchenware, classic bento gear from Hakoya, modern bento gear from Yellow Studio, and accessories like the little face-shaped craft punches for nori to make faces on onigiri.
- Yellow Studio: This is the online Rakuten store I linked to in my post on bento box size guidelines. Bento boxes and gear with clean, modern designs and striking colors. I’ve got my eye on several things on this site, including their book and guide for packing lunch according to the 3:1:2 rule (some Yellow Studio products are also available on Amazon).
- Yahoo! Japan: With extensive auctions much like eBay
Can’t read Japanese? Machine translation is your friend.
(Disclaimer: The Amazon Japan and J-List links are affiliate links that support Lunch in a Box at no additional cost when purchases are made through them. I have no commercial affiliations with any of the other companies listed here.)
- Additional bento shopping resources
- Ichiban Kan online store to open April 1, 2008
- San Francisco Japantown bento shopping update
- Japanese-language speed bento and freezing books in my kitchen
- Japanese children’s bento cookbooks in my kitchen
- SF Bay Area shopping guide for bento gear
- Biggie’s list of top speed tips, tutorials and equipment reviews