I first discovered J-Subculture when I ordered from them through Amazon. They had included a flyer for their Auction service inside the package, so I decided I’d check it out. I’ve had an excellent experience with them so far, so if you would like to get some stuff from Japan I think you should consider giving them a try.
Japan Auction J-Subculture is an auction service that allows those who live outside Japan to place bids for items that are being auctioned on Yahoo Auction Japan. Their system will automatically place the bid on your behalf and their employees will make shipping arrangements for you if you happen to win the bid. J-Subculture’s quite unique in that they do not charge a commission for their service.
Basically, the auction process works like this. First, you search for the item you are looking for. Technically, their search bar is supposed to translate your English text into Japanese, but it can be quite finicky, so I recommend using Google to find the Japanese name for the item you’re looking for. It may be worth it to try a search in English as well, because items named in English are seen by less people and often have lower prices (e.g. the search term “copic” yielded lower bids than “コピック”. I would also advise trying a less specific search to see if any better deal comes up (e.g. there several more-affordable options when I searched “vita メモリー” instead of “ps vita メモリーカード”).
After finding something of interest, you can open the items page to view more information about the item. Upon scrolling down, you will see item details entirely in Japanese. Directly underneath the header on the right, a blue “翻訳” button will appear (this may take a few moments). This automatically translates the description using Google Translate. This is especially important when figuring out how much domestic shipping will be.
When you’re ready to place a bid, you will have to register and make a deposit greater than the cost of your bid. You will be able to get it back if you don’t win the bid, so there’s no need to worry about that. While placing your bid, you will be presented with the choice between a normal bid or a snipe bid. A normal bids will be placed immediately, while snipe bids won’t be placed until right before the bid ends.
If you do win your bid, the staff at J-Subculture will communicate with the sellers to settle domestic shipping. From my experience, they’ve done a pretty good job negotiating a reasonable price. Then, they will contact you with a quotation. If you accept the quotation, you will be charged. The costs will usually include the item price, the bank fee, the local delivery cost form the seller to J-Subculture, and the transaction fee. If you use your deposit to pay for the item, you will not have to pay the transaction fee again and it will usually be slightly cheaper.
When the item arrives at J-Subculture, they will hold your items for a limited period of time until you are ready for them to ship it over to you. You will be able to decide how many shipments, how many items in each shipment, and preferred delivery method. After paying, your shipment will be delivered to you.
The process can be rather long and tedious, but you can get some pretty cool stuff that can only be found in Japan for reasonable prices. It is important to note that the price will not be exactly what meets the eye. You should be prepared to pay about twice the list price or sometimes more on most items. If you are willing to take the time to estimate the shipping costs, there are pages on the website to help you do that (i.e. the Handling Fees and Shipping Fees pages).
Overall, I recommend you give J-Subculture a go if you’re interested in importing things from Japan. They are especially good for people looking for affordable anime goods and other otaku merchandise. Not to mention, they have excellent customer service.