Translated by Sandy Lau
Sending Packages Overseas From Japan: Guide To International Mail And Fees
Written by Elaine
Did you purchase too many items on your travels? Would you like to send packages to your parents in your home country? Choose to ship parcels internationally at Japan Post offices. Learn about their four shipping methods, features, and prices alongside precautions before shipping overseas.
How to Send International Packages From Japan
Do you want to send packages from Japan to your friends overseas? Or are you visiting Japan and want to mail your luggage to an address in your home country? For these situations, take advantage of international mail services.
You may be wondering if overseas shipping is expensive, or whether some items are restricted. Don't worry!
The cheapest and easiest way to send packages overseas from Japan is by international mail from Japan Post. This article introduces how to ship overseas parcels from post offices in Japan.
Four Shipping Methods: Surface Mail, Economy Air (SAL), Airmail, and EMS
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There are four shipping types—Surface Mail, Economy Air (SAL), Airmail, and Express Mail Service (EMS)—available for international mail from the post office. The table below has a brief description of the features of each shipping method.
Fees vary based on the shipping method, weight of the parcel, destination country, and transportation method. Packages can be a maximum weight of 30 kg (66 lbs) per individual parcel.
Parcels sent to East Asia (China, Taiwan) require the lowest shipping costs. It steadily becomes more expensive in this order: Southeast Asia, Central and North America, Oceania, Europe, South America, and Africa.
You can check for rates in advance on Japan Post's official website.
Japan Post Website "Rates and Delivery Days": https://www.post.japanpost.jp/cgi-charge/index.php?lang=_en
|Shipping Method||Delivery Time||Fees|
|Surface Mail||1 – 3 months||Cheapest|
|SAL||1 – 2 weeks||Cheaper than regular airmail|
|Airmail||3 – 6 days||More expensive than SAL|
|EMS||2 – 4 days||Most expensive|
*Delivery time indicated in the table does not include customs clearance. The number of days will vary based on when the transported parcel is clearing customs and arrives at its destination facility.
Next, let’s take a look at the features of each shipping method.
1. Surface Mail
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Surface Mail (otherwise known as Sea Mail), is the cheapest shipping method but is also the slowest; it takes about one to three months for a package to reach its destination. Fees for shipping a package 10 kg (22 lbs) or less will be 4,300 yen to China, 5,300 yen to Thailand, and 6,750 yen to the U.S.
It's advised to use thicker cardboard than usual for your shipping box. This is because there is the possibility that the box gets damaged during the long transportation time.
Photo by Pixta
Prevent heavy items—such as electronics, furniture, and books—from colliding against one another and breaking by carefully packaging them in cushioning material. Additionally, the exterior of the box may get wet due to weather during transportation. Products susceptible to water damage should be packaged in waterproof material for safe travel.
Shipping by Surface Mail will take over a month. As such, it would be safer to avoid shipping food products with short expiration dates or items that deteriorate due to inconsistent temperatures.
2. Economy Air (SAL)
Economy Air (SAL) utilizes the vacant space in an aircraft to deliver packages. The advantages of this method include cheaper rates than Airmail and quicker delivery time than Surface Mail.
Delivery time ranges from six to 13 days. More days may be required depending on the country. The fee for shipping a package 10 kg (22 lbs) or less is 6,700 yen to China, 8,000 yen to Thailand, and 12,550 yen to the U.S.
The countries where this service is available are limited, so check whether you can ship parcels to your home country on the Japan Post website. As of August 2020, the service ships to countries such as China, Thailand, the U.S., and Canada.
Japan Post Website “Countries with Economy Air (SAL) Service”: https://www.post.japanpost.jp/int/service/dispatch/sal_ichiran_en.html
Photo by Pixta
As its name implies, airmail is the method of transporting packages by plane. Delivery time is around three to six days. Fees for shipping a package over 10 kg (22 lbs) or less is 7,850 yen to China, 12,500 yen to Thailand, and 17,650 yen to the U.S.
This method is suited for items that you want to have quickly delivered, like food products.
4. EMS (Express Mail Service)
EMS is the fastest international mail service out of all four shipping methods. Packages are transported by plane and delivered to the destination country within two to five days. Moreover, its delivery has the top priority among international mail.
Fees for shipping a package over 10 kg (22 lbs) or less is 10,500 yen to China, 10,500 yen to Thailand, and 14,500 yen to the U.S.
This service is ideal for quickly shipping items such as important documents and food products with a short shelf life. Cool EMS is another service that ships packages at low temperatures. It is available in a total of eight countries, including Taiwan, Thailand, and France.
As of August 2020, Cool EMS has been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check Japan Post's official website for details on when this service will resume.
Japan Post Website “Cool EMS”: https://www.post.japanpost.jp/int/ems/cool/index_en.html
Take a look at the article below for more information on this shipping method.
Precautions Before Shipping
First, check whether or not your package contains dangerous goods prohibited aboard aircraft before shipping. It's also advised to prepare your shipping label beforehand.
Warning! Items Prohibited in International Mail
Dangerous goods that are prohibited aboard aircraft cannot be shipped via international mail. Make sure to check whether your package contains any hazardous materials before shipping.
Perfume, Hair Tonic, Nail Polish, Fireworks, Alcoholic Beverages, Portable Battery Chargers, Electronic Cigarettes, Aerosols, etc.
Properly Fill Out Information on Items
Shipping labels for international mail must be properly filled out with details on the content of the item(s), value, and number. To avoid any mistakes, it would be a good idea to write a memo and make a list of the items beforehand.
Don't forget to include a spare address, such as a friend's house, if the package cannot be delivered to your address or parents' house.
If you have several packages to send, you can ask the post office for shipping labels to fill out at home. Please refer to Japan Post's website on how to fill out the label.
Japan Post Website “How to Fill Out the Parcel Label”: https://www.post.japanpost.jp/int/use/writing/parcel_en.html
Check for Post Offices Accepting Cashless Payments
Most post offices only accept cash payments. If you prefer to use a credit card, check Japan Post’s website for locations that accept cashless payments.
Japan Post Website “Cashless Payments at the Postal Counter”: https://www.post.japanpost.jp/life/cashless/index_en.html
Use the Convenient International Mail Service
If you're looking for more delivery options, companies such as Yamato Transport, Sagawa Express, and Nippon Express handle international shipments. However, their fees are pricier than the post office. Please take a look at the companies' respective websites to compare their services.
It isn't difficult to ship international mail from Japan. You can easily send a parcel as long as you've prepared in advance. The next time you purchase too many souvenirs on your Japan trip, give these delivery services a try!
Main image by Pixta