Buying Japanese Music from Overseas

Welcome to my guide to support Japanese music artists from overseas! Here you will find all the informations you need to start supporting your favorite acts right from your country, thanks to a list of well known online shops and services that will allow you to get your hands on your favorite releases. I’ve personally used all the websites listed below for my personal purchases, so I gathered all the pros and cons of each shop and wrote down essential advices on everything you need to know before placing your first order.

The way you support your favorite artists is obviously entirely up to you: you can buy every single physical release, or only albums without considering the singles, or even support them by digitally buying songs from iTunes and OTOTOY (and make your life considerably easier as well). You may see many fans showcasing huge collections, but in no way you should feel demotivated by this, as anyone is free to support an artist the way they want and prefer, and this is the only rule to follow. Sure, if you’re a hardcore collector you’ll have a good amount of fun and money going away while searching for rare pieces of several discographies, but if your target is just to support by buying “standard” releases without caring too much about unfindable items, you’ll still have fun (and a way easier life).

Whatever is your intention though, you need all the possible help before starting, and here’s where my guide comes in help. Let’s begin!


CDjapan 

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If there’s a good place where to buy upcoming and generally common releases of every Japanese artist, get free bonus pre order items, all delivered through an overall good service, CDjapan is without a doubt a valid choice. If you’re searching for old singles, CDs, DVDs, photobooks and more, on CDjapan you will most certainly find the complete discography of almost all artists. Obviously, just like all this kind of shops, you won’t find old Limited Editions and rare releases since they are all out of production, but you can find everything you would see in a real Japanese music store without problems.

CDjapan does its best when it comes to new releases: once a new single or any other product is listed on their site, they will send an email to all the registered users and leave a message on their Twitter/Facebook pages, so you will always be warned immediately when an important item is available to buy. This is a fundamental aspect since this website is one of the most used, and Limited Editions usually sold out in a few days and barely re-stock.

One of the strongest points is also the shipping. CDjapan usually ships three days before the official release date of a product, giving you the chance to put your hands on the item on the release date or even earlier (or in the fastest possible way, depending on your country) which is seriously a blessing. Additionally, CDjapan usually offers pre order external bonus items you can get by buying a First Press release; indeed, this is one of the few online shops that includes all the pre-order bonus goods for free (like posters, cards, pictures and so on) and sometimes even exclusive CDjapan bonus items. In case of pre-order posters, CDJapan uses rigid cardboard tubes inside the package itself to make it arrive in good conditions at your doorstep.

The prices are generally in line with real Japanese music stores, so don’t expect discounts or anything. The service features several shipping methods, with a wide range of choice that starts from the cheapest solutions like SAL and Airmail to the most expensive but extremely fast EMS and FedEx. There is no free shipping choice like in other sites, but the money you pay for the shipping are well worth it considering how on point the service is. Plus, for each item you buy you can gain Customer Points that will allow you to lower the price of your future orders. The customer service via e-mail and Twitter is very functional as well, with competent staff giving answers in extremely short times and solving any eventual problem as fast as possible: just reach to them, and they’ll usually reply to you in a matter of hours.

In conclusion, CDjapan is definitely one of the best choices if you want to buy “regular” releases and see the new ones arrive as soon as possible at your doorstep, with a bonus item as well. The only complaint is the absence of a free shipping option, fast sold outs on the most famous releases, and the lack of occasional discounts. But if you can deal with these issues, this one’s a good and trustworthy shop.

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Important notes:

– Once you place your order be sure to have the required amount of money in your credit card: CDJapan WON’T charge you until the item is shipped, but it’s necessary since they will “hold” the needed amount of money for 24 hours to check if you can effectively place your order.

Pros:

– Fast shipping
– Wide range of shipping methods
– Free pre-order bonus items included
– Vast catalogue
– Website and customer service entirely in english

Cons:

– No free shipping option
– Depending on where you live, some shipping options can be expensive


Amazon.co.jp 

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The Japanese division of today’s most famous and biggest online shop is one of the best places where to buy releases of your favorite artists for mainly two reasons: the constant discounts on items and, an the excellent shipping price and service.

When getting your first step into Amazon JP for the first time you may feel a bit demotivated: everything is completely in Japanese. But don’t panic… there’s a super helpful “English” button at the top of the page that will make your shopping life way easier, with all the basic functions and informations promptly translated to make the website accessible to pretty much everyone around the world.

The catalogue is extremely vast, and exactly as CDjapan, it’s really easy to find both new and old releases of any genre, and buying is simple as it’s like using your local Amazon shop. Differently from CDjapan, Amazon JP usually does not include pre-order bonus merchandise, a problem that’s avoidable if you’re not interested in collecting this kind of items.

Still, as mentioned above, there are two main great advantages to take in consideration: first of all, exactly as any other Amazon shop worldwide, here you can get some pretty great deals on many releases (especially on DVDs and Blu-Ray discs), sometimes with prices that beat any other online shop. The second advantage is the shipping service: there is only one shipping option that varies depending on your country, but it’s usually fair and not that expensive considering that they only ship with fast couriers (usually UPS or GLS), which means that you’ll receive your package in three or four days, which is crazy.  The fast delivery times are also granted by the fact that, other than the shipping costs, you need to pay a VAT fee in advance (according your country’s VAT) so that the courier can pay the eventual custom taxes in advance, a life saver for those living in countries whose customs apply non-sense high taxes to intercontinental packages. Yes, paying for both shipping and taxes in advance may sound weird at first, but it’s not: when you pay a fair price for a super fast delivery, get discounted items, and pay the correct amount of money for your custom taxes, you’ll realize that you can get your items faster and cheaper than many other solutions.

Amazon JP is one of the best places if you want to get your favorite artists’ releases at great prices and fast, and if you don’t mind paying for a fast shipping service and live in a country with insane custom taxes, you may have found your ultimate online solution. Definitely the best option to buy from overseas along with CDjapan.

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Important notes:

– Amazon JP, like most of the online shops out there, takes the money from your card only when the package is shipped. But differently from CDjapan, it holds the money on your card until they ship your order, meaning that you won’t be able to use those money for anything else even though they still haven’t charged your card.
– When cancelling an order it may take up to four or five days for them to “unlock” the money hold in your card. This is what I’ve personally experienced with Mastercard and Visa/Visa Electron credit cards.

Pros:

– Great discounts on many items
– Crazy fast shipping
– Reasonable price on shipping
– VAT fee payable beforehand in the correct way

Cons:

– No pre-order bonus items and merchandise
– The site’s english translation needs to be improved
– Browsing the shop and searching for products may be a bit tricky for those unfamiliar with the Japanese language.


YesAsia

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Another well known import website is YesAsia. Differently from CDjapan and Amazon JP, this website is located in China, and ships worldwide every genre of Japanese good including music releases, resulting in a different but still valid choice.

There are some differences in this shop if compared to the previous sites: the first is the presence of a free shipping option, so you can just pay the price of the item itself without being charged of any other cost, but this obviously translates into slow delivery times, from two weeks to an entire month or even more, depending on your country’s custom laws (some countries have stricter rules than others on items coming from China). That said, if you choose the free shipping option don’t obviously expect a fast delivery as it would be by paying for other methods (which are available on YesAsia anyway).

The catalogue is well furnished and there are some good sales they usually do on particular items, with good discounts that can result in killer deals if combined with the free shipping option. Like CDjapan, on YesAsia pre-order bonus merchandise is usually included in first press editions (but not always): on that regard, be aware that YesAsia ships posters on a rigid cardboard tube that’s sent separately from the main package, so it’s probable that you may see your CD coming first and the poster a couple of days later.

Long story short, YesAsia is a good choice if you want to save on shipping costs while sacrificing delivery times. If this is fine with you, then you’ve found another good place for all your needs.

Important notes:

– Free delivery option may take several weeks to arrive, also resulting in high custom taxes for some countries.

Pros:

– Free shipping option
– Good and constantly updated catalogue
– Occasional discounts

Cons:

– Free shipping takes a lot of time
– Not all the items have pre-order bonus availability
– Bonus posters are sent separately from the main order


Yahoo! Auctions Japan

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We took a look at the best and most reliable services to buy old and new common releases, but what if you want to go hardcore and start collecting rare stuff like old Limited Editions, Fan Club and Live-only merchandise, or beautiful and unfindable posters of your favorite artist? You can’t get those in normal shops, wether they’re online or not, so here’s where auctions websites come in, and Yahoo! Auctions Japan is definitely the first choice when it comes to rare releases.

Theoretically, it’s really simple: you need a rare item? No problem, here you will find everything you need, from old and usually unfindable Limited Editions to endless types of merchandise and magazines, Whatever is on your wish list, you will probably find it here.

Practically though, it’s not that easy: leaving aside the fact that the whole site is in Japanese, you can’t create an account without a Japanese address. This means you only have two options: create an account on Tenso or Celga, which are warehouse services that give you a Japanese address and receive the package for you to then deliver it to your true address in your country, or rely on a Japanese friend that can eventually and kindly receive the item and then ship it to you, making you save the money for the warehouse service. The latter is obviously the best option, but most people end up using warehouse service options, and let me tell you that this choice is extremely expensive: to make it brief, here is what you would pay by choosing this way:

– The price of the item on Yahoo! Auctions Japan
– The shipping from the private seller on Y!AJ to the Warehouse Service
– The Warehouse Service fee
– The shipping (which is usually only EMS) from the Warehouse to your home
– Custom Taxes

As you can understand, the whole process is really expensive, annoying and pretty long, and it’ll cost money and time. But if you’re really convinced and you want to build a unique and beautiful collection, or need a rare release at all costs, you’ll need this website.

Important notes:

– Use Yahoo! Auctions Japan only if you need to find old and out of print releases or rare collection items. You can find all the rest in normal online shops.

Pros:

– Incredible choice of rare items and releases
– High chance of making good deals on rare items

Cons:

– You need to use a Warehouse Service to buy from overseas
– The Warehouse Service procedures are extremely long and pricey


eBay

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On eBay, you won’t find half of the things available on Yahoo! Auctions Japan, which is really no surprise. Don’t panic though: there are still several items available on eBay, but it’s a source you need to check constantly if you want to make good deals.

When it comes to Japanese music, you can barely find single/album Limited Editions, and prices usually range from not-so-convenient to ridiculously high. Still, there’s a bunch of sellers who constantly have something interesting at honest prices, and if you’re lucky enough, you can even find some rare items from them. But as I said above, you must constantly check the same circle of sellers to get the best deals. I’ve personally bought a sealed copy of Perfume’s Tokyo Dome photobook (really rare and expensive back in the days) for 98 bucks including EMS shipping, a killer price if compared to any other site around the web. I’ve seen several deals like this while lurking on eBay, so the trick is to keep browsing around the same sellers every two days or so, and you will surely find some great deals as well. Once you’ll find the right sellers, they may also search and sell some items on request for you, which is probably the best solution overall if you want to collect rare items and you don’t want to go insane with Warehouse Services and Japanese forms to compile.

That said, eBay can really become a good solution for uncommon items and releases if you’re willing to spend some time in searching the right sellers with the right deals.

Important notes:

– Exactly as Yahoo! Auctions Japan, use eBay only if you need to buy old and out of print releases or rare collection items.

Pros:

– Few but good sellers
– No need of Warehouse Services
– Chance of making good deals and get in touch with sellers for more advantages

Cons:

– The availability of Japanese music is generally poor
– Prices can be higher than normal online shops


DIGITAL STORES

OTOTOY

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OTOTOY is hands down the best place right now where to buy Japanese music. It is particularly focused on Indie artists, but it also features some mainstream acts in the huge catalogue it offers. Buying music is simple: sign in to the website, browse what you’re looking for, add it to your cart, buy it, download the files on your computer, and that’s it. You can buy individual track, or entire albums, EPs, and singles in the format you prefer: FLAC, MP3, and so on. Everything is in English, so it’s really easy for anyone living outside in Japan. It’s pretty great: you get an English site with lots of Japanese releases in the audio format you prefer, for cheap and immediately. What more can you ask for?

Pros:

– Particularly focused on Indie artists, whose releases are usually the hardest to get.
– Completely in English
– Possibility to download songs in the audio format you prefer, including FLAC.

Cons:

– Many mainstream artists still aren’t present in OTOTOY’s catalogue.


iTunes

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Last but not least, don’t forget about the biggest online digital music shop. Several Japanese artists see their works released worldwide through iTunes, and if you’re not interested in owning physical copies of their releases and want to support them in a cheap but still legit way, this is probably your best option. By buying digital copies of albums and singles on iTunes, you give your contribute to your favorite artist’s overseas activities, and the results on the global charts of iTunes may define future decisions on activities outside Japan.

That’s it: cheap and fast, the digital purchase on iTunes is the easiest and one of the most valid options to support your favorite Japanese artist from overseas. You can’t go wrong with it.

Pros:

– The cheapest and fastest solution to support your favorite artists from overseas
– Great contribute that may define eventual overseas activities of your favorite artists

Cons:

– Many Japanese artists still don’t make their works available on iTunes


These are all the best online shops and websites you need to know to support your favorite Japanese artists from overseas. If you have more questions be sure to leave a comment down below!

Are you planning a trip to Japan? Do you want to buy everything you can, but you don’t know where to start? Or are you just curious to know what kind of stores you can find in Japan? Then check out my Buying Music in Japan guide to all the major stores and music shop chains in Tokyo and in all Japan!

– Alex

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