Buying from Japan - where do I start?

It’s another mercari-like site. Most MP kids post on mercari so you usually won’t find anything that isn’t a mercari duplicate listing. They’re putting some strong offers to incentivise listing and buying on there so maybe you’ll find something at some point. I remember I got like 1500 yen off my first purchase or something like that.


I do not recommend using UPS if sending your package from Zen Market.

My package was flagged into their holding warehouse where we have to provide a Toxic Substance Control Act Declaration. Zen Market found out some information to provide, but one of my items is a pair of vintage sunglasses by Nikon. I have bought several of them in the past. But now UPS is wanting to know the manufacturer’s Name, Address, and Phone number, the “medical device listing number,” and an impact resistance certificate. For an old pair of basic vintage Nikon sunglasses. This is preposterous.

I wonder if someone at UPS wants the sunglasses and is making this hard so I get them cast off the shipment… and a UPS worker can take them. OK, letting my imagination run a bit. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I’m never* using UPS again for overseas.

    • eating my words, see below*

shipping bureaucracy went crazy … it’s insane that s/o can’t send a simple biro or sterling pen without larger fuss. I think this madness evolved during the last 5 years?

The Zen Express method seems to bypass all this. Straight to USPS. Somehow Customs just doesn’t care about these packages. I’ve never had any trouble with any of those shipments. I’ve never, in all my time buying through Japan proxies, paid any kind of customs fees. I’ve only used SMJ (now defunct) and ZenMarket, up to now.

I will keep posting updates on my dealings with UPS. I filled out a TSCA declaration using some info provided by Zen Market. Sent to the contact provided (a UPS rep out of SC). It’ll be interesting to see how much of a stickler this guy is. Frankly, if it turns out to be pretty easy, once I get the gist of how things work, I may not blacklist UPS from use after all.

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Well, it turned out to be easier than I had thought. Zen Market was good about doing the look up for entries and codes for the 2 items that needed to be added. The whole sunglasses thing? Apparently it didn’t matter. I used a PDF editor, added what was required, included an image of my signature, and sent it off to UPS via email. They accepted the form and now my package has left the warehouse.

Of course, the next thing is… am I going to get any kind of customs fee hit? Usually, from what I understand, that needs to be paid in order for the package to be released for delivery. So, it looks like there may be none.


Im not certain about UPS procedures, but when I got hit with customs fees via FedEx, they said that as part of their SOP if any package gets levied Customs taxes, fees etc, they pay the fee and keep the package moving and then charge the customer whatever the fee was. Sounds a bit shady to me.


Yes, same for me. With DHL and UPS, I’ve always paid upfront before the package is released. My most recent delivery with Fedex had me thinking I’d gotten away without paying any import duties; alas, 10 days later a letter arrived saying I owed them money. Also, the link that they provided to pay was broken, so I had to contact customer support and they gave me a bank account number. Shady AF.



I’m actually away from home at the moment. But I got a call from the front desk saying UPS was here with a package and… guess what? They’re requiring a check or money order for $74 USD. First time I’ve ever been hit with a customs fee, that’s 25% of the value of the package. I don’t know how they calculated this. I’m going to reach out to the contact who required a form for the package, find out how the hell they calculated that fee…

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If you look back up at post 31 on this thread, I posted the pertintent section of the HS Tariff for Pens & Pencils.

From Japan, it should not be more than 0.8¢ each + 5.4%. Mechanical pencils should only be 3.3%.

Now, if you had other items in that order, that would affect it.

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I had 1 pair of vintage Nikon sunglasses that were only ¥ 1,000, and a 1:64 diecast car. The rest were mechanical pencils and some ballpoint pens.

However, this did contain 2 lots of OHTO SP-15 and BP-15. Maybe the sheer quantity of the same thing (10 for the SP-15, and 30 for the BP-15) was what flagged this for added fees?

Well this is all starting to get a bit shady. According to UPS, Zen Market shipped the parcel “Prepaid,” meaning the receiver is responsible for all the costs of shipping. However, Zen Market collected ¥4,621 from me just to mail the package. This doesn’t seem right to me.

On top of that, I have 1 day left to pay for the UPS package or else it goes to a warehouse where they charge $25 per day to hold it.


The guy who I dealt with regarding the TSCA form got back to me and provided a breakdown of how the brokerage charges were compiled. This was something no one else at UPS customer service could provide me.

I’m guessing the EPA and FDA processing fees aren’t flat rate, but scaled? I can’t imagine a $20 USD value package getting hit with fees like this.

The thing that really gets me on all of this is that when I shipped via UPS back in Dec 2021, I had no import fees. I’m guessing there must be a certain threshold at hand (financial, weight, etc.), which triggers this concatenation of fees compromising the total brokerage fee. Unfortunately Zen Market is remiss in providing this kind of info. Very frustrating.

Last year, May of 2022, I had a package value of ¥39,630 sent via Zen Express, for a shipping cost of ¥3,164 for a 715g package. That’s like ¥7,000 less than my present one, however this package was the heaviest at 2365g.

I’m going to see if I can get some assistance from Zen Market regarding the key factors impacting shipping cost expense.

Still haven’t received it.

Another thing you have to learn with UPS. When you pay for fees online, it takes about 18 to 24 hours before it’s updated and disseminated to delivery personnel. I paid it the night before the last delivery attempt. The driver attempted to collect again, because they didn’t have a refreshed tracking computer. So it was rejected again. If I didn’t stay on top of this, it would’ve been sent all the way back to Japan.

Thankfully I got a UPS rep to catch this. He then informed me there would be a $11.98 charge for redelivery. I said it was unacceptable because it wasn’t my fault, so he worked something behind the scenes to get the charge waived.

Next day? No delivery. Finally Friday 12pm, it should’ve been delivered but still had a status of waiting to redeliver. No indication of a date. Calling UPS to find out was arduous. The automated system confirmed my tracking number but then said for further actions, to go on the website. The website has no means of further actions. It then closed my call. I tried again and in response to my wanting to speak with an agent, it told me to use the website and ended the call. I had to try another way, go through a different menu path and finally I could speak to a human being. They informed me delivery would be on Monday! So they had this info, but it wasn’t communicated on the site. Painful.

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UPDATE: On that UPS package I posted about back in August, I did eventually get it. I’d paid online and it was finally redelivered without any additional charges.

Since we’re all mostly in the business of buying writing instruments from Japan, it’s unlikely to run into these sorts of problems. I learned the hard way that beyond a certain weight, everything changes. Costs go way up. And so does scrutiny. Concern for “toxic materials” where ballpoints are concerned? It’s pathetic and unjustified. This gave UPS the go-ahead to invoke a level of scrutiny that layered on very high brokerage fees. In the end, the actual Customs Fee was about $2–the bulk of the other charges were for UPS and their “analysis.”

Buying bulk for writing instruments made of steel added far more weight than I’d expected. Not a good idea! In my case, I’d bought a 10-set of steel pencils in perfect shape, then bought one of those large auctions for pens (that matched the pencils) in mixed condition from that seller who has been unloading a nearly endless parade of vintage OHTO pens & pencils. Just about half of them were usable. In the end? NOT WORTH IT.

One last thing, for a tip regarding the buying of items from Japan via a proxy service. NO CUSTOMER SERVICE. That means if you’ve been a victim of fraud, where a seller has misrepresented the item or even sent a totally different item? You’re basically screwed. Zen Market, Buyee, From Japan, etc., will not be of help. Once the transaction is complete, with the item having arrived at the proxy warehouse? Feedback is left – a generic statement of everything was good. And that’s it. CLOSED. There is no recourse.

For many years, an extremely high percentage of sellers you’d encounter on Yahoo Auctions Japan would overstate flaws. They’ll even list an item as “JUNK” when it’s really not. They’d be very reticent to say something was scratch free, unless sealed in package. But, that percentage has lowered over time. There are now some sellers who will either be negligent or willfully false about their items just to sell them at a good price for them. An easy kind of scheme for them is when having multiple items, if one sells to a proxy service, they can just swap in the one in lesser condition than depicted in photos. There’s no recourse, because they know they’ll get positive feedback before the buyer gets the item. Then when the buyer is not a proxy, they are sure to be honest. This keeps their rating up. All in all, this means there’s a greater gamble in play now than in years past.


Reading of the outright cheating cases for high ticket items like Technomatic has made me hesitate a lot more.

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