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Buying stuff from Japan and having it work right

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Cael K.:
Every so often, we get a question like where can such-and-such be found, or why aren't there any bookstores in my area, and all that. Knowing it'd be useful for myself, and thinking it could be useful for others, I wanted to compile all this information in a single thread so that it doesn't get lost. I apologize if this assumption is false. I realize the information is buried in multiple places across the site, but I feel the need to get a full thread for them.

I understand maybe this is asking a bit, but if this could be stickied for ease of finding, I would appreciate it.

Unless otherwise mentioned, all stores will be assumed to carry Japanese goods, if not both. If you guys have any recommendations, feel free to post them up. However, remember that some people have their sights set on a particular region's version (Japanese/Asian).

Please indicate if a store you mention sells Asian edition merchandise exclusively, and not the Japanese versions. Some stores do not tell you, leaving you to find out when you open the box.

Most these places have an online site. Use the internet and you'll probably be able to find directions to physical locations, or their online shop.

(*) Retailers marked with a star have been personally tried and found reliable by at least one person on this forum (price notwithstanding). Keep in mind, this is word of mouth, and your mileage may vary.


1. Domestic Chapter - For buying stuff from Japan, outside of Japan. Online or brick and mortar.
2. Japan Chapter - For buying stuff from Japan, in Japan, whether online or physically.
3. Electricity Chapter - How to make your console work at home.
4. Notes - For everything else.

Domestic Chapter

Online import retailers (will ship internationally) (*) - Based in Japan, ships internationally. (*) - Most everything gaming related, not really for doujin stuff. (*) (*) - Doujin stuff (especially doujin games, and everything Touhou), a few vintage games (*) - Certain items only (CDs, manga, light novels), and only if stocked in an official Amazon warehouse. Compulsory 2/3-day FedEx international shipping, requires signature. (*) - Mandarake's Online Store. Mostly doujinshi. - Japanese site, manga and general books. (*) (*) - EMS only, Lawson apparently uses it for their promos (like first run bonus goods). (*) (*) (*) - Still must be searched using Japanese.
White Canvas ( (*) - Doujin stuff. Japanese site, will ship internationally. Click for ordering procedures.
Alice Books ( - Doujin books, but not all items can be sent overseas.
Diverse Direct ( - Doujin music.

Physical locations abroad (not in Japan): arranged by location
Arlington Heights, Illinois, USA (Chicago area)
Sanseido Books (*) - In the Mitsuwa Marketplace, will take phone orders.

New York, New York, USA
Book-Off - Around the corner of 6th Ave. and 45th St.
Image Anime - 242 W 30th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenue

American West Coast and Hawaii, USA
Book-Offs in various locations, among others.
Kinokuniya in seven locations on the coast.
Southern California - Most Book-Offs in strip malls have imports, most in indoor malls do not.
Hawaii - The Book-Off in Shirokiya (at Ala Moana Mall) has imports, the one at Pearlridge Mall does not.

Southeast Asia
Many Kinokuniyas (check, though be warned not all of them carry Japanese stuff. In particular, I think the Bangkok Store (6th floor, Isetan) is the only one that does.

Sydney: Kinokuniya

Cael K.:
Japan Chapter

Ordering stuff from a Japanese website that does not ship internationally: You can do this, but it requires, if not a friend or family member, a deputy/proxy service, or a mail forwarding service. A deputy service (as I understand it), may attempt to communicate on your behalf to get you the item you want. A mail forwarding service leaves that up to you. Either way, both involve mailing a package to the service, which will then mail it to you. Also, I've only heard of this once (and it was through a friend), but some online retailers will specifically check the shipping address on your order to see if you're using a forwarding service, and refuse to stuff there. I only know one (Melon Books), but there could be more.

Importing electronic devices: Countries around the world use different types of electricity, varying in voltage, frequency, and plug type. Plugging an electronic device, like a $500 Limited Edition XBox 360, into a wall socket that supplies a different voltage than that device was intended for MAY DESTROY THE DEVICE. You will sometimes need transformers or converters to change whatever power comes from your wall to work with the device you buy. See the Electricity Chapter for information about how to make consoles and such work in your country.

Deputy services
Celga - Had a few bad runs in a row with these guys.
Goody Japan (*)

Mail Forwarding services
JShoppers (*) - 5% discount EMS

Stores found everywhere in Japan (some have online stores): arranged by major item
Anime Fandom (Mainstream): Gamers, Animate
Anime Fandom (Used): Mandarake
Card Games: Hobby Station
Doujin: Lashinbang, D-Stage, White Canvas, Messe-Sanno, Toranoana, Melon Books, Akibaoo
Figures: Liberty, Kotobukiya, Sofmap, Mandarake
Games (New): Sofmap, Gamers, Mag-Mani
Games (Used): Trader, Sofmap
Games (Retro, Vintage): Super Potato
Manga/Magazines (New/Used): Book-Off, K-Books, Super Potato, Mag-Mani, Comic Zin

Japan-only online retailers (will not ship outside of Japan, not listed above, use with deputy services) (*) - Some items can't be shipped outside of Japan. (*) - Bunches of used games, and others.
Alice Books ( - Doujin books, but some items can't be shipped overseas. Don't know if they specifically check for forwarding services, but you can try.

Japan-only online retailers that have refused to send items to forwarding services (you may need a friend for these, or use a forwarding service they don't know about)
Melon Books - Admittedly, it's been a few years since the last try, so they may have changed. I doubt it, though.

Physical locations within Japan (for when you take your fateful journey): arranged by location
Narita, Chiba Prefecture
Narita Airport International Gates - A Sanseido Books is at the North Gates (Gates in the upper 80's and 90's, I think).

Tokyo, Tokyo Prefecture
Akihabara Electric Town (秋葉原電気街) - Watch out for maids.
Nakano Broadway (中野ブロードウェイ) - Practically owned by Mandarake.

Osaka, Osaka Prefecture
Den Den Town (でんでんタウン)/Nipponbashi (日本橋) - Bounded on all sides by a Yoshinoya.

Kobe, Hyougo Prefecture
San Center Plaza, West Building (サンセンタープラザ西館) - There is an Animate on the 3rd floor. 5 minute walk from JR Sannomiya Station (三ノ宮駅).

Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture
Oosu Shopping Arcade (大須電気街) - Compared to Akihabara, from what I hear. Between Osu-Kannon Station (大須観音駅) and Kami-Maezu Station (上前津駅), if going by Nagoya Subway.

Cael K.:
Electricity Chapter

Power transformer ratings and power draw for console systems
Sony PS3, Japan
Voltage/Frequency: 100-240V @ 50/60 Hz, though official released specs are for 100V @ 50/60 Hz.
Typical/Maximum Power Draw: 60-200W / 250-380W, depending on production run(*1).
Plug: Type A.

Sony PS4, Japan
Voltage/Frequency: 100-240V @ 50/60 Hz.
Typical/Maximum Power Draw: 140-160W / 250W, depending on production run(*1).
Plug: Type A.

Microsoft XBox360, Japan
Voltage/Frequency: 100-127V @ 47-63Hz.
Typical/Maximum Power Draw: 135-210W / 135-254W, depending on production run(*1).
Plug: Type A.

Sony PSP, Asian
Voltage/Frequency: 100-240V @ 50-60Hz.
Typical/Maximum Power Draw: Unknown, but probably not much (under 50W).
Plug: Type A.

Sony Vita, Japan
Typical/Maximum Power Draw: Unknown, but probably not much (under 50W).
Notes: The PCH-2000 series Vitas charge through micro USB, so all you need is a male USB to male micro USB cable and a USB wall charger that accepts the voltage and frequency of the country you are in. The ratings of the bundled chargers for previous versions is unknown.

Nintendo DS, Japan
Voltage/Frequency: 100-120V @ 50-60Hz
Typical/Maximum Power Draw: Unknown, but probably not much (under 50W).
Plug: Type A.

New Nintendo 3DS, Japan
Typical/Maximum Power Draw: Unknown, but probably not much (under 50W).
Notes: The New Nintendo DS charges through a non-standard connector, and you will need a special cable (a male USB to New Nintendo 3DS connector) to charge it. You can still charge it with a USB wall charger that accepts the voltage and frequency of the country you are in, by connecting the male USB end of the cable to it.

(*1) Typical wattage information is taken from the internet and is for North American hardware, presumably similar to all other versions. Maximum wattage is taken straight from the manuals as the maximum possible wattage the device may ask of the transformer without killing it, though in practice most consoles may never draw near this amount. Older production runs typically draw more power. As this is power draw, you can draw less wattage than your converter is rated for and it will still be fine. Err on the side of caution, though.

There are four things you have to consider when purchasing a console system from abroad: voltage, frequency, wattage (only if you decide you need a power converter), and plug. Above are the ratings for consoles systems we know about, and what sort of electricity it expects.

Voltage, generally, only spans two ranges: 100-120V, and 220-240V. Everyone knows this, it's how much juice your current is giving you.
Frequency is generally only 50 Hz or 60 Hz. Think of electricity as a wave: this is pretty much how much the wave oscillates (in repetitions per second). All the consoles I've seen can handle both frequencies. Even still, electric devices rated for only one of these will usually still run with the other, they'll just run faster or slower.
Wattage is the power draw of your console. Certain converters you can buy are only rated up to certain wattages, and heavy-duty consoles like the PS3 and XBox360 might kill a wimpy converter. Converters rated for 300W or above are recommended for these. I think portable systems might be fine with a 50W converter.
The plug is the actual physical connection to the wall socket you're going to use. Obviously, even if the wall power won't blow up your console, you still gotta be able to fit the plug into the wall!

The wikipedia article contains a very detailed list of voltages and frequencies used around the world, as well as the power outlet plugs. The Mains Power article will tell you the electricity that is coming from your wall for your country. The Plugs and Sockets article will tell you the formal name for the type of plug your wall expects. So, what happens if your console has differing voltage?

What you need is a power converter. There are many names for these things, but generally they take in power of one kind and convert it into a different kind, which is what you need.
Input into the converter, as in what power your converter wants from the wall, must be of the kind given from your wall. Though I imagine most of these would accept voltages and frequencies of any major kind since they're made to be international, it's always good to make sure.
Output from the converter, as in the part that you plug your console into, must be of the same type as your console expects (see the ratings above). This is obvious if you think about it: if your console expects a signal from 100-120V, then your converter has to give it a signal anywhere from 100-120V.
Watch your wattage. If your console draws more power than your converter can handle, you can expect a dead converter, and from that point on, all bets are off.
Keep in mind the plugs. Since this is what you plug into the wall, make sure you can plug the converter into the type of socket in your wall, and make sure you can plug your console into the converter.
If your console comes with a power transformer, you may be able to substitute a transformer for your local region's version of the console rather than your imported version. Be sure to check the ratings - the input to the transformer should be the type your wall provides, and the output of the transformer should be the type that your imported console expects. If you compare both transformers, the output on each should be the same (only input is listed above).

A text schematic of the process would look like this. (<- indicates what's on the right plugs into what's on the left).
Wall <- Power Converter <- Console-Bundled Transformer (if present) <- Console

And to illustrate the power being given, if you were using a Japanese XBox 360 in Thailand...
(Wall) -> 220V @ 50Hz -> (Power Converter) -> 100V @ 50 Hz -> (Console-Bundled Transformer) -> XBox 360

Technically, any transformer bundled with a console further transforms voltage to what the console itself likes, but for the most part, this is a transparent step. Once you convert voltage to the kind the console transformer likes, plug your console into the transformer and it will handle the rest.

If your voltage and frequency are the same for your region, all you may need is a plug adapter, which just changes the physical connection without changing the electricity. These are cheap.

If voltage, frequency, and plug type all match up for your region, well, you don't have to do anything.

Cael K.:

You can do a search online for conventions around your area. Dealers gather there, and you can get stuff, though be forewarned prices can be steep.

Taking stuff back with you from Japan: The international weight limit for taking stuff out of Japan to most countries is 23 Kg (about 50.5 lbs.). Fees apply for overweight baggage, and they're more ridiculous if you check (not carry) more than two bags. Make sure your luggage abides by international size and weight standards. Be forewarned you must also transport your bags to the airport: usually by walking. Carrying your weight in stuff through train stations and streets will slow you down, and may be a grueling matter. Try as much as you can to not to get in other peoples' way.
For carry-on bags, most lines care about the size of your baggage (there are international standards for this, and an easy size checker at airports), but they do not care how heavy your bags are to a reasonable limit. If it's obvious you're laboring under the weight of your bags, or if somehow you have an oversized bag with you at the gate, they may pull you aside and ask you to make arrangements with it.
Remember that for everything you buy in Japan, you must somehow transport it back with you. If you find your bags too full, you may have no option but to ship stuff back or buy another suitcase, both which will cost quite a bit.
Also, for American citizens, you are legally bound to declare all items bought abroad and their value. If you bring back more than $800, customs has the proper authority to charge you a duty. Most of the time, however, they don't care unless it's obvious you're taking things back to sell them. One of my friends declared $2000 of merchandise, but didn't get charged. However, this is entirely at the discretion of the particular customs officer inspecting you, and some may be more lenient than others. They may also request to inspect your baggage, in which case any receipts you have kept may be discovered.
There are also certain items that will be confiscated on your return if declared or found... but generally, if anything you bring back isn't CERO Z, you're good. For the amount of space on the declaration forms you have, though, many items can be grouped as one (all the manga and magazines you collect could be declared as books, for example).

Shipping methods: There have been reports that in certain countries, EMS packages tend to get inspected by customs, the contents revealed, and a duty charged (which is based on the value of the item plus some processing fee). EMS in general is equally as fast as SAL, though I think it comes with insurance whereas SAL does not. However, SAL is cheaper. Maybe customs tend to think EMS packages, with their insurance, are used by people who don't want to risk losing an expensive purchase.

Cael K.:
Finally, a request on my side.

There was a shopping arcade near Sannomiya in Kobe, but I can't remember anything about it other than what it looks like. There were a few anime-related stores there, I'd appreciate details if anyone has them.

Also, in Fukuoka, I thought there was a place next to Hakata Station (maybe Tenjin Station) that had at least a Cospa, but I think maybe more. Again, if anyone knows of this place, do tell.


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