I used to be very intimidated by the idea of proxying. Looking back, I don’t know what it was that seemed so unmanageable. I worried about the language barrier, the added expenses, etc. I can sometimes be naturally hesitant about things I haven’t done before, but I would still see things I wanted that were available on sites that didn’t offer international shipping, and it was so frustrating. Once I went in, though, I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy it was.
Proxy ordering is just ordering goods that aren’t sold internationally through a service that gets your desired items and forwards them along to you. By doing this, you can order from sites like Suruga-ya and Mercari, which is really wonderful for used merch and things that are ordinarily harder to find. Amiami’s used goods section is pretty much limited to figures and the occasional drinking glass, and places like Hobby Search and Hobby Link Japan (that don’t sell used goods) don’t restock items after they’re sold out unless there’s some sort of official rerelease. For a list of different stores, what they tend to offer, and whether they ship internationally, please refer to my Where to Buy Merchandise post.
Proxy services operate primarily through commission, and the rates differ between companies. Commission costs are unrelated to shipping etc.
I’ll also note that every service I list below is friendly to native English speakers who don’t know a bit of Japanese. These companies will also not just purchase items already listed for sale, but will bid on live auctions for you.
I used Treasure Japan once, as my first proxy company. From what I understand, it’s run by just one woman as of now, which is pretty amazing. From order to shipment date, my package took ten days + shipping to be processed, bought, procured, and forwarded. I was pleased with my experience and would recommend it, but I still wanted to look around a bit more.
Their commission rate is 10% (so for a 10,000 yen purchase, they would add an additional 1,000.)
Treasure Japan also takes preorder requests, although I haven’t taken advantage of this since I generally use other sites for unreleased merchandise. Kevin once requested an in-person pick up from Sayori’s art exhibit, and they were able to do it for him, although neither of us remember the cost of this service.
One thing to note is that Treasure Japan says in their policy that they will not purchase adult/18+ items, as per the law, but I’m not sure if they strictly enforce this rule or not. If you’re looking to buy 18+, you can try ordering and see what happens.
Tenso is a service that gives you your own personal shipping address in Japan. You can use this address yourself to shop on sites that don’t offer international shipping. Your order is filed away under your account, and they hold it for you until you ask them to send it out. They’ll repackage or consolidate anything you’ve ordered to make shipping cheaper or more convenient for you.
I haven’t personally used them, but I have friends that have. From what I understand, they’re a reliable service, but their instructions aren’t as clear and they can be a bit difficult to make an account with. Kevin tried a while back and never heard back. That being said, a lot of people swear by Tenso, and since I don’t have experience firsthand, I can’t say much.
White Rabbit is the proxy service I usually use. I’m a fan of the user interface, and as you enter items into your order, it calculates your total (to be shipping to White Rabbit, not to you) before you’re even done. Additionally, the customer service is always somehow present and ready to help you within the day. They’re really great.
Like Tenso, you can make multiple orders, and once they’re physically at White Rabbit’s HQ, you can consolidate them as you please, which saves on shipping.
As far as their commission costs go, there are a few. $1 (USD!) for each individual item (which won’t count multiple times if you get multiples of the same item), $4 for each store/seller, and a 12.5% commission fee. It can be a bit steep, but I’ve come to really trust this site and I’m pleased with my past experiences, so I’m personally alright with it. They also charge 2500 yen per hour + transportation costs to physically pick up in-store items.
As a side note, if you decide to sign up for White Rabbit, please do so using this link, and you and I will both get $5 off our next purchases!
White Rabbit’s sister company, BlackShip is WR’s answer to Tenso. They also give you your own JP mailing address to send things to yourself, and the two work just about identically. Just like White Rabbit’s main staff (I’m not sure if they’re identical, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.), their customer service seems to be full of extremely literate English speakers, which is invaluable if you don’t know any Japanese or don’t have a good handle on grammar. And, just like White Rabbit, they’re in constant contact with you, which is important to me.
BlackShip also sends you free photos of your received packages, as well as your consolidated packages, showing you exactly how everything is shipped. Upon signing up with them, Kevin had an account within the day, and he’s had great experiences with them. We’d highly recommend them.
Although there are lots of proxy services, I thought it’d be best to only list the ones we’ve had personal experience with. Proxying really isn’t as complicated or scary as I thought it’d be at all, and I kind of wish I’d tried doing it a long time ago.
I hope this was helpful for anyone who has an interest in trying it out but was unsure about the process!