As you might already know, Amazon has region-specific stores. There’s Amazon.com for US customers, Amazon.ca for Canadian customers, and also Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.co.jp, and quite a few others.
A reader asked for some advice on how to order from Amazon Japan.
I’ve been looking at amazon.jp for some Engineer inc. Tools that I cannot find on the US website. Can you create a how-to so I can learn how to buy them?
To start, there’s a caveat to keep in mind – international shipping can be expensive.
Ordering from an overseas Amazon storefront is also not without risks. When Amazon Germany sent me the completely wrong item, they made it right, just like Amazon US would do.
But when an order from Amazon UK arrived slightly damaged, I was expected to ship the item back on my dime, and it simply wasn’t worth it.
I was also worried there might be a language barrier in case I needed to contact customer service, but a quick and positive resolution from Amazon Germany led me to all but dismiss such concerns.
There are two main reasons why I have ordered from Amazon Japan over the past few years.
1. They are selling what I want for less money.
2. They sell tools I cannot find here.
I should also mention that there could be compatibility issues, such as how Japanese 1/4″ hex power-style screwdriver bits don’t fit US impact drivers.
Shopping Amazon Japan’s website can be tricky.
On the desktop page, you can click the Japanese flag on the top menu bar to select English as the language. Some browsers will also translate the page for you. The mobile page seems to auto-select English for me.
The Amazon Japan store page is also smart enough to recognize the region you are shopping from, and it will give you notices when certain products cannot be shipped to the USA, Canada, or elsewhere.
Shopping Amazon Japan also requires a bit of trial and error. The website displays Japanese characters, and that’s what their search function seems designed to recognize. And so, searching for what you want sometimes requires a bit of trial and error.
Still, you can search for terms such as “Engineer tool,” or “Engineer tool pliers,” or “Engineer PZ-81,” and things will usually work out.
There aren’t too many tips or tricks I can offer here, since different types of tools might require different approaches. Sometimes it works to click on a tool’s brand name to shop their “store.”
Other times, you might need to enlist Google’s help, such as with a site-focused search, e.g. “engineer pz-81 site:amazon.co.jp”.
When shopping at international Amazon stores, you are usually given the option of checking out in USD or the local currency. I try to use a credit card with zero or minimal international fees, but it’s sometimes more convenient to check out in USD. That way there are no conversion surprises, and you know exactly what you’re paying.
That said, some credit card companies still charge fees for international transactions, whether processed in US dollars or not.
Certain tools can be purchased for less from overseas Amazon storefronts, even with international shipping fees. Certain Knipex tools, for instance, are less expensive to purchase from Amazon Germany. The same goes for certain Wera tools.
But for other tools, while it might sting to pay more for the same tool from Amazon.com or 3rd party importer sellers on Amazon.com, sometimes it works out better.
Amazon Japan ships in boxes made from much thinner cardboard, but they tend to package everything with more care and attention.
Whereas Amazon US might ship a sharp and heavy tool in nothing but a flimsy bubble mailer, Amazon Japan might secure a similar tool to a cardboard backer before placing it in a box. Or at least, that has been my experience so far.
My last Amazon.co.jp order (summer 2021) was so large that I exceeded the maximum number of items that can be included in a single order (~50 items).
The best price I can find on Pentel Energel refills (e.g. XLRN5-C, XLRN4-C) is $1.45 each. Amazon Japan has a better selection, and 10-packs for ¥ 597 each. At the time of this posting, 100 yen is valued at ~$0.80 USD. So that’s $4.80 for a 10-pack vs. $1.45 each.
When it’s time to checkout, you have to do some math. For tools and supplies that are available here, albeit at higher cost, you have to gauge whether the shipping fees are worth it.
If there are tools I absolutely want, what I will sometimes do is add additional items from my long-term shopping list. Adding things like specialty pen refills will sometimes only raise the shipping rates by a marginal amount, which increases the net savings of an order.
In other words, sometimes the shipping fees aren’t worth the savings, but if I have to pay it to get something that’s less available here, I might as well make the most of those shipping fees. Sometimes it’s still not worth it.
Over the course of adding multiple items to my cart for checkout, I will almost constantly test the checkout process, to get a sense of the total shipping fees.
Every wrench, pliers, screwdriver, mini tool box, or keychain bit holders will have an effect on the international shipping fees. Seeing how the total charge increases along the way is easier than adding a bunch of items and wondering what exactly raised the shipping fees from ~$25 to ~$45.
I wish I could provide more helpful information, but shopping at overseas Amazon stores doesn’t involve many tips or tricks, as much as it involves trial and error and a calculator.
Different Amazon stores also have their own categories, and their own settings. When shopping Amazon Germany or Amazon UK, you can select language as well as currency. Amazon Japan only allows you select a translation language, and so you’ll have to convert from yen to USD as you go along.
Is it worth it? That really depends on what you’re looking to buy. I’m happy to answer whatever questions I can, but you’re going to have to make that determination for yourself.
Ordering outside your local Amazon store is not for everyone, but you can save a lot of money, depending on what you’re shopping for.