View Full Version : The Big Guide to Shipping Stuff Home

May 8th, 2015, 11:06
Hello folks. As I just recently returned home with a bunch of stuff, I thought it'd be nice to pass along all the info I gathered in my quest to get everything home.

For those who are returning this summer, start deciding what you're going to take and getting rid of stuff NOW. It takes longer than you think it will. Plus, any sea mail you send now should be either waiting for you or will arrive soon after you do.

Basically, there are three methods to get your stuff home:

1. Bring it on the plane with you as extra luggage.

If you only have a few things, even if it adds up to another two or three suitcases, this is the simplest and possibly the cheapest method depending on your airline. I flew back on Delta, and an extra suitcase that weighed like 75lbs was only $60.

2. Send it through the post office.
This method is probably the most useful for the vast majority of JETs/drones/eikaiwa monkeys.
Step 1: Find your local post office, grab a bunch of International Parcel Post labels (the ones with the green writing, don't get EMS by mistake), and start filling them out as you pack. Sea mail is the slowest and cheapest; SAL is a little faster (2-3 weeks in my case vs 2 months).
Step 2: When you are ready, fill out the online form or call the 0800 number on this page: Click here! (https://mgr.post.japanpost.jp/C20P02Action.do;jsessionid=CtKDVMSLScQpGVpG7TpK0JRqJg3MtSnlS1gn7hHTXQmBKyw3Sycv!1557381151?ssoparam=0&termtype=0).
Step 3: Someone will come pick everything up from your house. They'll weigh it right there so you can pay.

Note that if you send more than 10 boxes at once, you'll get a discount.

if you have a lot of books, media mail is also available at select post offices , and it can be sent by sea, SAL, or airmail just like parcels (check here (http://www.post.japanpost.jp/int/service/s_printed_matter_en.html) for the closest post office). Ask for a M-yuutai. I highly recommend calling ahead to make sure they have a bag ready for you and don't be surprised if the counter people cock their heads like confused puppies when you ask for it. They had to call a manager to do it when I went. Unfortunately, they will not come pick up boxes for media mail. I had all my books in boxes inside the bag. The books themselves arrived fine, but the boxes were pretty much all destroyed. I have heard that some post offices inspect the contents if you put your books in boxes, so don't tape them up until you get to the post office. Also, media mail takes a really long time. Mine only took 2 months, but I read of some people waiting 6 months or more.

3. Contracting a shipping company

I ended up doing this to get the majority of my stuff home. I would not recommend this unless you had a whole household's worth of furniture or other heavy things. It was a hassle and ended up costing more than I thought. People not from the US might have a different experience, so do your research before deciding either way. There are a number of companies out there specializing in international moves, including good old Yamato Kuroneko, so you might be able to find something cheaper and more hassle-free.

I went with a door-to-port service thinking that it would be simple to pick it up myself and save some money. I highly, highly recommend getting door-to-door if you choose to go this route. The shipping company who arranged the transfer from my house to the port in the US was very communicative and helpful. They sent me all the documents to fill out within a couple of hours of my making the reservation and kept me updated every step of the way from my house in Tottori to the port in Tokyo. My shipment was taken off the boat in LA and brought to Atlanta by either truck or rail. The company that handled that leg of the shipment sent me a few statements but were unclear about what all I needed to do to clear customs and pick it up at their warehouse. Long story short, I got my stuff fine, but it took hours of waiting since people gave me blatantly wrong information.

Just FYI for people who are interested in this:
-The quote that the shipping company gives you probably doesn't include customs fees or other misc charges. I paid about 7 man before I left Japan and ended up paying over $350 more in fees once the shipment arrived.
-I assume that the door-to-door price would include a customs broker. The form itself isn't complicated, and there's nothing wrong with you (or a relative if you write a notarized letter for them) going to do it, but the customs officer was extremely confused as to why I was clearing it myself. Also note that you can't file the form until after the shipment arrives and that you only have a few days to do it before the shipment gets moved to the General Warehouse. It costs a lot more to get it out from there and the stuff might be auctioned off if it sits there too long.
-Don't get boxes from the grocery store if you choose this method. Customs is really picky about food, and some officers won't let even boxes that once contained food in. The post office is a little less picky, but I would still avoid it. Start collecting paper or textbook boxes from school. They usually are sturdy and hold a lot of stuff.

Hopefully some people have found this useful.

May 24th, 2015, 13:32
Thanks for the great post, it is super informative. Just wondering, do you know if you can ship suitcases internationally via Japan Post? I'm having a hard time finding any info about that.