Shipping items home

Sending things home

You realize you’ve accumulated a plethora of treasures from Akita you just can’t seem to part with…so what’s the best way to move it all out? There are limits to baggage allowance when you fly home. For North and South America it is two pieces not to exceed 32 kilos each, while pretty much the rest of the world is 20 kilos TOTAL! Going over is expensive (call your airline for details). The most important thing is to plan EARLY. You’ll have to sift through everything to decide what you’d like to keep and what you really don’t need in your next place of residence. If you have a pile of unwanted items, check out the section in this guide listing places that accept donations. Good luck with your packing and remember, what you don’t take with you; you can always sell or give away. Here’s the low-down on how to send things back to your home country safe and sound.

Surface Mail

Japan Post is perhaps the most economical and convenient way to ship things back home. Parcel post can be sent by surface mail, Economy Air (SAL) or airmail which vary in rate and transit speed. Economy Air (SAL) is a method in which parcels, printed matter and small packets are air-transported to the country of destination using open space on airplanes. Depending on the post office from which you send and the country of destination, it is also possible to insure the contents of your dispatch. Details about the aforementioned services, including package types, prices, cheaper rates for parcels containing printed matter and other discounts, etc., are available on the Japan Post website or via telephone as follows:


Postal Services Information in English TEL: 0570-046-111

Hours of Operation: 8:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. (Mon–Fri)

9:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. (Sat, Sun & public holidays)

The post office may want to inspect the contents of your items if you send it via surface mail. To avoid having to unwrap your parcels at the post office, take the box in unsealed, allow for inspection, then wrap it up there. For all items, you will need to fill out an “international parcel label” which is a combination invoice, customs declaration & address label.

Inventory everything for customs, insurance and your own piece of mind. Might be good to label things “Used Items For Personal Use” as customs may otherwise charge you for commercial shipping costs. Breakable things can be safely shipped in a sturdy chest. Clearly label “fragile” in English and “壊れ物” in Japanese on all sides. Don’t overload your box, as this will increase breakage.

Postal Shipping Options

  1. Surface Mail: Cheapest, slowest (2-3mths), costs around 1/3 of the price of airmail
  2. Economy Air (SAL): Cheaper than airmail, faster than surface mail but takes 3 to 7 days longer than airmail depending on the country. Attach the SAL sticker in the upper left hand corner
  3. Airmail: Expensive but fastest

Take heed of the following information regarding international packages: Parcel size: Parcel size limits depend on the country of destination. A: Up to 30kg. a + b +c + d + e = 3m B: Up to 20 kg. a + b +c + d + e =2m (Australia) Please call to determine which size relates to your country Discount Rates: You receive a 10% discount if you mail ten or more packages at a time. If sending 50 packages or more, you receive a 20% discount. This discount applies to packages in the same shipment going to different destinations so get together with friends and make the most of these discounts! Insurance Air, SAL and Surface Mail may be insured upon request at the post office, with amounts varying by destination. The cost of insurance cannot exceed the value of the package. The first ¥20,000 value of your package costs ¥400 to insure, and each ¥20,000 thereafter costs ¥50. Although a proof of value isn’t required when purchasing insurance, it’s nearly impossible to make an insurance claim without one. Receipts or photos are valid proof.

  • International packages can be insured for a maximum of ¥27,710 per item, depending on the weight (i.e. 5 kg = ¥8,810, while 20 kg = ¥21,710).

M-bag Printed Materials Postage The cheapest method for sending books, printed matter, typed letters (not handwritten letters or postcards), magazines, newspapers and loose photos (not photo albums) is by M-bag at the post office. Mark your box of books as “PRINTED MATTER” or “IMPRIME”. In Akita, this service is available at Akita Central Post Office only.

If they find any items not classes as “printed matter” then upon delivery you WILL be charged the prices for regular mail, which will be a MUCH heftier fee. To avoid problems, keep your box open when you take it in to the Post Office and seal it after the postal clerk has checked the contents

  • "M-bag" (In Japanese: M yutai) (720mm x 1070mm flat bag). At the post office you can buy 2 large boxes (39x29x20cm) to put inside the bag (or you can use your own boxes).
  • The maximum weight of contents, bag and boxes is 30kg, though of course you can send less. The two boxes go inside one bag.
  • Shipping duration varies by location. One should expect approximately 2-3 months for deliver via ship.
  • For academic publications it is even less expensive. Call the post office English Line to check which is and isn’t on the list of publications officially recognized as “Academic”

Using a shipping company

A shipping company to get your precious cargo back home is a great idea if you have a large volume to send. It’s generally well handled and ideal for sending home those odd-sized items, as long as it fits within the size restrictions. Some companies charge a minimum fee for shipping, so check on this ahead of time. Before you start calling the shipping companies, keep in mind the following advice: Advance Notice

  • The shipping companies like to have at least one month’s advance notice (preferably 2-3months notice), as calculations on weight and shipping schedules need to be arranged. Start planning early so you don’t spend a fortune sending everything home by regular mail.

Packing Cautions

  • Packing your items in a cardboard box is generally sufficient…but don’t forget to select a STURDY box. Cardboard tears easily when wet, so think ahead to possible disasters that could arise en-route from Japan to home. If you’re sending something especially fragile or bulky, ask the company if a cardboard box is adequate protection. Ask ahead of time about size restrictions…you don’t want to pack up everything nicely only to find that it won’t fit into the crate! Talk to your shipping company to see if they can provide wooden crates to hold your boxes and metal bands to secure the wooden crates. A good rule of thumb is to imagine what might happen to the contents if the box was dropped from hip-height to a concrete floor – an event not as unusual as we would like to believe!
  • Buy an ample supply of bubble wrap, duct tape (or other strong, waterproof tape) and waterproof markers. Pad everything with the bubble wrap, tape items closed that could open, use plastic bags to wrap the items that you wouldn’t want getting soiled or soggy and pack fragile items in smaller boxes to be placed in the big box. Tape the final box with several layers of duct tape.

Insurance Policies

  • When shipping items, ask about the insurance policies. Insurance policies can be taken out based on the value of your items and are normally charged at 1.5% of the total value of the contents. Discuss the details thoroughly with the company. It is best to keep a list of what was packed and what condition they were in at the time of packing. This is useful later if you need to claim insurance payments.
  • Although your items are usually insured, as a general note, it’s best to send the less-precious belongings ahead and carry the very valuable with you. Shop around a bit, as prices can vary considerably!

Customs Restrictions

  • Remember that each country has its customs requirements as well as restrictions on items that can be brought into the country. As customs fees vary from country to country, you’ll need to inquire about the restrictions ahead of time. The general details per country are listed in JET and Beyond 2000. Your embassy can also provide you with this information. Restrictions may apply to: quantity of alcohol, certain medications purchased in Japan, Japanese antiques or purchases made in other Asian countries. If in doubt, call your embassy!

Allied Pickfords

Nippon Express

  • Tel: (toll-free) 0120-150-422,
  • URL:
  • Ÿ Nippon Express offers home moving services, which include a more affordable “self packing” option. Packages moved with this option are comprised of up to 5 boxes with combined dimensions of up to 170 cm each and individual weights up to 30 kg.

Destination Cost Delivery Time US(except Hawaii & Alaska and UK \75,000 yen About 50 days Canada \97,000 yen 40-50 days Australia (costs more if outside Melbourne & Sydney) \92,000 yen About 50 days



  • (TEL: 052-242-8988 from boxes to furniture)
  • The English site gives you price estimates when you fill out the on-line form.

PreAkitar Worldwide Movers

Japan Luggage Express

  • (Shipping by air and sea)
  • Shipping available by sea and air.
  • Air shipping is priced per kilogram.
  • Sea shipping is available with door-to-door service in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and some parts of the USA

Yamato (Kuro Neko)

Flying with your bike

Kuro Neko will ship bikes, but many cyclists recommend taking bikes on the plane as luggage and shipping other gear instead. This carries a few additional benefits, including the possibility of fitting a snowboard into the bicycle bag alongside the bike itself. If you are traveling to Tokyo by train or bus, Kuro Neko will ship bikes ahead to the airport as part of their standard airport Ta-Q-Bin service.

In conclusion, shipping can be a costly and inconvenient option but if you’re determined to take home something fragile, bulky or odd-shaped, shipping companies can offer that extra care that the post office may not deliver. Ask the shipping companies for detailed information to make sure that the services they offer are ideal for your belongings.

Sending luggage to the airport in advance

Yamato Takyubin (kuro neko)

  • Call free dial 012-31-5095 at least 2 days ahead (3 days in some locations), and your luggage will be picked up from your home and delivered to the airport hand luggage holding counter. The prices vary depending on the dimensions of your luggage. They will not take luggage exceeding 25 kg or luggage with combined dimensions of over 160 cm. Sports equipment such as golf bags, snowboards and bicycles may exceed the dimensional requirement, but may not exceed the weight limits.

Nihon Tsu-un (Pelican-bin)

  • Free dial 0120-41-0202
  • Same as above (home to airport) \1,980 per piece
Leaving JET Checklist
Finances Pension Refund • Pension book • Selling your stuff • Return tickets • Shipping items home
Career Returners Checklist • Preparing your resume • Preparing your Japanese resume • Working in Japan
After Leaving Reverse culture shock