Shipping & Mail Forwarding to Japan

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Clearance Process
Working with Customs officials throughout the world, FedEx has developed innovative technology to eliminate many paperwork-handling steps and expedite the movement of international shipments.  This is the FedEx Expressclear electronic Customs clearance system.  Starting at the origin, state-of-the-art technology allows the processing of shipment paperwork and electronic transmission of documents to the designated FedEx hub and destination clearance location.  The Expressclear system also keeps a database of regulatory information, which includes importers numbers, broker, designation, corporate contact names and telephone numbers.  At a FedEx hub, international shipments are sorted, scanned and loaded onto an international flight.  Vital shipment information is keyed into a worldwide manifest database that is linked to computer systems operated by brokers and Customs officials in many countries.  Even before the plane has taken off, or while it is in the air, Customs agents and brokers at the destination point of entry can begin examining shipping manifests, querying air waybill data if they need more details, assessing duties and taxes and selecting shipments they wish to examine.  By the time the plane arrives at its destination, many packages are cleared immediately by local Customs.  As the plane is unloaded, the Expressclear system identifies packages to be examined and prints "cleared" Customs labels for all others.  Cleared shipments can be transferred to trucks for immediate delivery.  International shipments are scanned at all key points throughout the process to allow for up-to-date status reports including when Customs clearance is obtained.

Japan requires shipments entering the country to undergo an Import Declaration Process.  This process is carried out by either the actual importer or by a Customs broker who is authorized to act on behalf of the importer.  The import declaration is submitted to the regional Customs office responsible for the port at which the shipment arrives or through which the shipment is transiting.  Most import declarations are made using the NACCS (Nippon Automated Cargo Clearance System), which provides an on-line process to both Customs and trade industries such as Airlines and Customs Brokers.  NACCS consists of Air NACCS for air cargo and Sea NACCS for sea cargo and is used for both the Import and Export declaration process.

There are three primary types of import declaration:

  1. Manifest Clearance is available if the CIF value is less than or equal to 10,000 yen unless the commodity is restricted by one or more laws or is subject to excise duty.
  2. Low Value Declaration is available if the CIF value is less than or equal to 200,999 yen, including commodities which are restricted by law or are subject to excise duty.
  3. High Value Declaration is available if the CIF value is more than 201,000 yen.
A Customs entry can be initiated by means of an Electronic Import Declaration using NACCS (Nippon Automated Cargo Clearance System).  However, for Manifest Clearances, the importer must also physically submitted to Customs all required documents such as the Commercial Invoice and the Air Waybill plus any additional required documents such as:  

  1. any license or certification that is required by law or regulation such as when the commodity is subject to laws other than customs law;  
  2. packing lists, freight accounts, insurance certificates;  
  3. if available under the Generalized System of Preferences, the Certificate of Origin (Form A) is required for preferential duty treatment;  
  4. any certificates for tax reduction or exemption
During Customs clearance, packages must remain in an authorized, bonded warehouse.  If packages are expected to remain in an authorized bond area for more than 30 days, the license holder of the bonded warehouse must provide an explanation for the extension when they request permission from Customs for an extension.  Unless the commodities are perishable, Customs normally grants extensions.  The maximum storage period is two years.  Packages being cleared by FedEx in Osaka (KIX) or Tokyo (NRT/Narita) are held in the FedEx bonded warehouses at those locations.  FedEx does not maintain warehouses for long-term storage.

Using the information submitted, Customs will verify that the commodity has passed any inspections required by law; that any applicable duty, Consumption tax, and Excise duty are paid; and that any certification, approval, or permission (saying that commodity meets the requirement of other laws and regulations) have been provided.  Once Customs has verified that everything is in order, the shipment may be cleared.

According to Customs law, it is importer's responsibility to keep records of all their transactions for a period of three years plus the current year's transactions.

Other Laws

In order to protect the Japanese industry, economy, health, hygiene, security of society, and morals from negative impact, there are several domestic laws and regulations that affect imported goods.  For specific information about importing goods subject to these laws and regulations, you may contact the appropriate Ministry or Agency of the Japanese government.

1) Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law is administered by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

2) Laws and Regulations Related to Banned Goods: 

  • Law Concerning Wildlife Protection and Hunting¬†
  • Firearms and Swords Possession Control Law¬†
  • Poisonous and Harmful Substance Control Law:¬† Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
  • Pharmaceutical Affairs Law
  • Silk Farming Law¬†
  • Fertilizer Control Law¬†
  • Law Concerning Sugar Price Stabilization¬†
  • Explosive Control Law¬†
  • Law Concerning Screening of Chemical Substances and Regulations or their Manufacture, etc.¬†
  • High Pressure Gas Safety Law¬†
  • Agrochemical Control Law
3) Laws and Regulations Concerning Government Monopoly 

  • Alcohol Monopoly Law
4) Laws and Regulations Concerning Quarantine:  the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 

  • Food Sanitation Law¬†
  • Plant Quarantine Law¬†
  • Domestic Animal Infectious Control Law¬†
  • Rabies Prevention Law¬†
5) Laws and Regulations Concerning Narcotics: 

  • Cannabis Control Law¬†
  • Stimulant Drug Control Law¬†
  • Narcotics and Psycho tropics Control Law¬†
  • Opium Law

Document Requirements
  Air Waybill or Bill of Lading
An air waybill (naming the importer or exporter for customs purposes).

Commercial Invoice
A Commercial Invoice is required for all export shipments.  It is required for import shipments with a value exceeding 10,000 yen and for any commodity being imported, regardless or value, which requires import approval.  Likewise, when a shipment consists of multiple commodities and there is not sufficient room on the air waybill to indicate the value, country of origin, and description of each individual commodity, then a commercial invoice should be provided.  When the commercial invoice is required, the description must include the country of manufacture as well as the value of each commodity in the shipment.  Invoices should also show freight, insurance and any other charges or discounts as individual line items.  When available, the importer/exporter identification number should be included to minimize manual customs processing.

If a formal sales invoice exists, a copy of the original company invoice is required for customs clearance.  Failure to provide a copy of the original invoice may cause clearance delays.

Certificate of Origin
A Certificate of Origin Form A may be required for goods under formal entry claiming preferential duty or exemption under the various agreements (GPT).  It should be produced at the time of entry and must be in the possession of the Importer at the time of entry. Copies are not acceptable. The country of origin of the goods must also be detailed on the commercial invoice. 

The ATA (Admission Temporaire ‚Äď Temporary Admission) carnet is an international customs document that may be used for the temporary duty-free importation of certain samples, trade show goods, and professional equipment that will re-exported in the same condition by the same party within a limited amount of time.¬† The carnet is usually issued by a Chamber of Commerce in the owner's country and is valid for one year.¬† The carnet serves as a guarantee against the payment of duty which would be due if the merchandise is not re-exported.¬† It must be validated by Customs, beginning with Customs in the owner's country, at time of import and re-export in order to qualify for duty-free treatment.¬† Improper validation may lead to fines and penalties in addition to assessment of normal duties and taxes. Shipments subject to a carnet are not acceptable on any of FedEx's International Priority Services.¬†

Declaration of Antiquity
A declaration or certification of antiquity must be made by the importer in order to claim duty-free entry for goods that are over 100 years old.  It is helpful but not required for the exporter to include on the invoice a declaration regarding the age of any goods that are eligible for antiquity duty exemptions. 

Health Certificate
Certification from the appropriate government agency in the country of export regarding the health of the animal or plant from which the product was derived is required for most meat and plant products.

Import Approval
Certain goods require import approval from one or more government ministries.  The importer must submit an application form to the regulating ministry, which will apply its stamp/seal to the import approval application form if it grants approval.  Although there is one primary import approval application form, certain commodities (textiles, whale products, food, plant products, animal products, etc.) require a specific form.  Examples include but are not limited to the following:  

  • Sugar
  • Dairy Products
  • Rice, wheat and their products
  • Food, Food additives
  • Cutlery, cookware, containers, dishes, etc. used for food, beverages, or for food preparation
  • Toys for babies
  • Plants and plant products
  • Meat and meat products
  • Tuna, Whale, Seaweed
  • Radioactive Isotopes
  • Chemicals including Fertilizers
  • Drugs and medicines and other products such as eye drops, toothpaste, vitamin, etc. that have an effect on humans or animals
  • Medical Equipment¬†
  • Cosmetics and other products that are used on the human body (hair tonics, bath preparations, etc.)
  • Certain textiles
  • Compressed gases and their containers
  • Explosives
Quarantine Forms
Most plant and animal products are subject to inspection by the Plant or Animal Quarantine office at the time of import and/or export.  The quarantine form serves as an import approval application.

Customs Valuation
All goods sent to Japan must have a value and description provided, even samples and gifts.  When a sale transaction has occurred, in addition to the price paid or payable, associated charges such as transportation, sales commissions, discounts, etc. must be declared.  For non-revenue shipments such as gifts, samples and interoffice transfers; a fair market value must be declared with one (JPY) being the minimum possible value.

Import Duties
All goods entering Japan must clear Customs and are subject to Duty and Consumption Tax assessment unless the goods are duty or tax exempt by law.  Duties are usually an "ad valorem" rate (a percentage) that is applied to the transaction value (in Japanese Yen) of the imported goods.  However, some goods are dutiable at a specific rate of duty (so many yen per piece, kilo, liter, etc.) and others at a compound rate of duty (a combination of both ad valorem and specific rates).  Rates of duty vary based on commodity type and country of origin and are available in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of Japan.  Although the maximum rate is 60% of CIF value, duties are usually between 3-15%.  Consumption Tax is 5%.  Duty is based on the transaction cost of the goods plus the cost of insurance, freight value and associated charges such as brokers fees, commissions, etc. Consumption Tax is payable on the sum of the cost, insurance, freight value and duty amount payable.

Under strict enforcement of unfair trade laws, Customs can assess antidumping duties or countervailing duties.  Antidumping duties are assessed on imported merchandise that is sold in Japan at less than the normal price of the good in the manufacturer's home market (also called the Fair Market Value).  Countervailing duties are assessed to counter the effects of subsidies provided by a foreign government for merchandise exported to Japan resulting in artificially low prices that are detrimental to Japanese industries.

Excise Duties
Some goods (such as tobacco products, hydrocarbon oils and products containing alcohol) are subject to additional taxes such as Excise Duty.

Additional Duties

Import Taxes

Customs Fees
There are no customs fees for Japan

Exchange Controls
There are no exchange controls for Japan.

Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT's)
Technical barriers or non-tariff barriers to trade as they are sometimes known, can cause many problems for exporters looking for new markets for their products. These barriers can be in the form of regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade tries to ensure that these barriers do not create unnecessary obstacles. To obtain further information on Technical Barriers to Trade as well as Notifications on technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures, go to the WTO website at

Consular Fees
There are no consular fees for Japan.

General Import Process

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