Hey there, fellow otaku! So you’re wondering how to buy official anime and manga merchandise when you live outside Japan. It’s common knowledge that (sadly) most Japanese stores or sellers don’t offer worldwide shipping. But never fear! Here’s a guide to getting around this obstruction and getting a hold of your favourite anime/manga merch, even if you live halfway around the world.
I live in Tokyo and everything is within arm’s reach, but even for those living in Japan, there are some far-away places that don’t have anime/manga specialty stores. This lack of reach can easily be solved through purchasing from online shops. All the stores I’ll be introducing below have been used by yours truly (either online or offline), so you’ll know where I get my stuff – from new ones I pre-ordered and got at the moment they went on the shelves, to the pre-owned/used ones I got at a great bargain.
You’d think that for someone living in the Big City, I can just easily stroll into a brick-and-mortar shop and put things in my shopping basket. Half the time that’s the case, but the other half, sadly not. There are plenty of events, pop-up stores, and time-limited campaigns I can’t go to due to work constraints or scheduling conflicts. Also, there are places where I can’t win no matter how hard I try – I’m speaking of game centers and raffle-draw types of selling where luck and/or skills come into the picture. The only resort is to buy the merch online from resellers. What works for me should also work for you in some way, no matter where you are.
As mentioned earlier, unfortunately, most Japanese stores and resellers don’t ship worldwide. There’s a workaround for that, and I’ll talk about it in detail here.
Table of Contents
In this guide, I’ll share with you all my favourite anime and manga shops. I’ve tried to add notes on whatever quirks or ‘specialness’ each store has – but all of these are only from my personal experience and biased opinion, of course!
This guide is divided into eight parts:
- Know What’s Out There – gathering the latest information
- Stores with Worldwide Shipping – Japanese stores with a global site/worldwide shipping
- Getting a Personal Shopper/Proxy Shopping Service – recommended proxy that will give you access to any store in Japan
- Must-See Specialty Stores (Group 1) – online stores with major offline presence, dealing with new merch only
- Must-See Specialty Stores (Group 2) – online stores with major offline presence, dealing with new and pre-owned merch
- Must-See Specialty Stores (Group 3) – online stores with no offline presence, dealing with new, exclusive merch only
- Auction Sites and Online Flea Markets
Note and Disclaimer of sorts: All the photos you see here have been taken by me at various times and places in 2021. Because stores often change layouts (not to mention a rare logo change), the pictures only hold true as of this writing.
Alright, let’s get to it!
Know What’s Out There
- Collabo Cafe is one of the most comprehensive info aggregation websites for manga/anime. What I love about this site is they always add links to the official page for the product, and the info is so well-laid out it’s very easy to find what you’re looking for. Collabo Cafe Jujutsu Kaisen Category Page
- Mantan Web is a news site for all things J-Pop. Here’s the Mantan Web Jujutsu Kaisen news page.
- PR Times is a press release site where companies announce new products and services. Their Jujutsu Kaisen page is here.
I think it’s important to know what’s being sold because it makes it so much easier to search for stuff. If you go to an online store and simply type in a general search phrase like
(‘Jujutsu Kaisen figure’) the site will come up with thousands of results and it will be a pain to go through all the pages. But if, for example, you want the sleeping figures in particular, you can type in
(‘Jujutsu Kaisen Onemutan’) and the results will be narrowed down to just these figures. Knowing what the items are called is essential for more efficient purchasing.
Now let’s have a look at Japanese stores offering international shipping.
Stores With Worldwide Shipping
Suruga-ya.com Specialty Store – Run by one of the largest brick-and-mortar anime/manga stores, they specialize in pre-owned merch but also offer considerable discounts on pre-ordered new products. Their international site offers shipping to selected countries.
All the stores above have a main site in Japanese, with a very comprehensive catalogue unmatched by the listings on their international sites. To get around this limitation, I suggest hiring a personal shopper or proxy shopping service, such as the one below:
Getting a Personal Shopper or Proxy Shopping Service
Use From Japan to buy products for you in Japan and ship them to your country. They have How To information on buying anything from anime/manga merch (including books) to fashion and tech products. It’s easy to sign up and get started by using their consolidated search engine, which searches across several websites at once so you can easily compare prices.
If you can’t find what you want via their site, get in touch with From Japan, send them the product links to what you want, and they’ll tell you how you can get a hold of them.
You will need to pay a service fee, but by hiring a proxy shopper, you’ll have access to every store in Japan, including giant marketplaces like Rakuten that sells everything imaginable, to auction and flea market sites that sell everything pre-owned, as well as highly specialized stores like Jump Shop (official store of the Shonen Jump/Shueisha publisher), which sells limited-edition products.
(Please note that as someone who lives in Japan and has relatives here who send me stuff when I’m out of the country, I have not personally tried From Japan’s services. That is, I have not ordered through them from overseas. However, I know people IRL who use them and are happy with the service. We’ll just have to take their word for it!)
Now that you have your proxy or personal shopper, you can buy items from any of the specialty stores below:
Must-See Specialty Stores (Group 1) – Online & Offline, New Only
Animate アニメイト – An otaku paradise, their brick-and-mortar stores around the country are incredibly popular, while their online store services anyone out of range. They have every new anime/manga item you can think of. My only beef with the online store is that the free shipping price cutoff (i.e., the amount you need to order to get free shipping) is higher than most other stores. Animate only sells new items and new limited-edition items*.
*Limited-edition here means two things: (1) the new product is exclusive, i.e. it can only be found in this particular shop or chain of stores; or (2) the new product can be bought anywhere, but this store has its own special packaging or additional gifts or extras that they tie with the product. If you want a certain extra then you have to buy the product from this particular store.
Jump Shop ジャンプショップ – If you’re a Jump Comics fan then you’ll feel you’ve died and gone to heaven with this shop. Many of the items here are limited edition (i.e., you can buy them only at a Jump Shop). Fairs and other events are also held quite often so you need to keep your eye out for what’s happening. For super popular characters like Satoru Gojo of JJK, you may need to pre-order the item otherwise the store will quickly run out of stock. Jump Shop only sells new items and new limited-edition items.
TOHO Animation Store 東宝アニメーションストア – The online shop for the TOHO Cinema chain of movie houses, they sell plenty of exclusive merchandise. It’s great having this shop because the only other option to get a hold of these exclusives is to go to a cinema and buy from its souvenir store. For every anime-turned-movie, they have every merch you can dream of.
Gamers ゲーマーズ – New items and limited-edition items.
Akiba Sofmap (Animega Online) アキバxソフマップ – New items and limited-edition items. Their Akihabara offline shop is a joy to shop in as there’s always life-sized panels of anime characters to take photos with. Online shop specialises in pre-ordered merch.
Kotobukiya Online Shop コトブキヤ – New and new limited-edition items. Online store has plenty of exclusives and limited-edition merch, worth comparing with what Animate has to offer.
Village Vanguard ヴィレッジヴァンガード – This retailer has more than 330 stores in Japan, selling popular anime/manga merch. While most specialty stores can only be found in major cities, VV offers otaku all across the country a relative shopping paradise. I think its strength lies in its officially-licensed clothing, most of which are exclusive to the brand and can be bought via their online shop. Largest offline store is VV Shibuya Honten, where they hold anime and other pop culture-related events everyday.
HMV&BOOKS – This used to be part of a 100-year old+ British music/entertainment company but nowadays HMV Japan is owned by the Lawson convenience store chain. The plus side to this is that since Lawson does plenty of anime collabs, many (if not all) HMV stores are practically anime merch stores already. Of course, half the store area is still filled with music and books, but the anime-related lineup is a must-see. HMV&BOOKS online store also has ‘online only’ exclusive merch on top of the Lawson-only merch.
Must-See Specialty Stores (Group 2) – Online & Offline, New and Pre-Owned Merch
These specialty shops selling everything from brand new to pre-owned merch are a godsend to any otaku. If you miss an event or want a product that came out as a not-for-sale giveaway or ‘extras’ gift, then these stores are the places to go. I couldn’t have started my collection without these wonderful stores. They’re a blessing to anyone shopping on a shoestring budget, as well as those searching for vintage stuff.
Surugaya.jp 駿河屋 – Perhaps my favourite brick-and-mortar store, their online shop offers everything anime/manga you can think of. They price pre-owned items very fairly and also offer deep discounts to new, pre-ordered items. Of all the stores I have been to, both online and offline, Surugaya is the one I use most often. Their pricing is kind-hearted, but the catch is that it takes them forever (two weeks on average) to ship items.
Lashinbang らしんばん – A rival to Surugaya, they have about fifty fun brick-and-mortar stores across the country, with plenty of coupons and campaigns. Their online store ships quickly, usually within two to three business days. Big discount sales happen often so it is always worth a visit. While Surugaya mostly sells A-ranked (pre-owned but like new) or unopened items, Lashinbang also sells B-ranked items so if you’re not particular about an item’s state of newness then you may find the lower pricing attractive.
Book-Off Online ブックオフオンライン – Once upon a time, Book-Off only dealt with used books, but nowadays they have everything pre-owned from movie and music CDs/DVDs to game software. I frequent the larger brick-and-mortar stores called “Book-Off Super Bazaar” that also sell clothing, homeware, food, toys and of course, manga/anime merch. Sadly, the online store only deals with books and discs, but it’s still a must see especially if you’re looking for old, rare stuff. To get a hold of their toy selection, you’ll need to check out the Yahoo! Auction Book-Off page (see below for more about this auction site).
Mandarake まんだらけ – Specialising in pre-owned merch, including vintage ones. Mandarake is famous for having an entire otaku-themed mall in Nakano, Tokyo. Every otaku-related item you can think of, they probably have it, from way back when. Online store is but a shadow of what they offer offline, but still worth a visit for that rare, hard-to-find item.
Auction Sites and Online Flea Markets
This option lets you buy from individuals who mostly sell pre-owned items. Some sellers buy products but never open them (未開封 mikaifu or unopened), so the listings are actually good as new (新品同様 shinpindoyo). Nothing beats the online auction sites and flea markets when it comes to finding out-of-stock or discontinued merch.
- Yahoo! Auction ヤフーオークション – Japan’s version of eBay. I’ve been bidding here since forever; before the flea markets became popular this was one of the few places where you can get pre-owned items at reasonable prices from all over the country. Now, with the advent of the flea markets, Yahoo! Auction is best used for highly-coveted items that aren’t offered on the easier-to-use purchasing sites. Some brick-and-mortar stores avoid the flea markets but sell products here such as gacha capsule toy machine sets (complete with the capsule) at rates comparable to the regular price. What makes this really helpful is that you get the entire set without having to risk getting the same item twice when playing the machine by yourself.
- Mercari メルカリ – Totally heaven-sent, this now-gigantic e-commerce site is the pioneer of the flea market concept in Japan. Mercari is paradise for otaku, as you’ll find millions of fellow otaku offering their treasures at very affordable prices. You’ll not only find pre-owned items that are like new, but most importantly, nearly every event-limited merch you can think of is quickly made available here. The most coveted items are those that can only be purchased at certain real world events or fairs. For those who cannot make it to these events, Mercari is the next best place to be. I’ve seen limited-edition products being up for sale (and sold in a jiffy) just minutes after the event has commenced. One of the best things about Mercari is that most sellers include the shipping fee in their pricing, so no need to calculate it by yourself.
- PayPay Fleama ペイペイフリマ – Yahoo! Japan’s foray into the flea market business, this new site is poised to become a fearsome rival to the well-established Mercari. The best thing about PayPay Fleama is that, while it’s still a newcomer and does not have the seller depth and product breadth of the older and bigger Mercari, every benefit of being a Yahoo! Japan member can be obtained here. If you use their PayPay online payment system, then you incur extra points compared to other payment methods. As the new kid in town, they also offer frequent coupons and point-back campaigns. None of these will be directly beneficial to overseas buyers, but the bigger this flea market grows the better offerings they will have for everyone regardless of where you live. I use PayPay Fleama to compare prices with Mercari, and buy from whichever site has the better offer. Some fixed-price listings from Yahoo! Auction are cross-posted here.
These three sites are frequently used by yours truly, and I can say with confidence that their systems work like a well-oiled machine. In all my years on the buying side, I have never experienced a seller fleece me.
My one horror story: There was a newbie seller on the freshly opened PayPay Fleama who forgot the existence of her listing (which she had cross-posted and sold elsewhere) and only replied to my messages more than a week after my purchase, in order to cancel the sale. I got my money back, of course. I then contacted the admins and asked them to refund the coupon I used. They did that, no hassle. Also, a few days later they changed the rules so that buyers themselves can cancel a transaction if the item has not been shipped within the promised time frame.
To buy from these sites, you’ll need a proxy service like From Japan, mentioned earlier. Almost none of the sellers on these sites ship worldwide.
In summary, there are three ways to buy official anime/manga merch from Japan and have them shipped abroad:
- Buy from a Japanese site that ships worldwide. Pro: You can shop directly without paying an intermediary fee. Con: Very few Japanese stores ship outside of Japan.
- Get a personal shopper or proxy shopping service. Pro: You get to buy from as many stores as possible and have the proxy ship you the combined items in one box. This lowers the shipping fee. Also, you can buy anything from any store or seller in Japan, as long as they’re items that can be shipped abroad. Con: You need to pay a service fee.
- Come to Japan for a vacation and shop till you drop. No need to mention the pros and cons. Even if you can’t lug back your massive haul on your own, there’s always the ship-’em-home method!
Needless to say, I recommend #3 as the best way to buy otaku merch from the source. But not everyone can come here, so there are the first and second options. Besides, we’re probably just a pandemic away from another pandemic, so it’s always good to know where to buy stuff online as well as how to get them shipped to where you live.
Hope this helps!
Sorry but I (as in me, hana of Hana’s Blog), despite living in Japan, cannot offer shopping/shipping services for fellow otaku living overseas. I work full-time and doing proxy stuff for people overseas takes a lot of time, effort and money, none of which I can spare. Thank you for your understanding!
If you have any questions or comments or experiences to share, please leave a word or two in the comment section below. You can also contact me via Instagram Messaging.
Best of luck in your otakatsu!**
**Otakatsu オタ活 is a portmonteau of otaku オタク and katsudo 活動 (activity or activities). So we post anime or manga-related stuff on IG and say,「先週末のオタ活！」(“Senshumatsu no otakatsu!” Last weekend’s otaku activity!) and so on.