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8 Things You Need to Know About Selling on Amazon Japan

– Written by Jérôme de Guigné

You have a mature brand on or, and now it’s time to leverage your assets and expand to other marketplaces. How about Amazon Japan?

Amazon Japan is an exciting opportunity, but expanding into the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ can also be daunting. The Japanese marketplace presents new challenges that make it very different from all the English-speaking markets. But with these complexities come a lot of opportunities waiting to be grabbed.

We spoke to Ritu Java from PPC Ninja about expanding to Amazon Japan. Here are 8 things you need to know before establishing your brand there.

Online shopping and Amazon have grown since the pandemic

eCommerce platforms are some of the most-visited websites in Japan, with Amazon and Rakuten – a big Amazon competitor – both making the top 10.

According to Amazon, 71% of Japanese shoppers shop online – that’s a huge percentage! And there was a surge of people visiting Amazon from the start of COVID-19 and throughout 2020/21.

Amazon has gained a lot of trust, especially during the pandemic, with quick deliveries, convenience and the customer-centeredness of Amazon. So, the eCommerce market is primed for merchants willing to explore Japan.

Combining on- and off-Amazon marketing is a must

There’s a virality to communication in Japan. Products that appear on TV or in magazines or are endorsed by celebrities tend to be very popular. So, combining your Amazon efforts with non-Amazon marketing like social media, offline marketing, or influencer marketing is a crucial strategy for foreign brands going into Japan.

Japanese people are quality conscious

Of course, it’s important in general to have a quality product to be successful on Amazon. But Japanese people are extremely quality conscious, and there’s a very high trust barrier for anything foreign.

Ensuring product authenticity and quality is essential for those all-important positive reviews to instil trust in potential buyers. Adapting your approach to cultural differences and customs is also crucial. But more on that later…

Work with an importer of record

When importing goods into Japan, you’ll need an importing representative, such as an importer of record, to receive your goods and then forward them to FBA. This person or entity will be responsible for ensuring customs-related requirements are met, including answering any customs duty questions and making sure your invoices are correctly formatted.

Remember, even if you use FBA for Japan, Amazon isn’t liable to take care of the details of your imports. An in-country presence to import the goods into Japan minimises mistakes, and their knowledge and expertise can be indispensable.

Consumption tax (10% for most products) is a requirement

You must pay a 10% consumption tax – or import tax – when your goods pass through Japanese customs. Whether your products sell or not, you must pay this tax upon import. So, if you’re thinking of testing the waters on Amazon Japan, it’s easier to assume that 10% needs to be written off from the start.

There are four scripts in Japan

The Japanese language uses four different scripts: Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana and Rōmaj. These have been assimilated from both traditional and foreign languages over the centuries, and are often used in combination with each other. This throws up some challenges when it comes to your Amazon listings. For example, you’ll need to cater to any variation of these different scripts presented in a search query. So, it’s essential to optimise your listings to speak to whatever is top of mind for the usage of certain words.

What’s more, there are no spaces in a sentence, which can affect Amazon’s algorithm. Ensuring you design your listings in a way that captures all the variations will assist the results.

As Japanese is a high-context language, machine translations will put out gibberish, negatively impacting customer trust. Therefore, having someone who reads, writes and speaks Japanese to localise, optimise and translate your listings is imperative.

A localised strategy is crucial

You must have highly optimised listings with localised titles, bullet points and images. And by localisation, we don’t just mean translation. Localisation covers a lot more, including:

Understanding the Japanese language and how it’s different. Aligning the aesthetic with Japanese taste, so it’s appealing and relevant to instil trust.

Matching cultural expectations, such as mannerisms, customs, and beliefs.

Localising your listings helps you build trust, rank higher and increase your sales.

Don’t scrimp on translation

Like other Amazon marketplaces, you can switch to another language on Amazon Japan and machine translation converts it. But the quality of this is not great. Since the Japanese language is highly contextual, it’s important not to rely on Amazon’s translation tools.

If you cheap out on translation or just use machine translation, your chances of succeeding on Amazon Japan will be slimmer. You could work with a Japanese person or native Japanese speaker to do your translations. But keep in mind they might not have the necessary expertise about selling on Amazon or SEO, for example.

Instead, you’ll have the best chance of success working with specialist agencies like e-Comas who have the combined translation, localisation and Amazon expertise.

Final thoughts

There’s always going to be a trade-off between the perfect listing and cost. And when you’re expanding into a new Amazon marketplace, it can be tempting to get started quickly and test the market. But without a strategy, it’s unlikely you’ll have a good early experience, which will put you off.

If you’re ready for Amazon Japan, take it slowly and be sure to do your research first. This way, you can get the right people and strategy from the get-go, so you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding on Amazon Japan.

Check out our webinar with Ritu Java from PPC Ninja for more about expanding to Amazon Japan.