It’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in so little time. If you’re like most JETs, after you’ve sorted out that which you will give/sell to your successor and that which you’re just going to throw away, you still have more than your suitcases can handle, and you will need to look into shipping it all home.
Post Office Options
- Surface Mail: This is the cheapest way (about 1/3 the cost of airmail) but may take a considerable amount of time to reach the destination (e.g. 2-3 months to the USA).
- Economy Air (SAL): These packages go by air over the ocean, and by truck when on land. The rates are more expensive than surface mail (but less than airmail), but travel time is considerably shorter. It takes roughly 3-7 days longer than normal airmail.
- Airmail: This service is expensive but fast. Parcels arrive within about a week.
- Pick-up: The post office will pick up your boxes from your apartment if you make an appointment in advance. See below for more details.
This table mainly provides rates for Oceania, North and Central America, and the Near and Middle East as of the summer of 2012. This list may not apply for: Europe (EMS rates); South America, Asia, and Africa (all rates) Please check http://www.post.japanpost.jp/int/charge/list/index.html to see if these rates apply to your shipping destination.
Size restrictions vary depending on your destination. Most countries follow one of the following restrictions.
- Either the sum of all dimensions must not exceed 3 meters, and the length must not exceed 1.5m
- Or the sum of all dimensions must not exceed 2m and the length must not exceed 1.05m.
There is a special rate for books (or any other printed matter), just make sure you get the correct form from the post office. You can send up to 5 kgs of printed matter for this special price. It’s ¥50801 for 5 kgs which actually isn’t that much less than the rate for regular sea mail but if you live near a central post office (Himeji, Kobe, etc.), it’s a good, cheap way to send home your precious books. It’s NOT quick, since essentially, it’s glorified surface mail so expect anywhere from a month to two months for the arrival of your books.
- Rates quoted are for North America.
M Bag rates for other zones: 
Parcel post rates for other zones: 
Air, economy and surface parcels may be insured against loss or damage upon request at larger post offices. Ask for insured mail (保険付 hokentsuki). For parcels, the first ¥20,000 (value of the goods in the package) costs ¥400 to insure; each additional ¥20,000 costs ¥50. Costs may vary according to destination.
Other things to bear in mind when sending stuff home
- Useful Supplies: Check your post office or local supermarket for bubble wrap, newspaper, strong tape, scissors, permanent markers, and strong boxes.
- Forbidden Goods: You cannot send firearms, explosives, fireworks, weapons, fresh food, drugs, soil/plants, obscene materials, ammunition, or goods for resale.
- Preparing Packages: Label your boxes, and keep your own lists of what is in each (numbered) box. Keep non duty free goods on a separate list. List serial numbers of goods that have them.
- Large quantity discount: The post office offers a 10% discount if you mail ten or more packages at a time. (50 packages or more = a 20% discount.) And, instead of lugging all of your packages to the post office, you can call and set up a time with the post office for them to pick up packages from your apartment. Parcels in the same shipment going to different destinations are eligible for the discount as well. Send your things at the same time as a friend and save!
- Medicine: Make sure you bring any necessary prescriptions.
- Door-To-Door: The Post Office charges around ¥15,000 to ship a 30kg box DOOR TO DOOR. This is the maximum weight per box. There are also some restrictions on the size of your suitcase or box, so please check this with your post office.
- Cars: If you intend to ship a car, be careful how you go about it. It may take a considerable amount of time to organise before departure, and even once it arrives in your home country. There are formalities such as customs inspections to get through which can take up to 6 months.
List Of Shipping Companies
There are also a number of shipping companies that you can use. They usually don’t charge by weight, but by volume, so are worth using if you are sending a lot of weight or odd shaped or fragile items.
Nippon Express – A variety of useful moving and shipping services.
Nihon System Service
Website only available in Japanese.
Economove Japan Co Ltd
Offers a 5% discount to those who use the “jetsetjapan” website.
Other Good Resources
This site has links to most shipping companies.
Specialists in excess baggage shipping
The Excess Baggage Company
Doesn’t offer door to door shipping.
Handles excess or unaccompanied baggage.
Most airline sites can give you information on excess baggage.