Tuesday 20 November 2012

How to send small packages overseas...

OK, this is a post for those IN Japan, as you can imagine, with having the shop I have sent a LOT of packages overseas. Especially as 99% of my customers are actually overseas. I thought I would share what I have learnt over the last few years and hopefully it will save you some money.

The following applies of packages that are under 2kg in weight...

First of all you should bookmark this post office International rates page. It will come in handy for future reference.

Assuming you have a small package with some Christmas gifts in it. Once you have packaged it up, check the weight - you can do it on your home scales. It won't be totally accurate but will give you a good idea, if it is hovering around the 2kg weight then you might have to send it EMS or international mail.

Assuming that the weight is good, time to check the measurements, use this page to make sure if fits with the minimum and maximum requirements. It is good to note that sending Christmas cards can cost you an arm and a leg if they are not standard Japanese letter size, worth checking before you buy!

If you have time to play with, then I recommend using SAL, it is cheap and I have found it very reliable in the past. Although it often says delivery is 2-3 weeks, which sometimes it does take, I have had parcels arrive in Europe in 5 days! Although Japan doesn't get the Christmas backlog when it comes to delivery remember that the country you are sending it to might, so keep that in mind with your posting dates.

The next option is Airmail, again it usually says 7 days, my record is again to Europe in 4!

Now, this bit is IMPORTANT. You need to write either SAL or AIRMAIL in red and bold on the top of your envelope/package. Also write SMALL PACKAGE.

Sometime the clerks in the post office are not very with it when it comes to sending things overseas. You need to educate them! Make sure you point out and ask for SMALL PACKAGE rate or you will be paying silly money for basically the same service. If they even murmur International parcel, put them straight, you want SMALL PACKAGE.

As a random example... a parcel I recently sent form Saitama

A small parcel weighing 456g going to Denmark
Airmail Small package rate ¥960 takes 4 days
Airmail International parcel rate ¥2,500 takes 4 days

SAL small package rate ¥580 takes 2 weeks
SAL International parcel rate ¥2,700 takes 2 weeks

See what I mean? Use that international parcel rate and your wallet is going to take a beating!

Two more things you need to add are, the mailing address and your own address plus the green CN22 customs form. Your package is less likely to get opened by customs if you have this on it. They will give you one at the post office to fill in. When you come to pay, you are also likely to be asked if the parcel contains electronics or explosives (this always makes me laugh, the thought of a terrorist admitting filling his jiffy envelope with Semtex!) Certain countries have specific restrictions, it is worth checking if you are sending food, seeds or anything out of the ordinary.
You might get asked if there is a letter inside, just say no, if you say yes the rate will go up - don't ask me why, one of those obscure rules!

If your package contains something valuable then I would opt for EMS, it is more expensive but it is traceable and insured. You can also apparently print out the EMS label via the net, although I have never done so.

If your parcel is over 2KG then you have to choose between EMS and International parcel rate. It might be worth splitting the parcel into 2 smaller packages rather than pay the higher fees. Play around with what you are sending and the scales, inputting the info on this page if you are counting the yennies.

I think that is it, I hope it is of help, I wish someone had explained all this when I first started out, it would have saved me a truck load of money and a lot of headaches!


  1. Thanks so much for this information!
    It is much appreciated!

  2. Wish I would have known all this when I lived in Japan.

  3. "You might get asked if there is a letter inside, just say no, if you say yes the rate will go up - don't ask me why, one of those obscure rules!"

    Rate goes up with a letter inside as opposed to a regular parcel because of some section in the Geneva Convention. I don't know which section, but that's apparently the reason. And it's not limited to Japan, it's an international rule. And there's some section for non-sealed correspondence (like Christmas card) that get a cheaper rate.


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