Postage / Mail to Japan

By | December 12, 2020
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Every year, more and more Americans cross the Pacific Ocean to visit or move to Japan. As a result, more and more of us find ourselves trying to make sense of Japanese addresses to send letters and parcels to friends and family abroad.

This article outlines everything you need to know about sending postcards, letters, and parcels to Japan efficiently and inexpensively. It discusses the best carriers for shipments to Japan, unique shipping and customs requirements, and the postage required for standard postcards, envelopes, and parcels.

Best Carriers for Mail to Japan

The United States Postal Service (USPS), Federal Express (FedEx), the United Parcel Service (UPS), and DHL all ship to Japan.

For envelopes and light parcels, USPS is typically the most affordable carrier. USPS transports all envelopes and parcels to customs offices in Japan, where the mail is then collected by the Japan Post (the Japanese mail service), who ultimately delivers it to its final destination.

While USPS is often the cheapest option, it’s not always the most efficient. If you need your parcel to arrive quickly or in a specific timeframe, FedEx, DHL, or UPS are typically better shipping options. FedEx is the most expensive, but it offers the most definitive delivery days and has several shipping services that can guarantee delivery within a certain timeframe.

At the end of the day, given that USPS is typically the most affordable (and popular) option, the postage rates in this article reflect USPS prices unless otherwise specified.

Postage to Send Postcards to Japan

Postcards can be shipped via USPS using international postage rates. To ship a postcard to Japan, you will need $1.30 in postage (per the August 29, 2021 price increase), which can be covered with one Global First Class Forever Stamp ($1.30) or three First Class Forever Stamps ($1.74).

USPS defines postcards as rectangular cards that have dimensions between 3.5×5.0x0.007 inches and 4.25×6.0x0.016 inches. Cards that are outside of these dimensions (or are not rectangular) require additional postage.

Postage to Send Standard Envelopes to Japan

Envelopes can be sent to Japan using international postage rates with USPS. To ship an envelope weighing less than one ounce, you will need $1.30 in postage (per the August 29, 2021 price increase). You can use one Global First Class Forever stamp ($1.30) or three First Class Forever Stamps ($1.74).

If your envelope weighs more than one ounce, you will need an additional $1.13 in postage for every additional ounce.

USPS defines standard envelopes as envelopes that have dimensions between 3.5×5.0x0.25 inches and 6.125×11.5×0.25 inches. If your envelope is rigid or not rectangular, your envelope will be considered non-machinable, meaning that it will need to be hand-sorted. Non-machinable envelopes require an additional $0.21 in postage.

Postage to Send Large Envelopes to Japan

Large envelopes can be sent to Japan using international postage rates with USPS. USPS considers large envelopes to have dimensions between 6.125×11.5×0.25 inches and 12x15x0.75 inches.

The postage required to mail large envelopes is dependent on the weight of your envelope:

Weight

Postage Required

Stamps Required

1.0 ounce

$2.60

2 Global Forever Stamps ($2.60) or 5 First Class Forever Stamps ($2.90)

2.0 ounces

$3.67

3 Global Forever Stamp ($3.90) or 7 First Class Forever Stamps ($4.06)

3.0 ounces

$4.73

4 Global Forever Stamp ($5.20) or 9 First Class Forever Stamps ($5.22)

4.0 ounces

$5.81

5 Global Forever Stamp ($6.50) or 11 First Class Forever Stamps ($6.38)

5.0 ounces

$6.87

6 Global Forever Stamp ($7.80) or 12 First Class Forever Stamps ($6.96)

6.0 ounces

$7.93

7 Global Forever Stamp ($9.10) or 14 First Class Forever Stamps ($8.12)

7.0 ounces

$9.00

7 Global Forever Stamp ($9.10) or 16 First Class Forever Stamps ($9.28)

8.0 ounces

$10.06

8 Global Forever Stamp ($10.40) or 18 First Class Forever Stamps ($10.44)

9.0 ounces

$12.20

10 Global Forever Stamp ($13.00) or 22 First Class Forever Stamps ($12.76)

10.0 ounces

$12.20

10 Global Forever Stamp ($13.00) or 22 First Class Forever Stamps ($12.76)

Visit Where to Buy Stamps to find out where to buy stamps near you.

Postage to Send Packages to Japan

The postage required to send packages to Japan is based on the size and weight of the parcel. You can calculate the cost of postage for your parcel using the USPS Postage Price Calculator.

To use the USPS Postage Price Calculator, follow these steps:

  1. Follow the link to the USPS Postage Price Calculator.
  2. Under the “What’s the destination country” dropdown menu, select “Japan.”
  3. Enter the date and time of when you plan to ship your parcel.
  4. Select the type of parcel you wish to send.
  5. A new page will appear with the price for various shipping options in your area.

You can choose the shipping method of your choice based on your desired delivery date. Once you have determined the shipping method you wish to use, you can print a label using the USPS Click-N-Ship.

If you want to avoid the hassle of calculating your package’s size and weight, you can also ship items using USPS Flat Rate boxes. Flat Rate boxes come in a variety of sizes, and can be shipped for a standard rate regardless of the weight of the contents.

Shipping a Flat Rate box internationally is similar to shipping a Flat Rate box within the United States. However, unlike domestic shipping, International Flat Rate boxes restrict you to a maximum weight of 20 pounds.

For more information about the Flat Rate shipping options offered by USPS, visit USPS Priority Mail.

Delivery Times to Japan

The average delivery time for postcards and envelopes mailed with USPS First Class Mail International (the default shipping option used) is 7-21 days. If you mail postcards or envelopes using Priority Mail International instead, the delivery time is shortened to 6-10 days. Priority Mail Express International is the most expensive option for postcards and letters, but it guarantees their delivery in 3-5 days.

Package delivery times are dependent on the carrier and the shipping method you choose. Package delivery can also be delayed by customs. Generally, parcels shipped with USPS, FedEx, DHL, and UPS take 2-7 days to reach their final destination.

Addressing Mail to Japan

Addressing your parcel is frequently the hardest part of sending something to Japan. Both the language and the setup of the address look very different than what we are used to in the United States.

In Japan, most roadways do not have names. Also, instead of using the number and roadway name to identify the building (as we do in the United States), Japan uses districts, divisions, and blocks to narrow down the location. This situation is further complicated by the fact that most areas number buildings based on when they are constructed, not geographical location.

While Japanese is the official language of Japan, you can write the address on your parcel in either Japanese or English. The language you choose to write in will determine how the address is set up.

For example, here is an address written in English and Japanese, respectively:

〒950-0973
新潟県新潟市中央区上近江4−2−20-203
山本様
日本

Mr. Yamamoto
Dia #203
4 Chome-2-20 Kamiomi, Chuo Ward
Niigata 950-0973
Japan

As you can see, the order of the address in each language is quite different. Below, we will show you the proper way to write an address in both English and Japanese.

Writing an Address in Japanese:

If you are writing an address in Japanese, it will follow this format:

〒950-0973
新潟県新潟市中央区上近江4−2−20-203
山本様
日本

Line 1: Postal Code

The postal code includes the postal symbol, along with a seven digit postal code.

Line 2: Address

The address should include the prefecture name, followed by the city, village, ward, etc., followed by the block. The three numbers at the end of the address are separated by dashes, and designate the subarea, block, and building number. If the address includes an apartment number, the number will be added with a final dash.

For example, the address above is translated as Niigata Prefecture, Niigata City, Chuo Ward, Kamiomi subarea 4, block 2, house number 20, and apartment #203.

Line 3: Name of Addressee

The name of the addressee should be written “last name, first name, title.” For example, the name above is translated as Yamamoto-sama. “Sama” is the polite form of “san,” and correlates to the English “Mr.” or “Mrs.”

Line 4: Country

This line represents the country in which your parcel’s final destination is located (in this case, you will want to write “日本” or “Japan”).

Writing an Address in English:

If you are writing an address in English, it will follow this format:

Mr. Yamamoto
Dia #203
4 Chome-2-20 Kamiomi, Chuo Ward
Niigata 950-0973
Japan

Line 1: Name of Addressee

The name of the addressee can be written in an English format (e.g. Mr. Yamamoto) or a Japanese format (e.g. 山本様).

Line 2: Apartment Number (Optional)

If the address includes an apartment number, you will want to write the name of the building, followed by the apartment number.

Line 3: Address

The address should start with three numbers, separated by dashes, which designate the subarea, block, and building number of the address. Following the numbers, you should include the subarea of the address, followed by the ward, city, or village.

The words “shi” and “ku” help designate the city and ward, respectively, and can be used in the English address. However, their inclusion is not required. For example, you could say “Chuo-ku” instead of “Chuo Ward.”

Line 4: Postal Code

This line should include the prefecture, followed by the seven digit postal code. The word “to” can be used to help designate the prefecture, but its inclusion is not required.

Line 5: Country

This line represents the country in which your parcel’s final destination is located (in this case, you will want to write “日本” or “Japan”).

Customs Forms for Shipments to Japan

Parcels shipped to Japan require customs forms.

If you are shipping with USPS, you can print customs forms at USPS Custom Forms. Envelopes and small parcels require a Form 2976 Customs Declaration, which appears as a separate item on the shipping label. If you are shipping medium to large boxes, or items valued at more than $400, your parcel will require a Form 2976A Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note CP 72, which includes a full length custom report to be included within your parcel.

If you are shipping with UPS, you can complete your customs forms using the UPS Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). If you are shipping with FedEx, you can complete your customs forms using the FedEx Electronic Trade Documents (ETD). If you are shipping with DHL, you can create your customs form using their Customs Paperwork Center.

If you are concerned about your customs forms or unsure how to fill them out, employees at USPS, DHL, FedEx, and UPS will happily help you complete the forms and prepare your package for shipment.

Items Prohibited from Import to Japan

Each country has its own set of rules regarding items that are prohibited for import or export. Being able to ship an item from the United States does not guarantee that the item will be able to pass through customs and into your destination country.

Japan has an especially robust list of prohibited or restricted imported items. It is therefore important to make sure that the items you are shipping are not included on the Japanese prohibited or restricted item lists.

For a full list of Japan’s import prohibitions and restrictions, see FedEx Cross Border’s Japan Prohibited and Restricted Items.

For additional information regarding shipments within the United States and internationally, we offer lots of postage and shipping information throughout mystampguide.com.

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