Online Shopping (in Japan)

Online shopping is taking off around the world, or maybe it’s better to say that it is already soaring. The coronavirus has given another boost to the industry, not that it necessarily needed one. And while there are many downsides to online shopping, for example, the woeful working conditions of most delivery truck drivers that deliver your Amazon parcel, or the huge amount of waste that is created by packaging, the sheer convenience of buying what you need without actually leaving your house seems to trump these. 

Of course, this holds in Japan as well. The cities in Japan, especially the shopping areas, tend to be very crowded, making a trip to the shops bothersome. On the other hand, the number of stores in the countryside might be very limited, with no brand stores and only a few chain-stores to be found. This dichotomy creates an environment that makes it easy for online shopping to flourish. As you would expect, Amazon is a household name and used by lots of people to buy lots of different things. But different from other countries, there is still enough space in the market for another big-name online retailer, namely the Japanese company Rakuten. Another competitor to Amazon is Yahoo! Shopping, which profits from being part of the Yahoo! brand. While Amazon has seen rapid growth recently, no one of these companies has become a truly dominant force in the market, unlike other countries where Amazon is often clearly alpha in the field.

Different platforms, different prices

When you are online shopping in Japan, it is often a good idea to compare prices on different platforms (although that is a good idea everywhere). One annoying part about online shopping Japan is often the payment methods. Bank transfers are often not accepted when online shopping, so you will need some other form of payment option, which often ends up being a credit card. However, getting a credit card in Japan can be pretty daunting, up to impossible for most foreigners. Even credit cards which advertise themselves as being so easy to get that even high school students can apply are often impossible to obtain for non-Japanese people. Other options are available, such as placing an order, then going to a convenience store and process the payment there. Once the payment is processed, your article will then be shipped. But this method kind of defeats the purpose of online shopping in the first place, which is to not have to leave the house to get shopping done. So, in the end, most people use some kind of prepaid card, or, in rarer cases, a debit card. But that also comes with its own troubles. Thus, online shopping is very convenient for Japanese, but there are unfortunately some hoops to jump through for most non-Japanese.

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