・Learn about shipping restrictions and prohibited items
If you are shipping your personal effects and household goods overseas, it is important to be familiar with restricted and prohibited items.
Although personal effects and household goods shipments normally do not contain commodities that are overtly hazardous or illegal, depending on one’s interests or occupation, one might have some restricted or prohibited items. Learn about restrictions for international shipping.
Besides the commodities listed here, there are goods classified as dangerous goods when they are transported by air. If you are shipping by air, please also see the page containing dangerous goods for shipping by air.
There are all kinds of commodities in the universe, which means that there are all kinds of restricted and prohibited goods, especially when they are shipped internationally. Thus, it is not possible to list everything here, though we hope that the information on this page will help.
Some goods are subject to export control. Some examples are oscilloscopes, bearings, lubricant, carbon/glass fibers, generators, and vacuum pumps, as they are listed on the commodity watch list for Weapons of Mass Destruction. For example, some oscilloscopes fall into the category of strategic weapons because their parts could be used for making strategic weapons. Some parts of high-tech machines could be used for making strategic weapons and nuclear weapons. These would draw the attention of the customs office, which may ask you to submit a parameter sheet/certificate of non-applicability. Do not pack such items in boxes unless you have parameter sheets/certificates of non-applicability.
・Nintendo Switch – The Nintendo Switch is one of the above-mentioned restricted goods subject to export control because of its high-tech parts. Export is not allowed without a parameter sheet/certificate of non-applicability. The Sony PlayStation once had the same restriction, but it was lifted in 2000.
・Goods for sale or resale (they must not be shipped together with or as personal effects)
・Items purchased for someone else – For example, if you are shipping three rice cookers, it will be understood that one or two of them are for someone else, such as a friend or relative. Therefore, you will encounter problems at the time of customs clearance on the Japan side.
・The belongings of someone other than your accompanying family members
・Motorcycles – Motorcycles can be shipped but must be customs cleared
as a separate shipment from a personal effect shipment. i.e. motorcycle and personal effects cannot be cleared through customs and shipped as one consignment.
・ A large number of certain goods – If, for example, you are a faculty member or a researcher, it would make sense to ship thousands of books. In such a case, we would simply notify Japanese customs about your occupation and, generally, it would be okay. Also, some people may ship a large number of old games, comic books, CDs, or LP records they collect for hobbies. Unless the amount is really large, it is generally okay.
On the other hand, if you are a painter and are shipping a considerable number of drawings or paintings, customs may want to inspect the contents to see if any items seem to be for sale or resale. (The reason is that paintings could be sold for high prices; they are also among those items that are often imported/exported for sale/resale purposes.)
・Lithium-ion batteries (for PCs, etc.)/PCs with lithium-ion batteries
・Toy or model guns
・Electrically assisted bicycles
・Cremated human remains – Cremated human remains must be transported under a special airway bill.
・Precious stones, gold, or the like – They must be shipped as valuable cargo under a special air waybill with a special commodity rate.
・Syringes or needles for syringes
Goods that may be subject to CITES (Washington Convention), i.e., products made from materials (animals or plants) that are possibly subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. In some cases, the academic names of plants or animals must be indicated even if they are not made of materials prohibited by the Washington Treaty, to verify non-applicability.
・Pianos if the keyboards are made of ivory – Verification by the manufacturer stating that the piano does not have a keyboard made of ivory is required if a piano is to be shipped.
・Guitars made of rosewood – Because of rosewood restrictions by CITES, if you are shipping a rosewood guitar that was imported to Japan before the implementation of CITES, you will need to get documents from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The document will also need to be used at the time of customs clearance at the destination. Amendment: The restriction on the shipping of guitars made from rosewood ended in 2019. However, the restriction is still applicable to Brazilian rosewood.
・Specimens of insects such as butterflies – Information on the academic names is required if you are shipping a species that is not subject to CITES.
・Goods that are subject to the law concerning guns and swords:
-Martial arts weapons with metal blades
-Imitation swords – If a verification memo from a sword or souvenir shop is available, imitation swords can be shipped; however, the shipment will likely be inspected by customs, which will require an inspection fee.
-Real swords – An export audit certificate issued by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Department of Cultural Properties is required for export. There will be a customs inspection attended by a police officer at the time of customs clearance.
Foodstuffs – Foodstuffs are defined as objects that are partaken of through the mouth and whose ingredients/substances are absorbed into the human body through digestive organs. In this sense, foodstuffs include medicine, supplements, vitamins, Chinese traditional medicine, herbs, tea, coffee, drinks, water, alcohol, chewing gum, spices etc.
Shipping Foodstuffs by Sea:
Australia and New Zealand -
Foodstuffs can be shipped but it will be up to the customs of the destination country as to whether they can be imported. The reason why they can be accepted for transport is that these two countries will conduct a customs inspection on almost all shipments anyway and will check the contents thoroughly. If they find prohibited goods, they will confiscate them.
Australian customs have an office where one can call and ask for advice. However, they stress the point that because there are numerous kinds of foodstuffs, their staff cannot maintain knowledge of all of them and answer whether or not a certain type of food is prohibited. Ultimately, it is up to the customs officer who does the quarantine inspection.
That said, while foodstuffs can be transported, this does not mean that perishable foodstuffs or the like will be accepted.
Foodstuffs are not accepted even if they are items that could be imported to the final destination country. The reason is that if some shipper includes foodstuffs, then the whole container will be seized by customs for inspection after its arrival at the port of the final destination or the port of transit. This could delay other customers’ shipments.
Generally, foodstuffs are not accepted. However, if the client contacts customs and/or the FDA and gets confirmation that the item is something that can be imported, then the carrier will accept them.
Shipping Foodstuffs by Air：
Many airlines nowadays do not accept foodstuffs. Contact this office if you are thinking about shipping any.
Every country has different regulations on the import of goods. Please take heed of them, even if the goods can be shipped outside of Japan.
Commercial items, i.e., goods for sale or resale, can be customs cleared and shipped as general cargo. In this case, the procedure and charges will be different, as customs asks for much more detailed information about the contents being shipped, and more strict regulations will be applied. Some merchandise may be impossible to ship unless you specialize in the export of such goods.