Saturday, June 18, 2011

Buying H!P merchandise - a guide to online shopping part one

I've been meaning to do this post for a long time now so I'm glad that I'm finally taking time out to do it. This post is meant to inform anyone who wants to know how to support their favorite H!P group (or any Japanese artist).

Chances are that if you are reading this blog, you don't live in Japan, which means you probably can't simply walk into a store and buy what you want (must be nice!). Despite that setback, there are still many ways that you can fulfill your dreams of having a decked out room full of H!P goodies.

In this first part I will talk about how you can buy H!P media (CDs, DVDs, and stuff).

Before I begin, here is a quick list of the websites and companies that I will feature in these posts. I will talk about all of the major online retailers that serve foreigners, as well as some off of the beaten path.

For buying CDs, DVDs, and photobooks, there is CDJapan, Amazon Japan, HMV Japan, Yesasia, and Play-Asia. All of those websites are in English (Amazon Japan is mostly Japanese, but if you've ever used the English Amazon website, it's the exact same layout) and have a healthy stock of H!P media.

If actual goods (e.g. T-shirts, towels, photocards, etc) are what you're looking for, HelloStoreUSA is the only English website where you can officially buy those items.

Finally, there are a couple of alternative websites that you can turn to, to buy rare and hard to find H!P items. There's eBay, Yahoo Japan Auctions, e-LineUP, Mall City, Celga, and Noppin (among a couple of others).

One of the best ways you can support your favorite idols is by buying their CDs. They are the least expensive of most of the stuff listed above (1000 yen/$13 usually) and are released about every 3 months, meaning you have plenty of chances to show your love. 4000 yen a year isn't too much, right?

If you answered yes to that question, then you are in luck. Purchasing CDs is by far the easiest of all idol merchandise to get your hands on and you have plenty of choices in online retailers to choose from.

CDJapan is the English version of Neowing. They have been in business since 1997 and ships to just about any country around the world. They have a good compromise between quality of service and cheapness of price. CDJapan is my go-to store for H!P CDs and DVDs.

+ Relatively cheap comparatively
+ Accepts a wide range of payment methods (Credit Cards, Paypal, money orders and even US cash)
+ Largest amount of shipping options (Has a cheap option that can take up to 2 months to arrive and expensive options that can get your package to you on the Japanese release date)
+ Straightforward reward points system (Every item you buy gives you points that can be used to discount later orders)
+ Occasional sales (Usually four sales a year, corresponding to the four seasons)
+ Stocks all limited editions and offers bonus promotional items
+ Has a whole section dedicated to H!P
+ Counts toward daily Oricon charts

- Payment must be made in yen (Depending on your country's conversion rate, this can be good or bad)
- Limited editions sell out quickly (Most of the time you have to pre-order singles or you'll miss out on the limited editions)
- No price drops (Singles like The Peace are still full price)

Obviously this is the Japanese version of the popular American based online store, Amazon. I don't order from Amazon Japan too often (see cons below), but Amazon Japan does have some nice advantages over the other online stores.

+ Large stock (H!P CDs rarely go out of stock, and are quickly re-stocked when they do)
+ Frequent price drops (Prices change almost daily)
+ Cheapest prices (Mostly because of the above pro)
+ Counts toward daily Oricon charts
+ Has a rewards point system (though no where near as good as CDJapan's)
+ Can pay in yen or USD

- High shipping charges (There is only one overseas shipping option - DHL International Express. Because of that, a lot of the time shipping is more than the actual item, killing any savings you might have gotten)
- Website is mostly in Japanese (Though if you are familiar with, you'll have little problems navigating)

HMV is a nice alternative to the well known retailers. Their website is completely in English, they have good enough customer service, and a pretty good selection of items.

+ Frequent sales (They have sales everyday and usually have buy 3 get 1 free promotions weekly)
+ Has a reward points system (But it's very complicated. Good luck trying to figure out how it works)
+ Large selection of items and a large stock
+ Relatively cheap
+ Occasional exclusive bonuses (Sometimes there are bonus trading cards offered for pre-ordering a single at HMV)
+ Counts towards the daily Oricon charts

- Your order total may not be final (For pre-orders, they note that your shipping total could increase before it ships because they don't know exactly how much an item weighs until they have it in hand. Expect to add 500 yen or so to most order totals)
- Must pay in yen (Can be good or bad depending on your country's currency conversion rate)

Yesasia used to be a huge competitor a couple of years ago, but the world's economy issues changed all of that. They have steadily raised prices over the years and offered little incentives to continue to order from them.

+ Free shipping! (Also a con, see below)
+ Multiple shipping options
+ Offers a wide selection of all Asian media
+ Free miniature Japanese toys with most orders
+ Prices in USD (Can be a con depending on the exchange rate)
+ Counts toward weekly Oricon charts

- Very high prices
- Free shipping only available for orders $39 or more (and it's slow as dirt)
- Prices seem to go up over the years, not down
- Some orders can't be canceled

Play-Asia is the only store on this list that I have not ordered from. I decided to include them just to make you aware of all of your options. The pros and cons below are only my speculations.

+ Has some really old out of print H!P items still in stock
+ Relatively cheap shipping

- Doesn't count toward Oricon charts (They are a Chinese based store)
- Relatively high prices

Want information on how to buy goods and rare items? Continue on to part two!


  1. Wow, lots of great info! There really is no perfect place to buy from.

    I'm jealous of your collection. 'Specially your signed Kamen vs Ranger poster; that is a thing of beauty. Must have taken you quite a while to spread this all out and then clean it back up. I didn't know you were such a Kannaphile; I half expect this site to be renamed to "Kannai~n deshou?!". Looks like you have well over 50 of the same card. Did they have a super sale with each card 10 cents each or something? Last question: What is the story behind the cake? It seems a little out of place in a sea of cards and posters.

  2. .....that's not your collection right? o_o

  3. nope, it's a wota's collection

  4. Sorry for not mentioning it - that's not my collection ^_^

    It's a wota's birthday shrine to Kanna from a few years back.

    But, I actually do have a ton of photos (600+) and a couple of signed things~

  5. This is amazing thanks maybe I can choose one of theses places and get some stuff cheap and fast your the best!!!!


  6. lol of course not, senpai was never a Kanna wota :P

  7. I´ve never used HMV...maybe i should someday.....

  8. LOL, good. I thought you'd be failing as an Airi fan if it was your's.

  9. I'm starting to use YesAsia, and right now, I think it's the only thing my parents will let me use. This was a very informative guide though, thanks.~
    I'll probably look into CDJapan when I have my own life xD

  10. I've always used CDJapan, I love their sales and their rewards program. Every four orders or so I can basically use my points to get something dirt-cheap or at least completely eliminate the shipping cost. If you register your birthday, you also get points (300 I believe) as a birthday gift.

    "you probably can't simply walk into a store and buy what you want"

    Man, if I ever get to Japan, I have a feeling that I would buy out the entire country :D

  11. Thanks for posting this! ^^
    I'll definitely order some goods (when I have the money to do so. T_T).


  12. thanks for the informative post!
    i've ordered from all of those major shops you've mentioned and would recommend CDJapan, Amazon and HMV. Yesasia does take a while, as does PlayAsia, though occasionally they have a deal.
    BTW, when they say still in stock, they may not be completely accurate, so it's worth checking first if it is a rare item

    because Amazon ship by Fed Ex only (as does HMV i believe), the package may be more likely to be liable for custom charges, so bear that in mind.