Shipping Methods

  • SAL (Surface Air Lift) low-priority air mail
  • Priority air mail
  • EMS (Express Mail Service) (Track EMS package here)
  • Surface mail

SAL (Surface Air Lift) is our standard shipping method. The cost of SAL shipping is usually included in our price quotes. SAL packages are loaded on the airplane only if there’s room after all the priority air mail parcels are loaded. Therefore, it is slower and cheaper than priority air mail, but faster than surface (boat) mail. Delivery takes about 2-3 weeks from Japan to most countries. If your country does not accept SAL packages, then we ship by surface mail. Countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and most Central American and African countries do not accept SAL.

Priority air mail promptly loads your package on an airplane. Delivery takes 1-2 weeks from Japan to most countries.

EMS (Express Mail Service) is the fastest shipping method available through the post office. Delivery takes only 3-4 days from Japan to most major countries. It is the most expensive method, but you can track the package if it is lost. (We can tell you your EMS tracking number if your order does not arrive within a week.) Insurance is also provided up to 20,000 yen. It is cheaper than Federal Express. If you have the EMS tracking number, you can track your package on this Web page:

On the iStore order form or payment form, you can select your preferred shipping method, and we will calculate the total cost.

All book and magazine orders are shipped as “Printed Matter” or “Books.”

Shipping FAQ

How long will it take to receive my order after I send payment?
All items are shipped from Tokyo, Japan. The time it takes for you to receive your order depends on merchandise availability, the payment method you use, the shipping method you choose, your location (country), and sometimes customs inspections. Generally speaking, it will take several weeks for your order to arrive.

For auction items, it will take about 4-6 weeks since you must allow time for the seller to ship the item to us before we can ship it to you.

Paying by PayPal greatly reduces the delivery time. PayPal and credit card payments can be confirmed within 24 hours (often within a few hours). After your payment is confirmed, we can usually ship your order within 2-3 weeks. If you send a cashier’s check, money order, or cash instead, you will have to wait longer.

Our standard shipping method is SAL low-priority air mail. It takes about 2 weeks for the package to arrive via SAL. If you’re impatient, you can pay slightly extra for priority air mail which takes about 1 week for your order to arrive. And if it’s urgent, you can request EMS Express Mail which takes 3 or 4 days.

So, assuming that you pay by PayPal, and you use SAL air mail, it will take an average of 3-5 weeks for your order to arrive. (Sometimes longer, sometimes sooner.) Priority air mail will take about 3-4 weeks. Or use EMS Express Mail and it will take about 2-3 weeks for your order to arrive after payment is confirmed.

Note that during certain holiday or vacation periods such as Christmas/New Year’s and summer time (August), deliveries might be delayed. There will also be delays when we take a vacation, usually during late Dec. and New Year’s, late April-early May, and August.

Priority air mail costs about $9 more than SAL per package, and EMS Express Mail costs about $20 more than priority air. FedEx is also an option, but we don’t offer it due to the prohibitive cost.

Since we use the postal system, there is no way of tracking your package (as with FedEx, etc.) unless it is registered or sent via EMS. However, from our experience, it is extremely unlikely for your order to get lost in the mail.

How much does shipping cost from Japan?
We ship all orders by postal mail from Tokyo, Japan. The shipping cost depends on how heavy your order is, your preferred shipping method, and your location.

SAL: Shipping printed matter via SAL ranges from 75 yen (for 20 g) to 2,080 yen (for 2 kg) for North America, Europe, Australia, and Oceania. The weight limit for SAL is usually 5 kg for printed matter and sometimes only 2 kg for some countries. So if your books weigh more than 2 or 5 kg, your order will arrive in two or more packages possibly on different days. If it’s not printed matter, then the weight limit for SAL is 2 kg. SAL does not provide package tracking nor insurance.
See the Japan Post Office’s SAL Rates (in English).

Priority air mail: Rates range from 80 yen (for 20 g) to 5,460 yen (for 5 kg) for North America, Europe, Australia, and Oceania. Five kilograms is the maximum weight limit allowed for a package containing printed matter. If your order weighs more than 5 kg (including packaging), we will have to ship it in two or more packages. It does not provide package tracking nor insurance.
See the Japan Post Office’s Air Mail Rates (in English).

EMS: This is the fastest shipping method via the post office. The delivery time to most countries is 3 or 4 days. This service costs 1,200 yen for 300 g, 2,400 yen for 1 kg, 4,000 yen for 2 kg, and 8,200 yen for 5 kg to North America. The weight limit is 20 kg. EMS provides package tracking and insurance up to 20,000 yen. We can give you the tracking number upon request.
See the Japan Post Office’s EMS Rates (in English).

Shipping rates are slightly cheaper for Asian countries and more expensive for Africa and South America.

What about using FedEx?
We do not use private courier services (Federal Express, etc.) because of their prohibitive cost for international deliveries. Even EMS is much cheaper than Federal Express and almost as fast. For example, for a 1-kg “FedEx Pak” to the US West Coast, it costs 7,200 yen compared to 2,400 yen via EMS to anywhere in the US.

I paid for my order about 4 weeks ago, but it still has not arrived. What’s causing the delay?

The reason or cause can be any of the following (in the order of highest to lowest probability):

1. One of the books you ordered is temporarily out of stock and we are waiting for it to arrive from the publisher.

2. For some reason, the auction seller has delayed shipping the item to us.

3. One of the books you ordered has gone out-of-print and we are looking for an available copy (usually at used bookstores or Japanese auction sites). If this happens, we will let you know.

4. The postal system is experiencing delays in delivering your package. (SAL low-priority air mail is supposed to take 2-3 weeks, but it may take longer.)

5. We’re really busy with our day jobs and have not been able to keep up with order fulfillment. (PhotoGuide Japan is just a side business.)

6. We are currently on vacation. We’ll ship your order as soon as we get back. The major vacation periods in Japan are: Dec. 24-Jan. 6, April 28-May 7, and August.

7. The wrong shipping method (SAL low-priority air mail instead of priority air mail or boat mail instead of SAL) was used to ship your order.

8. Customs officials in your country are withholding the package for inspection. Due to more strict anti-terrorism measures in countries like the USA, customs inspection of incoming packages might be causing a delay in delivery.

9. Customs officials in your country have confiscated the package since the contents are not allowed in your country.

10. You typed the wrong address on the online order form and the package went to that wrong address.

11. The address label on the package was torn off or made illegible somehow and the package is being returned to PhotoGuide Japan.

12. The package arrived at your home, but the mailman took it back to the local office because you weren’t home. (Check with your local post office to see if they are holding a package for you.)

13. The package arrived in your the mailbox, but your dog grabbed it and buried it somewhere. Or someone stole your mail. Make sure your mail box has a lock and it is large enough to hold books.

14. The package got lost in the mail.

15. The plane, train, boat, or vehicle carrying your package got into an accident.

Note that if 9, 10, 13, 14, or 15 occurs, we will not send a replacement copy. You will have to bear the risk of non-delivery. But don’t worry too much because the chances of your order getting lost in the mail is extremely low.

If you want to guarantee delivery, please request EMS (Express Mail Service) shipping. EMS enables you to track the package via the Internet and insures the contents up to 20,000 yen. If it does not arrive via EMS within a few days, you can tell us and we can check the delivery status of the package. You can always contact us and inquire about your order’s status.

What happens if the item I ordered and paid for is no longer available?
If we cannot find it within 4 or 5 weeks, we will inform you and give you a full refund or credit you for that amount toward a future order, whichever you choose.

I ordered five books from you, but I got only three books.

When you order three or more books, your order may be shipped in two or more packages arriving on different days. So just wait a little while longer until the other package arrives.

Sometimes though, one or more of the books you ordered might be delayed so we shipped only part of your order. We usually send email when your order is partially shipped. You can also login to iStore and check your order status. Or you can contact us and inquire about your order’s status.

What about customs or import duties?
If any customs charges or import duties apply to your order in your country, you will have to pay it when you receive the package. Contact your local customs office for more information.

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