Japanese customs regulations can be cumbersome, difficult to understand, and duplicative, but they are largely mechanical. Nearly all customs difficulties result from first time applications. Japanese customs officials are generally helpful when it comes to explaining procedures and regulations, and once these are understood and followed, difficulties are usually minimal. It may be necessary to employ an import agent or customs broker to help facilitate customs entry.
Certain items may require a Japanese import license. These include hazardous materials, animals, plants, perishables, and in some cases articles of high value. Import quota items also require an import license, usually valid for four months from the date of issuance. Other necessary documents for U.S. Exporters may include an Import Declaration Form (Customs Form C-5020) and a certificate of origin if the goods are entitled to favorable duty treatment determined by preferential or WTO rates. In practice, shipments from the United States are routinely assessed using WTO or “temporary” rates without a certificate of origin. Any additional documents necessary as proof of compliance with relevant Japanese laws, standards, and regulations at the time of import may also apply.
Correct packing, marking, and labeling are critical to smooth customs clearance in Japan. Straw packing materials are prohibited. Documents required for customs clearance in Japan include standard shipping documents such as a commercial invoice, packing list, and an original and signed bill of lading, or, if shipped by air, an air waybill.
Air shipments of values greater than ¥100,000 must also include a commercial invoice. The commercial invoice should be as descriptive as possible on each item in the shipment. The packing list should include the exact contents and measurement of each container, including the gross and net weights of each package. The Japanese Measurement Law requires that all weights and measures on packing list be reflected in Metric System values.