Importing from Japan to Australia For Small Businesses

As you plan to import from Japan into Australia, this guide will help you discover how to identify, source, and import goods to sell in Australia.

Sometimes it can be cheaper to import from overseas as labour and manufacturing costs can be high in Australia.


Statistics from The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show that Japan is ranked 3rd on the list of countries that Australia imports from. That comes at no surprise as Japan is a popular manufacturer of vehicles

How to import from Japan

Here’s what you need to do if you want to import from Japan.

  1. Obtain information on the types of goods you are allowed to import and carry out market research.
  2. Explore online marketplaces of manufacturers and suppliers to source the goods you want.
  3. Carry out due diligence on your supplier and sign a contract with them.
  4. Arrange for shipping and logistics from Japan to Australia.
  5. Understand the various regulations, tariffs, and licenses you need to export.
  6. On arrival of your goods in Australia you pay the necessary duty, tariffs, and any other fees.
  7. Market your goods for sale in Australia.

Dealing with importing, international shipping, tariffs, licenses and more can be tricky. We strongly recommend bringing someone into your business who has experience and knowledge in the field.

What can you import from Japan to Australia?

Step one is to make a decision on what you want to import. Before you take any additional steps, it would be ideal for you to conduct some market research.

Here are some hints and tips:

  • Avoid food and perishables — Australia is known for its strict bio-security laws. This makes it difficult to import produce into the country.
  • Avoid importing products that are widely available already — It can be hard to wiggle your way into the market when the supply for products are widely available. Plus, larger companies tend to order in bulk at wholesale prices.
  • Source items based on your prospective market, not the other way around — Explore what your customers are looking for and look for products based on those conclusions.
  • Understand your margins and pricing — Work out your pricing strategy by calculating your fixed and variable costs.

Sourcing goods from Japan

There are a selection of Japanese suppliers to choose from. These include:


Once you know the types of products you’re after, make a shortlist of suppliers. Next, you’ll want to:

  • Read reviews on the suppliers including their customer service, the quality of the goods they provide, and any issues others have had with them.
  • Contact the suppliers and request a sample of the goods you’re interested in. When you receive the sample have it independently appraised to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.
  • Ask the supplier about their terms for payment, how long it will take them to send the product to you, what protections and guarantees you have, and what their policies are on returns.
  • Complete any other due diligence, and if you’re satisfied, sign a contract with them.

Typical container costs — shipping from Japan to Australia

If you’re only purchasing a small quantity or your items aren’t too heavy or bulky, consider air freighting them back to Australia. If you’re buying larger quantities, you’ll probably have to use a shipping container.

The Sea Freight Calculator lists the cost of renting a full container from Japan to Australia as approximately:


  • 20 ft container — $1,500 USD
  • 40 ft container — $2,000 USD


And according to Australia Trade, renting part of a container will cost you between $150 and $250 AUD per cubic meter or 1,000 kilos, whichever is greater.


However, these are purely the costs to ship goods from Japan to Australia. Once you get them here you’ll need to pay for getting your goods to a warehouse, storage, insurance, duties, and other fees.

Man checking and looking through stocks in storage

Understanding government regulations on imported goods from Japan

Be aware of import regulations to heed. To learn more, read this comprehensive guide.

Some of these include:

  • Obtaining a special permit when importing certain chemicals, pharmaceuticals, produce and others.
  • Quarantine may be required when importing plant and animal good.
  • Tariffs, duties, and taxes may apply — More on that below.
  • Government concessions may be available for some importers.
  • Free trade agreements could work to your advantage.
  • Be aware of additional costs.
  • Label goods correctly.

For full details, please do check out our guide to importing into Australia.

Understand costs to import from Japan

If importing is new to you, it’s crucial to understand import costs. These include:

  • The cost of buying the product.
  • Shipping, logistics, and distribution costs.
  • Tariffs and duties charged by Japan for exports and Australia for imports.
  • Taxes and tariffs on your imported goods.


Generally, you will have to pay import duty and GST on goods valued over $1,000 AUD.

  • Import entry costs and processing charges – Customs will charge you a fee (typically under $200 AUD) for processing your goods.
  • Customs import duty is calculated as a percentage of the price you paid for the goods. The duty rate can range from 0% to 10%, but the rate for most goods is 5%.
  • Goods and services sales tax (GST) will also be charged based on the following:
  • The valuation of the goods plus;
  • The customs import duty amount plus;
  • The cost of insuring the goods and transporting them to Australia.
  • GST is charged at 10% of the final amount.

This is just intended as a general guide – These charges can be influenced by what you’re bringing in, excise taxes, free trade agreements, and many other factors. Please do check with customs for your individual circumstances.


Some types of goods are eligible for concessions (reducing the amount of duty you need to pay). You can find a factsheet through this page, just look for “List of current tariff concession orders.” You’ll also find additional details on concession schemes here.

Sell your products

When your goods from Japan arrive in Australia, begin marketing your products and start selling them on to make a profit. Continue sourcing for goods and grow your business

Paying for your goods in foreign currency

Import businesses from Japan are usually conducted using US dollars or Japanese Yen.

If you are bringing goods in from Japan, consider using OFX. They specialise in international payments and receipts for Australian businesses. Each client has a personal manager and access to a range of useful products like Forward Exchange Contracts, Options, Limit Orders and Currency Options.

OFX is a trusted partner of The Currency Shop. Click on this link , sign up and never pay a transfer fee for your international money transfers. Ever.

OFX charges no transaction fees. Minimum transfer A$250. Third party intermediary fees may still apply.

Learn more about OFX

What about receiving money in foreign currency?

Until recently, Australian businesses had 3 options to receive money from overseas customers:


  1. Get paid into a local Australian based, Australian dollar account.
  2. Open a Foreign Currency Account, usually with a bank
  3. Use a payment gateway like PayPal, Braintree or Stripe


Unfortunately, these options are usually filled with fees, balance requirements or massive exchange rate mark-ups.

In October 2017, TransferWise released the Borderless account in Australia and it’s really impressive. It allows you to receive, hold and transfer 27 different currencies.


A unique feature that is particularly useful for businesses, is the ability to have local bank account details in USD, EUR, GBP or AUD. This makes receiving money from overseas customers exceptionally easy.


For the full review of the TransferWise Borderless Account, click here

Learn more about the Borderless Account

By Justin Rampono Updated April 1st, 2019