Japan Post to Ship Electronics with Lithium Ion Batteries Starting 2013

Shipping electronics with lithium ion batteries from Japan is a pain, to put it simply. You, as of now, essentially have two options, FedEx or DHL, which I explained in more detail in how to ship electronics with lithium ion batteries from Japan. This all came about when I tried to send an old laptop to my sister in the States and the post office, after accepting it initially, later called us and said we couldn't send the computer unless we took the battery out.

However, good news! Starting January 1, 2013, Japan Post will allow you to send electronics with lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries, as long as they meet certain requirements. 

  • Batteries must be in or attached to an electronic device (e.g. in a camera, or connected to a laptop, etc.) -- batteries cannot be packaged separately/by themselves, even if they're a spare.
  • Cell-type batteries (cylinders) must be less than 20 watts a piece.
  • Other batteries (usually rectangular), must be less than 100 watts and must have the wattage labeled on the outside of the battery/device. For reference, a Macbook Pro's battery is 60 watts.
  • You can't send damaged batteries or anything that might catch fire.
  • Batteries can't weigh more than 5 kilograms.
  • You can't send more than four cell-type batteries in one package. For example, if one camera has one battery inside it, you can send up to four of those cameras. If a camera has two of those batteries in it, you can only send two cameras. 
  • You can't send more than two other batteries (again, usually rectangular) per package. So if you want to send a video camera and a laptop that both use these types of batteries, you can send those two items together. If you have a laptop, video camera and a DSLR with this type of battery, you can only send two of those items in a package.
Please see the Japan Post website for the official press release and detailed information (unfortunately all in Japanese) about this. The detailed document has a list of countries that lithium ion and polymer batteries can be sent to, via air (first column) or sea (second column).

I think this is a great development, especially considering how expensive it is to ship electronics with lithium batteries via FedEx and DHL. I only wish they would have implemented this earlier this year!

Many thanks to Tim for the heads up.

HOW TO: Find Natural Food in Japan

If you've been following Surviving in Japan for a while, you've probably seen me mention places to find certain health-related items, such as natural and organic food and such. iHerb is one of my personal favorites, but some things can't be imported to Japan, such as almonds and chia seeds.

I've attempted to list several places you can find these items (yes, almonds! yes, chia seeds! yes, hemp seeds! yes, raw food!) in Japan in the Metropolis article I've linked to below. If there's anything in particular you want to find, let us know.

Wholesome Holiday: Find your natural foods this Christmas | Metropolis Magazine

Summary of stores to find natural and health food items:

Tengu Natural Foods
Amazon Japan
Living Life Marketplace
Hemp Kitchen - for hemp items
Cocowell - for coconut items
Natural House - also has actual stores around Japan
Pro Foods

iHerb is an affiliate link, but you get a USD$5-10 discount if you use it (from their advertising budget). I highly recommend iHerb for natural foods, health products, vitamins, supplements, and more. I've used them since my first year in Japan over four years ago and they've been a wonderful resource.

7 Useful Resources for Winter and the Holidays in Japan

It's freeeeezing cold here in Shizuoka city today, and those winter winds I hate so much are back in full force as well. It's interesting to watch the clothes you hand outside blow sideways... And hope that you've tied everything down well enough so you won't lose anything (we've had several years of practice now).

So as we move into mid-December, meaning Christmas and New Year's are on their way, and then the coldest months of January and February, I thought I'd pull out some posts that might be useful this time of year.

1. Where to Find "Illuminations" (Christmas/Holiday Lights) in Japan

Light displays in Japan can be pretty spectacular. You'll probably see basic ones while out and about but I recommend going to a larger one if you can. Last year we went to Gotenba, Shizuoka to see the light tunnel (pictured above). The screenshots in the post are outdated, but the sites are laid out essentially the same, so it's still helpful for those of you who want to find a place to go and can't read Japanese.

2. Resources for a Very Merry Christmas in Japan

Looking for holiday decor? Food? Cards? This post has you covered.

What You Should Know When Signing Up for Softbank

If you have, or have had, a contract with Softbank (one of the main mobile carriers in Japan), you may have experienced Softbank's seemingly differing policies. (This may be the case at the other carriers as well, although I've heard less about them in this regard, so please let me know if you have a story to share.)

For my latest column, I spent about two months(!) trying to clarify some of Softbank's official policies regarding making a contract, as people have been told all sorts of things by different Softbank stores. As you can read in the column, they did give me some answers, but the whole process was incredibly confusing and frustrating. I've not really had much to complain about in regards to Softbank before, and I really wanted to try to clear up any misunderstandings for both sides. However, after numerous phone conversations and an exceptionally long thread of emails, I'm not 100% sure what they told me is actually their "official policy" (in fact, they said they couldn't give me anything in writing with these "policies").

And I'll be honest, after all this, I'm considering switching carriers. I also don't like that they won't reveal what they actually check when they run the ID process. Is it really a secret?

You can read the column for yourself and feel free to share your experience with Softbank, or any other carrier, whether positive or negative, in the comments below. I'd love to hear about other carriers and it'd be interested to see how many SiJ readers have had positive or negative experiences getting a cell phone in Japan.

Softbank's policies on foreign customers hard to pin down | Japan Times