The news broke recently that as of June 1st, 2020, Rakuten Global Marketplace, often the best place to find obscure Japanese labels at great prices, was no more. There had been rumors circulating that Rakuten was planning on restructuring its global marketplace after 10 years of service, but the shut down seemed abrupt and took many of us—myself included—by surprise.
Functioning in a similar way to Amazon, Rakuten Global Marketplace was exactly what the name implied, a global marketplace. But what set it apart was the number of independent vendors on the platform that brought Japan to our doorsteps. Stores like Hinoya, Take 5, Organ, 2nd, and Earth Market are just a few examples of shops that brought us all of our favorite Japanese brands, offering worldwide shipping on the plethora of quality goods available.
So, while we await the next chapter in the Rakuten story, we thought we’d investigate to see if it’s still possible to order from the Japanese division of the e-commerce giant.
Can You Still Order From Rakuten Japan?
In short, yes. Rakuten have revamped their Global Express service, which is essentially a package forwarding service offered by Rakuten whereby products ordered are sent to a warehouse and combined into one package – similar to Amazon. However, the process of getting set up with Rakuten Global Express isn’t as simple as other online shopping platforms.
So here’s our guide to getting you back up and shopping on the Japanese mega-retailer.
Getting Set Up On Rakuten Global Express
Becoming a customer Rakuten Global Express is not impossible, but it’s certainly a bit more work than your average online shopping platform. The initial setup wasn’t that straight forward but it may be worth it in the long run. Here’s my experience.
Upon visiting Rakuten Global Express I was greeted with the below video, which made the service seem, well, pretty perfect. I was excited to get set up and begin ordering, but then some roadblocks appeared.
Just like the above video explained, I began to sign up and was provided with a forwarding address in Japan, which is presumably a processing warehouse where the Global Express packages are prepared. Signing up was a bit clunky and I was presented with the following:
This was helpful as it reassured me that I didn’t need to actually have a forwarding address in Japan i.e. a friend or relative. My British phone number wasn’t accepted by the web form, so I just put a bunch of zeros in there. No big deal. But after completing the (very) initial sign up process, I was directed to my new Rakuten Global Express dashboard, only to be greeted by this message:
Identity verification procedure is required.
Users of overseas forwarding services such as Rakuten Global Express are required to complete the “identity verification procedure” based on the amendment to the Act on Prevention of Transfer of Criminal Proceeds effective as of April 1, 2013.
The procedure is to confirm that the person you claim to be does exist by verifying your name, date of birth, and current address with a copy of an official document of yours.
It looks like I will need to get my account verified by Rakuten by submitting two forms of identification, which appears to be a legal requirement for Rakuten.
I don’t have a problem with scanning these in and sending them over to Rakuten, but it’s not exactly what I was expecting. I will be submitting this information and ordering something to see what the service is like. I am hopeful that, after the whole identification process, ordering from Rakuten will actually be less of a headache. I used to use a proxy service for Rakuten orders anyway as I found the Global Market site clunky and often convoluted depending on the vendor.
How To Browse Rakuten Now That Global Market Is Closed
To browse through the products available form Japanese stores on Rakuten, you now have to visit Rakuten Ichiba. Unless you can read Japanese characters, you will need to use a browser with a translation extension (I find Google Chrome is best for this). The best way to find what you want is to keep search terms simple, and where possible use product codes i.e. Samurai s3000.
To be honest, the experience up to checkout seemed much like before. I assume that once my account is verified, the checkout will then merge with my Rakuten Global Express account and shipping will be handled from there. As you can see from the top-right of the below image, the site recognized that I was overseas from my Rakuten account.
Only a full trial will allow us to judge whether Rakuten Global Express is going to be an easy way to shop going forward. I sure hope it is because as much as I believe in supporting independent stores in our own countries, there are often products that are only available from Japan.