Things You Should Know When Shipping From Singapore to Japan

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As one of Singapore’s key trading partners, this East Asian archipelago is a popular destination for trade. According to the United Nations COMTRADE database, in 2020, Singapore exported a total of US$17.86 billion worth of goods to Japan, comprising products like pharmaceutical products, essential oils and cosmetics, and glassware. 

It’s no secret that business opportunities abound in Japan. 

What’s better? The customs clearance in Japan is straightforward. However, additional certificates and other import permits are needed for certain regulated goods and medical products. If you are looking forward to shipping a parcel from Singapore to Japan, we are here to help you with all the necessary customs regulations that you need to follow. DHL Express shipping makes it easy for you to send important documents and even valuable items to Japan in a seamless condition and on time.

Read on to find out how you can enter its tech-focused market, while ensuring your international shipments are well taken care of.

Expanding your business to Japan

As the third-largest market in the world, Japan’s unique advantage lies in its economic and social stability. With a population of 127 million and a per capita GDP of US$39,300, according to the World Bank and OECD National Accounts data files, the East Asian country holds tremendous purchasing power. For anyone thinking of growing the international outreach of their business, Japan’s business market is full of potential and opportunities.

Here’s how you can craft your business strategy to break into one of the world’s biggest innovation powerhouses:


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Understand the domestic market and its consumers

As with every new business venture, it’s important to do thorough research and preparation beforehand. Before firming up any plans, know the market segment you want to target and understand their tastes and preferences.

Japanese consumers are big on innovation, technology and quality, so be sure to have a detailed understanding of the market and how your business can add value.

Establish a stable network of local business partners

Whether it’s a distributor, delivery agent or inventory manager, you should always be on the lookout for reputable partners on the ground. Being selective with who you work with can make or break your business.

Japan’s market dynamics are complex, and in order to succeed, you will need a unique, customised strategy. Having the local know-how and networks will be a significant advantage.

Get familiar with local customs clearance processes

Part of the necessary due diligence is being aware of the necessary customs and regulations that you need to adhere to. This customs clearance knowledge should not be mixed up with the rules on shipping from Japan to Singapore. 

Shipping from Singapore to Japan is relatively straightforward. However, some restricted products call for additional certificates and other import licences. You can find out more about general enquiries and frequently-asked questions on our FAQ page.

Prohibited and restricted imports

Customs clearance is the process of inspecting goods entering a country. Before shipping goods to Japan, it’s important that one checks if their item is restricted or prohibited for import. If it’s prohibited, you might have your items sent back or confiscated. For restricted items, you would need special licences or permits. Applying for these before shipping out your products will ensure you experience a smooth, successful clearance process. Here’s a list of common items being imported into Japan and the respective regulations for shipping them according to the US International Trade Administration: 

Airline tickets, blank forms. etc.  

Airline tickets, issued airline tickets, blank forms, diaries, computer storage devices, maps, photographs, calendars, and inactivated ATM, credit or debit cards must be declared as Worldwide Parcel Express (WPX).


  • A food licence is required for up to 10kg of food items (including grain) for non-commercial purposes.

  • Japan does not allow the import of perishable foodstuffs (e.g. vegetables, fruits, beans, fresh & frozen meat, ham and sausages).

  • As Japan does not provide refrigerant facilities, any plant or animal quarantine shipments will be rejected and shipped back to the origin country.

  • For caviar, you will need a special certificate under CITES.


  • Commercial-use cosmetic products shipped into Japan require an import licence.

  • Private-use cosmetics require a medical licence if more than 24 pieces are being shipped. For quantities fewer than such, it will be treated as a Worldwide Parcel Express (WPX) shipment.

  • Should the shipment exceed the quantities allowed without a valid medical licence, the parcel will be returned to the consignor.

  • For shipments categorised as Dangerous Goods (DG), you should liaise with the DG coordinator in the source country before exporting your items.

Chemicals, non-hazardous

  • The commercial invoice must be accompanied with a component analysis table.

Personal belongings

  • You must indicate ‘Personal Effects’ or ‘Unaccompanied Baggage’ on your HAWB, invoice and pre-alert. Also, the invoice and AWB must include the consignee’s full name and phone number.

  • Unaccompanied baggage requires 1) a customs declaration form with customs stamp; 2) a copy of the consignee’s passport. A delay of 1-3 days is expected after receiving the UB declaration form from the importer.

  • Note: Japan’s residence cards cannot be sent through DHL Express.


  • If you are sending shoes, then the upper and lower sole materials and type of shoes must be described on the invoice. Samples must be marked and mutilated for duty and tax exemption. 'Marked and Mutilated' must be stated on the invoice.

Coffee (include samples)

  • Green coffee and unroasted coffee are prohibited. Only roasted or processed coffee is acceptable, but a food license is needed from the consignee if it’s for resale or distribution purpose to an unspecified number of the general public; excluding samples below 10kgs (22lbs).

Fabrics (include Samples, swatches)

  • For woven or knitted fabrics including their samples and swatches or textile articles, their materials must be clearly described on the invoice. If it’s a swatch, it must be declared as Worldwide Parcel Express (WPX).

Drugs: prescription & in pharmacy w/o prescription

  • An import license is needed from the consignee for prescribed drugs and drugs in pharmacy. If the shipment is categorized as dangerous goods, then please contact the DG coordinator in your country prior to shipping.

  • Psychotropic drugs cannot be imported into Japan. The below mentioned quantities of medicine/supplement or medical equipment for personal use can be imported without license. However, if the shipment contains items exceeding the permitted quantities, the entire shipment will be returned to the consignor immediately without prior approval for import customs process.

    • Poison, deadly poison – forbidden

    • Prescription medicine – up to 1 month supply per HS code

    • Topical medication (excluding poison, deadly poison, prescription medicine) – up to 24 per one item

    • Pre-filled syringe, self-injection kit (kit of injectable drug and syringe for drug) – up to 1 month supply

    • Other drug, quasi drug, over-the-counter (OTC) medicine – up to 2 month supply per HS code.

Glass products

  • Glass products as well as liquids and non-hazardous liquids must be well packed to avoid damage. A wooden case and crate are preferable in this case.

Event tickets

  • Sports, concerts, or theatre tickets need to be sent as Worldwide Parcel Express (WPX).

  • According to Japan Customs regulations, it is mandatory to declare the importer’s full name, contact number and full address in case IOR (Importer of Records) is an individual person. If the above information is insufficient, it will cause clearance delay. Private shipments to Japan will require Customs inspection before being able to be delivered to the receiver. 

Essential shipping documents required 

For fast, timely and fuss-free shipping from Singapore to Japan, learn how to prepare your shipment. For Japan, you would need the following: 

  1. Commercial invoice

  2. Bill of lading or air waybill (AWB)

  3. The certificate of origin (where a WTO rate is applicable)

  4. Generalised system of preferences, certificates of origin (if preferential rates apply)

  5. Packing lists, freight accounts, insurance certificates

  6. Licences, certificates, etc. required by laws and regulations other than the Customs Law (when the import of certain goods is restricted)

  7. Statement on reductions of, or exemption from customs duties and excise tax (if applicable)

  8. Customs duty payment slips (when goods are dutiable)

DHL Express as your delivery partner of choice

So, how do you send packages to Japan? You can do it via various shipping methods such as by sea or air, and partnering with a reliable logistics company, like DHL Express, can save you significant time and effort.

With DHL Express, there will be no more clearance delays and extra costs. In addition, DHL Express handles your entire customs clearance preparation and completes declarations of goods on your behalf. 

Here’s why you should use DHL Express for your next delivery:

  • Broad network covering over 220 countries and regions across the globe

  • Effortless international door-to-door shipping solutions

  • Robust infrastructure of tools and platforms for effective management e.g. MyBill, MyDHL+, and ODD (On-Demand Delivery)

  • Flexible delivery options, where customers can choose the time and place of the shipment’s arrival

  • Real-time updates of your parcel’s clearance statuses are readily available

Having the expertise of customs rules and shipping at our fingertips, DHL Express ensures your goods can be shipped safely from Singapore to Japan. To learn more about other items you can ship to Japan, register an account with us or contact us for your next shipment today.