Essential tips for smooth shipping from Vietnam to Japan

9 Mins Read
facebook sharing button
twitter sharing button
linkedin sharing button
Smart Share Buttons Icon Share

As the world moves increasingly toward a globally integrated market, the ties between nations are becoming ever more critical. An example of this is the relationship between Vietnam and Japan, two countries that have recognised each other's potential and value in various economic sectors. 

Japan, as a developed country with advanced technology, sees Vietnam as an emerging market full of opportunities. Simultaneously, Vietnam views Japan as a source of high-quality products, technical expertise, and rich experience. This reciprocal relationship paves the way for flourishing trade and commerce. In 2022, Vietnam's exports to Japan grew by 20.3% from the previous year, reaching a total of US$24.2 billion. The primary contributors to this export growth are textiles and garments, machinery and equipment, as well as transport and spare parts, with turnovers of US$ 4.07 billion, US$ 2.7 billion, and US$2.5 billion, respectively. 

Under the Vietnam-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (VJEPA), Japan offers preferential tariff rates on these and other key exports from Vietnam, providing Vietnamese goods with preferential access to the Japanese market. Additionally, with this agreement, Japan has gradually reduced tariffs on a large number of imported goods from Vietnam, making them more competitive in the Japanese market.  

For businesses in Vietnam looking to expand their reach into international markets such as Japan, understanding the ins and outs of shipping to the country in question can be a vital factor in their success. This guide provides valuable information on the required shipping documents, customs regulations, cultural considerations, and more. With this, businesses in Vietnam can navigate the process of shipping to Japan with more confidence and efficiency. 

Prohibited and restricted items to take note of 

When shipping products from Vietnam to Japan, it is crucial to understand the country’s international import regulations regarding prohibited and restricted items. 

Prohibited items are strictly forbidden for import and can lead to goods being sent back or confiscated by the local authorities. Some examples of prohibited items, according to Japan's customs regulations, include jewellery, gold, silver, diamonds, ashes, vaporising materials, and combustible solids. Additionally, there are strict laws prohibiting substances such as narcotics, firearms, explosives, and articles that infringe upon intellectual property rights.  

It is important to note that Japan's customs also adhere to restrictions on certain materials to protect public safety and morals. Restricted items may require special licences or permits for importation. Examples of these include health-related products such as pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, and specific chemicals, as well as personal use items like cosmetics. Regulations vary for these items, with some requiring pre-import evaluations or licensing from regulatory bodies.  

It is advisable to review and adhere to the comprehensive list of prohibited and restricted items provided by Japan's customs to ensure compliance with regulations. By familiarising yourself with these guidelines and obtaining the necessary permits, you can ensure a successful and hassle-free customs clearance process. 

Key custom regulations to note when shipping goods from Vietnam to Japan 

Embarking on an import-export venture from Vietnam to Japan involves a strategic understanding of customs procedures. Thorough knowledge and strict adherence to these rules can streamline the customs clearance process, ensuring that shipments reach Japan promptly, enhancing customer experiences, and meeting critical business needs: 

  • For all goods you aim to export, identify the relevant tariff codes. These codes pertain to the duties and taxes applicable by Japanese Customs. They are based on Japan’s Harmonised System (HS) codes, nine-digit identifiers that you can locate on Japan's Customs website. For instance, the HS code for textiles is 7019.12, machinery is 9032.90, and car spare parts is 4013.10. Understanding these codes is essential for accurate duty calculation and smooth shipment clearance. 
  • After identifying the HS codes for your goods, your next step is to review the tariff schedules under the VJEPA to discern which tariffs and charges apply to your goods. 
  • Subsequently, establish whether your goods comply with the rules of origin, which, if they do, would allow for reduced tariffs under the VJEPA trade agreement. Essentially, your exported goods must 'originate' in Vietnam to be eligible for preferential tariffs under VJEPA. 
  • Following this, you'll require a certificate of origin that verifies your goods meet the rules of origin. This certificate typically needs to be attested by a recognised authority such as the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI). 

Required shipping documents for exporting to Japan 

In addition to the previously mentioned steps, here are the specific forms required to ensure a smooth shipping process when you prepare to export your goods from Vietnam to Japan.  

The air waybill (AWB), also referred to as the 'transport label', encapsulates vital details such as shipper and receiver addresses and contact information, a comprehensive description of the shipment's contents, as well as package dimensions and weight. Meanwhile, the commercial invoice, serving as the 'customs invoice', offers essential information for customs. It includes data like transaction cost breakdowns, the currency code used in the transaction, and the purpose of the export. Depending on your shipment characteristics and applicable import regulations, you may also need to present additional import certificates or permits as requested by the Japanese authorities. 

Accuracy and clarity in filling out these documents, especially with detailed and precise goods descriptions, facilitate speedy customs clearance, ultimately ensuring a seamless shipping process and timely delivery of your goods to Japan.  

With these documents secured, you're equipped to export your goods to Japan. Remember, staying informed and compliant with the regulations can help your business navigate smoothly through the shipping process. 

Packaging and labelling 

When shipping goods from Vietnam to Japan, your items' packaging and labelling are of paramount importance. Proper packaging and accurate labelling not only protect your shipment during transit but also ensure efficient handling and delivery.

Packaging tips 

  • Sturdy packaging: Utilise sturdy, good quality boxes suitable for the weight and nature of your items. If the items are fragile, use bubble wrap, foam peanuts, or other cushioning materials for extra protection. 
  • Sealing: Properly seal the boxes with strong packing tape. For heavier items, consider reinforcing the boxes' edges and openings with extra strips of tape. 
  • Weather resistance: If your package faces the likelihood of being exposed to weather elements, consider waterproof packaging or at least wrapping the box in a plastic sheet. 
  • Avoid overpacking: While it's crucial to protect your items, overpacking can result in unnecessary shipping costs. Try to find a balance between safety and efficiency. 

Do note that when it comes to shipping charges, international express shipping fees are typically calculated based on the greater value between the gross weight and the volumetric weight of the shipment. Gross weight refers to the actual weight of the package, while volumetric weight reflects the space occupied by the shipment. This means that even a lightweight package may incur higher costs if it's bulky and takes up significant space. Therefore, effective packaging can help optimise the balance between protecting your goods and keeping shipping costs manageable. 


  • Accurate information: Ensure that the recipient's information is correctly spelt and includes all necessary details, such as the postcode, prefecture, city, and street address in Japan. Include your return address as well if needed. 
  • Visibility: The labels should be placed on the package's top surface and must be clear and readable. Avoid placing labels on corners or edges where they might get damaged or peel off. 
  • Custom labels: If your shipment needs custom clearance, ensure that the necessary labels and documentation are attached as required. 

While general packaging and labelling practices apply to shipments from Vietnam to Japan, you should also be aware of any specific requirements related to your particular goods or Japan's regulations, as we have mentioned in the section on prohibited and restricted items. For example, certain products (food items especially) might require additional labelling details such as manufacturing date, ingredients, or safety warnings in Japanese. Always verify the specific requirements for your goods before shipping to avoid any delays or issues at customs.  

Shipping options 

Shipping to Japan from Vietnam can be accomplished via several means. One of the preferred choices is often door-to-door international express shipping by air, which accommodates much faster transit times (shipments will typically be delivered after one working day), as well as enhanced safety and security throughout the shipping process. Under this format, there can be different services available with distinct advantages that cater to diverse business needs.  

DHL Express Worldwide 

This is DHL Express' standard and most popular international shipping service for time-sensitive exports beyond Vietnam. It offers proactive delivery notifications upon request and is available to and from all overseas delivery locations worldwide, Japan included. With DHL Express Worldwide, consignees in Japan can expect to receive the shipment sent from Vietnam by end of the next business day. 

DHL Express 9:00/12:00 

This service provides an international time-critical shipping solution for sending goods from Vietnam to Japan. It guarantees delivery before 9:00 AM or 12:00 PM of the next possible business day depending on the receiver’s address. With a money-back guarantee and proactive tracking by a dedicated team, it ensures fast and reliable delivery. Before placing the shipping order, it is advisable to check out the service availability for your shipment and destination. 

DHL Express Easy  

For customers without a DHL shipping account, DHL Express Easy is another international export delivery service designed for time-sensitive shipments. This service is exclusively available through self-lodging at DHL service point outlets in Vietnam. With standard DHL boxes supporting shipments ranging from 500 grams to 25 kilograms, it is a convenient shipping option for exporters. DHL Express Easy is available to all overseas courier service locations worldwide. 

Cultural considerations 

Aside from the global delivery process, understanding the cultural nuances of a market can significantly influence the success of international business operations. Given Japan’s distinct cultural attributes, businesses should consider the following factors when shipping to their Japanese partners: 

  • Punctuality: Respected in Japanese culture, this virtue also applies to shipping timelines. Ensure your shipments always arrive on or ahead of time to maintain respect. Choose a global shipping partner that embodies your values and can guarantee fast transit times, acting as your brand ambassador and fostering a positive relationship with your international customers. 
  • Packaging: In Japan, packaging transcends mere protection. It's an art form linked to "omotenashi", or hospitality. Thoughtful, appealing packages resonate with recipients, enhancing their experience. Therefore, while ensuring secure packaging for international transit, consider investing in high-quality materials and innovative designs for a blend of functionality and aesthetics. 
  • Quality: Upholding high-quality standards is key for the Japanese market. To ensure this, evaluate your delivery partner's shipment handling and safety standards. For instance, DHL Express has achieved its 100th TAPA 'A' Certification, a testimony to their stringent handling of high-value goods. This recognition ensures that your products reach your Japanese customers in excellent condition, meeting their high expectations. 
  • Harmony: Japanese culture values harmony and balance in business practices. Strive to uphold these values in your interactions and operations, and ensure your international courier embodies these qualities too. Their delivery and customer service personnel's rapport with your Japanese customers can reinforce these cultural ties and strengthen your brand relationship. 

Understanding these cultural nuances not only aids in effectively navigating business dealings, creating better relationships with your Japanese partners or customers, but also fosters success in the Japanese market. Importantly, your service partners should also respect and adhere to these cultural considerations, ensuring a harmonious and productive business environment.  

DHL Express as your trusted international shipping partner 

When it comes to sending packages from Vietnam to Japan, choosing the right logistics company is essential. With DHL Express as your delivery partner, you can streamline the shipping process and enjoy a range of benefits. 

When you partner with us, what you get is efficiency and cost savings. Our experienced team takes care of the entire customs clearance preparation and completes goods declarations on your behalf, ensuring a hassle-free shipping experience.

Here are some reasons why DHL Express is the ideal choice for your next delivery: 

  • Extensive overseas network: With a broad network covering over 220 countries and regions worldwide, DHL Express ensures your shipments reach their destination reliably and efficiently. 
  • Effortless door-to-door solutions: We provide seamless international door-to-door shipping solutions, allowing you to focus on your business while we take care of the logistics. 
  • Advanced tools and platforms: Benefit from our robust infrastructure of tools and platforms, such as MyDHL+ online shipping solution and ODD (On-Demand Delivery), which enable effective shipment management and enhance your overall shipping experience. 
  • Flexible delivery options: Choose the time and place of your shipment's arrival with our flexible shipping and delivery options, providing convenience and flexibility to meet your needs. 
  • Real-time updates: Stay informed with real-time updates on your parcel's clearance statuses, giving you peace of mind throughout the shipping process. 

Shipping from Vietnam to Japan doesn't have to be a complicated process. With the right shipping partner, you can enjoy seamless and reliable delivery services. To find out more, register for a DHL Express business account today