Japan - Country Commercial Guide
Import Requirements and Documentation
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Includes import documentation and other requirements for both the U.S. exporter and foreign importer.

Import and customs clearance procedures and contacts can be found through Japan Customs.  Please also reference Japanese import procedures and at Customs FAQ. 

Understanding import requirements and documentation is very important when doing business in Japan. Having a local representative in Japan and/or working with a freight forwarder or customs specialist can be extremely helpful in this regard. 

Any person wishing to import goods must declare them to the Director-General of Customs and obtain an import permit after the necessary examination of the goods concerned. The formalities start with the lodging of an import declaration and end with the issuance of an import permit after the necessary examination and payment of Customs duty and excise tax. 

Certain items may require a Japanese import license. These include hazardous materials, animals, plants, perishables, and in some cases articles of high value. Import quota items also require an import license, usually valid for four months from the date of issuance. Other necessary documents for U.S. exporters may include an Import Declaration Form (Customs Form C-5020) and a certificate of origin if the goods are entitled to favorable duty treatment determined by preferential or WTO rates. In practice, shipments from the United States are routinely assessed using WTO or “temporary” rates without a certificate of origin. Any additional documents necessary as proof of compliance with relevant Japanese laws, standards, and regulations at the time of import may also apply. 

Correct packing, marking, and labeling are critical to smooth customs clearance in Japan. Documents required for customs clearance in Japan include standard shipping documents such as a commercial invoice, packing list, as well as an original, signed bill of lading or an air waybill if shipped by air. The commercial invoice should be as descriptive as possible for each item in the shipment. The packing list should include the exact contents and measurements of each container, including the gross and net weights of each package. The Japanese Measurement Law requires that all weights and measures on a packing list be expressed as Metric System values. 

Japan prohibits the importation of certain items, including narcotics, firearms, explosives, counterfeit currency, pornography, and products that violate intellectual property laws. When planning to import goods into Japan, you may wish to consult with your international shipper for specific details regarding your shipment since your international shipper should be up to date on Japanese import requirements.