What New Users are Asking

OPAS recently participated in a New Year’s event held at a Japanese shopping center in suburb of Portland. The Shogatsu Matsuri or New Year’s Festival was a three day event with several booths for selling hot food like oden and imagawayaki and things like good luck charms from a local Buddhist temple. At our booth we had a game and participants could win a variety of prizes. We also used it as an opportunity to speak to people about OPAS and answer some questions about international shopping and personal import.


Portland has the 7th highest Japanese population in the United States, and since it was during the holidays, there were a lot of people visiting people around Portland who live in Japan. Some were native Japanese visiting American relatives, and some were Americans who live in Japan, but came home for the holidays.

Many had never heard of our company, and had never heard of a service like ours. “Our daughter [or son, or niece, or nephew] lives in Japan and is always asking us to send things!” was a statement we heard many times. With OPAS there is no need to bother relatives to send favorites from home. With your OPAS account you can order online from an American retailer, send it to your OPAS address in Portland, and then we will consolidate your orders and prepare them for international shipping. When you are ready to have them sent to you, just a couple clicks gets them on their way.

A couple people asked us about shipping cars to and from Japan. This is a much bigger proposition than importing a phone or sweater, and we usually recommend a company that specializes in importing and exporting motor vehicles. We have sent scooters overseas, however. And we see a lot of car parts go through our warehouse.

“I have a car I imported from Japan specially. However, I can’t get the parts I need in the US.” This is an issue we heard at the festival. “My mechanic doesn’t want to send the parts I need overseas, so I have to wait for someone who is coming to the US to bring them for me.” In this day and age there is no more need for people to wait weeks or months to get things sent internationally. We recommended she use OPAS and have her mechanic send the parts to our Osaka office. From there we’ll get them sent to her home in the US. This was one of the more unique situations we heard about, but I was glad we were able to help her.


Some people asked about foods and wine. For example, you cannot ship wine using the US Postal Service because all alcoholic beverages are considered “Hazardous Materials.” However you can ship wine to Japan using Yamato Transport, but you can’t using UPS unless you are a licensed wine shipper. Even if the carrier will take it, there are some countries where alcohol is illegal. It’s not hard to guess that firearms and ammunition cannot be shipped internationally. But did you know knives can be just as difficult?

People are not surprised that spray paint cannot be shipped in the mail, but neither can most bottles of nail polish. Most people don’t need to send rubbing alcohol in the mail, because it’s cheaper to buy than send. That’s why they are surprised to find out perfume and cologne are also mostly restricted for shipping because of their alcohol content. We tell our users to check before you order whether or not an item can be sent overseas. Of course, we check as well to make sure we are not sending items that will get confiscated.


Do you have questions about ordering and getting items shipped to you? Please feel free to ask us here or email us at service@opas.com

Kaizen: How We’re Improving for You!

Here at OPAS, we adhere to a principle known as Kaizen – this is a business philosophy that advocates a constant state of improvement. In a Kaizen workplace, change for the better is an expected part of the daily tasks of each employee, seeking new ways to improve practices and policies to reach a state of greater efficiency.

Kaizen has been advocated by many world-renowned companies, perhaps most famously so by Toyota, the Japanese auto manufacturer. As such, the Toyota Way, their corporate philosophy, has become a key identifier of Kaizen. One of the key components of this process is the PDCA cycle:


–          Plan

–          Do

–          Check

–          Act

If you remember from your science classes, this is basically the process known as the scientific method: formulate a hypothesis, experiment to test it, compare your results to the hypothesis, and reach the conclusion that the hypothesis is either true or false. It’s the same with OPAS in improving our protocols, policies and processes to reach a greater level of proficiency.

As detailed by the graphic above, OPAS is in the business of improvement. We locate problems, display those problems to responsible individuals, clear the problem, and acknowledge the improvement, spreading it into other elements of the workplace as well, if applicable.

OPAS is not alone in our adherence to Kaizen – here are some other companies that practice the policies of constant improvement that you may have heard of: Toyota (obviously), Ford Motors, Intel, Lockheed Martin, and Telstra Australia!

A major part of the Kaizen process is receiving input, so if you as a customer have ideas on how OPAS can improve for you, or have a Kaizen concept of your own, please share it with us at service@opas.com. We’re always open to customer feedback!

We’ll be talking more about Kaizen in the future, discussing details of what exactly the philosophy means, and talking about the history of Kaizen!

A Day in the Life of an International Package Forwarder

Buying Online in the US from the Far East

Buy Victoria Secret online in the US from overseasToday we had a slew of interesting purchases come in for our customers; items they had bought that had arrived for our check-in process. I thought you might like to see some of the most interesting items, where they came from and where they are going.

What interesting items have you bought from the US to ship overseas?


Buying Golf Equipment Online in the US from Japan

Honing your Golf Skills for Spring

Explanar Golf TrainerSpring is here in the northern hemisphere and summer is coming soon. Some of our customers are preparing to be in tip top form with their golf swing by buying golf equipment to train with and use on the course. I thought you might be interested in hearing about this unusual shipment that passed though our warehouse recently.

The Golf Equipment Purchase in the US

Our customer is a family man; he bought training equipment for his son and himself from three different US on-line stores. First he bought an Explanar Training System and an Explanar Junior Training System to hone up on form. The full-size system was $990+$99.95 S&H and the junior system was $599 with no S&H to our OPAS warehouse.

Then he bought a set of Tour Striker training clubs for his son, for $99.95+$10 S&H as well as a set of standard Tour Striker clubs for $219.98 with no S&H.

JrExplanarTrainer-resized-600The total cost to our warehouse was $2,018.88. He saved as much as $200.44 on sales tax by using OPAS since we are in a no-sales-tax state.

The Tour Striker clubs arrived on April 4th at our warehouse. The full-size Explanar Training System arrived on the 5th. The Junior Explanar Training System and the training clubs arrived on the 6th making the delivery complete.

The OPAS Shipment from the US to Japan

Tour Striker Golf ClubOur customer asked us to inspect the packages when they arrived to be sure the items were as ordered ($5 fee). And he asked us to consolidate the packages ($10) and to expedite the processing of the shipment ($5). He wanted to insure the package for $2,018.88; the 2% insurance fee was $40.38.

The packages we received had an actual combined weight of 189 pounds with a dimensional weight of 233 pounds. We consolidated the four packages into two. The new single package with the clubs was long and over-sized. The combined actual weight was 187 pounds and the dimensional weight was 206 pounds, saving 27 pounds of shipping weight over the original packages. Our customer could have added up to 19 pounds of gloves, tees, or balls to the packages for free shipping on those items.

We were asked to expedite the shipment using DHL so we sent it off on April 9, 4:35 pm to the Osaka region in Japan. The shipping fee was $646.84 plus a fuel surcharge of $90.56 and an over-size charge of $50 for the clubs. The total cost leaving our dock was $847.78.

The packages traveled from Portland, to Los Angeles, to San Francisco, to Osaka, and was delivered to our customer’s address on April 12th at 2:26 pm local time; two days and six hours of transit time door to door thanks to DHL’s excellent service commitment.

Father and Son on the Golf Course

I can imagine the joy and expectation of fun times as they pulled the clubs out and assembled the trainers. I’d like to be a fly on the golf bag as they show off their new skills on the course with friends. What a great idea for Father’s day – coming up in the US on June 17 – a gift of clubs or a round with friends on the course.


The Best Things to Buy from the US in April

Package forwarding shoppers don’t have to live in the US to take advantage of US sales cycles. April is the start of spring, and that means most US stores are going to be trying to make room for new inventory by offering big sales.

best things to buy from the us in aprilBut typical winter items aren’t the only things that are good to buy this month. Plenty of other items are less expensive now than at any other time of year. If you’ve been waiting to make a purchase until the right deal came along, now might be the time to pull out your package forwarding address and place an order at your favorite US store.

Best Deals for Package Forwarding Shoppers in April

  • Clothing. Most clothing catalogues bring out their new spring lines around February, so April is when the Spring sales start to kick in. For example, there’s currently a short sale at Abercrombie and Fitch (30% off).
  • Non-iPad Tablets. Apple’s iPad 3 came out in the US just a few weeks ago, which means that other tablet makers are trying to compete by offering discounts on their models. One hot Android model, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, is now only $199.
  • Sneakers and Athletic Shoes. Brands like Nike, Adidas, and Reebok are hot around the world, but sales of their products slump in winter, when no one wants to play outside. As the weather gets better, shoe stores offer discounts to get people back in the habit.
  • Vacuum Cleaners. You might not typically think of buying a vacuum cleaner with your package forwarding address, but it could save you a lot of money. To celebrate “spring cleaning” and to make room for new models to be released over the summer, most US stores offer sales on vacuums in April.
  • TVs and Electronics. The Japanese fiscal year ends in March, which means that electronics from big-name Japanese brands like Sony and Toshiba go on sale in April. You can buy these products from the US cheaper than in most countries, but OPAS members can also buy them directly from Japan. 🙂
  • Boots and Winter Gear. Now that Spring has come, winter gear is on sale to make way for summer goods. If you live in the southern hemisphere, or if you just want to get a jump start on next winter, check out the clearance on boots at 6pm.com and other stores.
  • Laptops. DealNews tracked the price of a standard laptop over a twelve month period and found that April was the month when prices were lowest. If you’ve been waiting for a new laptop, this is the month to get one.
  • Car Parts & Accessories. Most people tune up their vehicles in the summer, so prices are at their lowest right before the season starts. If parts for specific makes and models are hard to come by in your country, you can order almost anything from RockAuto.com using your package forwarding address.

What Else is Good to Buy from the US in April?

Do you know of other item categories that are especially good deals for package forwarders in April? Maybe there is an item that is especially expensive in your country this time of year? If you know a savvy way to use your package forwarding address this month, share it in the comments section.


Buying at Horchow Online from the US

On-Line Shopping for Sales

Buying Horchow Gateonline form the USI am often surprised and delighted by the interesting purchases of our members. Recently we had an unusual item pass through our warehouse. A customer of ours from Japan asked us to be her personal shopper for a garden gate. Horchow sells this beautiful hand forged iron gate by MacKenzie Childs, a one-of-a-kind collectible piece of garden art.

Horchow is the first luxury mail-order catalog merchant without a “bricks and mortar” companion and is a popular on-line merchant with our members. But Horchow does not deliver internationally, nor do they have warehouses in other countries, so our member used her US address with OPAS to purchase this beautiful and fun gate.

Personal Shopper Details

Our Japanese member asked us on February 14 to buy this garden gate for her. It was on sale at 30% off the usual retail price of $895. Our smart member was watching the sales and we were able to purchase the gate for her for only $626.50, saving her $268.50. Because OPAS is in Oregon, a sales-tax-free state, she saved up to $65.78 on sales tax.

We placed the order on the day she made the request. It was shipped to us for a shipping and handling fee of $180. Our Personal Shopper Fee was $120.98. We received the gate on February 28 and notified our member that the gate was in our warehouse. She immediately responded and requested that we ship it to her. We shipped the package to her the next day using DHL.

The Shipment from the US to Japan

The actual weight of the gate was 73 pounds, but the dimensional weight ({51 inches x 47 inches x 12 inches}/139) was 207 pounds so the shipping fee, based on dimensional weight, was $649.98. Our member could have consolidated additional small items up to 143 pounds into her package for free shipping on those other items if there was room in the package for them.

Because of the shape of the gate DHL charged an oversize fee of $50. And because of the remote location of our member (Niigata Province, Japan) they charged a Remote Area Surcharge of $53.82. DHL’s fuel surcharge was $74.75. Our member asked us to provide insurance to cover the purchase and shipping cost to our warehouse of $806.50. The cost for the insurance was $16.13.

The International Delivery

The package left our warehouse in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday, February 29, traveled through the Los Angeles hub on March 1, arrived in Tokyo on the 2nd, was cleared for customs and sent to a forwarding location on the 3rd, and was forwarded for delivery to her by the local service on Monday the 5th.

Smart International Shopper

The whole transaction took 20 calendar days, only 6 of which were after we received the gate at our OPAS warehouse. The total cost to her door for this one of a kind hand crafted garden gate was $1,772.19 plus any customs charges in Tokyo. Because she is a smart lady she saved $268.50 by watching for a sale and as much as $65.78 on sales tax by using OPAS.

I can imagine her elation at receiving her smart purchase and seeing the charming gate gracing her lovely garden. How would you feel if this gate was in your garden?


Buying Ralph Lauren Online from the US

After Christmas Sales at US Online Stores

Some of our members are taking advantage of the After Christmas Sales. For example, the Ralph Lauren US online store has After Christmas prices, and on selected items an additional 30% off. One of our members treated their children to some classy winter clothing and made out like a bandit.

The Purchase

The girl in the family got two items. The first item was a Lace-Ruffled Jersey Top in Deckwash White. The retail price was $49.50 and the Sale Price was $24.99. but with the additional 30% off the price was $17.49, saving 32.01, a 70% reduction!

The second piece for the girl was a Cotton Mockneck Zip Cardigan in Maui Pink. The retail price was $75.00. The sale price was $59.99. But with the 30% off they paid $39.99, saving $35.01, a 47% reduction!

The boy in the family also got two items. The first item was a Cashmere Cable Crewneck in New Litchfield Blue. The retail price was $225. The Sale price was $179.99. RL did not offer the 30% off on this sweater, but the savings were still substantial, $45 which is 20%.

The second item for the boy was a Long-Sleeved Custom-Fit Polo in Red. The retail price was $45 and the Sale price was $27.99. But with the 30% off they paid only $19.59, saving $25.41, 56%!

Ralph Lauren

Shipping from Ralph Lauren to the OPAS warehouse in Portland, Oregon was $8 so the total cost to our warehouse was $265.06.  Our member was not charged sales tax because Oregon is a sales-tax free state, a savings of up to $27.83.

The Shipment

We received the package in our warehouse on January 4 and our member requested the shipment on the 5th. The package was shipped to Tokyo the same day using Yamato Transport.

The actual weight was 4 pounds. The dimensional weight was 9 pounds so our member could have added up to 5 pounds of small items to take advantage of the potential free international shipping. The shipping fee was $54 with a fuel surcharge of $9.45. The insurance fee was $5.30 based on the purchase cost.

The total fees from our warehouse to Tokyo were $68.75 so the delivered cost of the purchase was $333.81. Savings from sales prices was $112.11.

Savvy Mom

Our member is one smart mother. She knows how to take advantage of international shopping in the US, package forwarding from a no sales-tax state, and benefits from the favorable exchange rates and better US prices. And she knows how to find the best clothing at the best prices. Think you can beat her? Share your best deals in the comments section.


4 Ways to Help Japan by Shopping Online

We are all still in shock over the damage wrought by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophe in Japan. Although our office in Osaka was far from the tragedy, and none of our staff or their families were hurt, we are nonetheless saddened by the recent tragedy and our sympathies go out to all those affected by it.

But even in Tokyo, itself a safe distance from the destruction, people seem to be getting back to their routines of working, studying, and even shopping. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the shopping activity in the busy Ginza and Omotesando districts. Japan is, after all, a nation of consumers, and it seems like even as they recover from the terrible events of the past few weeks, retail therapy is as valid a way to cope with catastrophe as any.

help japan by shopping onlineSimilarly, there are a number of ways those who are well our of harm’s way can help Japan recover from this crisis by shopping online.

  1. As reported by CNN, a number of celebrities have designed items whose sale benefits the disaster relief efforts. Lady Gaga is selling bracelets that bear the words “We Pray for Japan” in English and Japanese, Blink 182 designed a t-shirt, and Linkin Park also express solidarity on a shirt. You can express your help for Japan while expressing your taste in music.
  2. If celebrities aren’t your thing, a Twitter message has evolved into the website Pay For Japan, a collection of items designed by artists and artisans who will donate all or some of the sales proceeds to disaster releif funds. There are more t-shirts, jewelry, and even skateboard wheels!
  3. A number of our package forwarding members in Japan have already purchased radiation detection equipment. If you live in Japan or know someone who does, these products can help reduce the fear of radiation in locations affected by the Fukushima reactor.
  4. Finally, you can simply put your money into the Japanese economy by shopping in Japan. No matter what country you live in, you can shop online in Japan and have your packages forwarded internationally. Our Japanese office in Osaka will be happy to help you if you have any questions about availability or shipping.

The earthquake and its aftermath have been a terrible tragedy, but Japan is a strong country and we’re eager to see it recover. By shopping online, people all over the world can put money into the Japanese economy and help it back on its feet. What are you interested in purchasing from Japan?

shop online help japan

Get the Nintendo 3DS Before the Release Date with Package Forwarding

Nintendo will release its new 3DS portable gaming system, the first device to utilize a 3D display that doesn’t require the use of special glasses, at the end of March in the US, Europe, and Australia. The 2D version of the DS was already the most popular portable gaming system in the world, and everyone from Nintendo themselves to industry media to shoppers expect the new system to surpass the original’s popularity and demand. In fact, most retailers are expecting to sell out of the Nintendo 3DS within moments of its release, and many have already sold out of their initial supplies via pre-order.

nintendo 3dsHowever, there’s good news for those who want to purchase a Nintendo 3DS but don’t want to wait until the end of March—or until retailers are able to restock—to buy one. You can buy the Nintendo 3Ds right nowin Japan.

Sure, you’d love to buy the Nintendo 3DS right away, but you don’t live in Japan, and you’re not just going to hop on a plane to Tokyo just to make a shopping trip, are you? Well, with package forwarding services, you don’t have to. You can buy a Nintendo 3DS online in Japan today and have it forwarded to your address in the US, Europe, Australia, or any other market the 3DS isn’t available in yet. If you’re an OPAS member, simply use your Japan address and membership ID to buy a 3DS online in Japan. Check out the Yahoo! Japan shopping directory to see hundreds of Japanese shopping sites selling the Nintendo 3DS right now in numerous colors, some of which are even exclusive to Japan and will never be available in the US or other markets! If you’re not a member yet, sign up now to get your own personal Japan address (along with a personal USA address for use from outside the US). You can shop at any Japanese online store and have your purchases forwarded overseas. Along with your new Nintendo 3DS, why not pick up some games, DVDs, fashion items, or toys? When you use package forwarding, you can consolidate all these items to save money on international shipping.

Nintendo 3DS isn’t the first device to hit the Japanese market first, and it won’t be the last. What hot new releases are you looking forward to purchasing with your package forwarding membership?

buy the nintendo 3ds from japan