If you’re like me and like Junior Idols AND owning the merchandise associated with it then you like buying DVD’s, Photobook’s and random junk off Japanese auction sites.
But quite often we, as foreigners living outside the holy land that is Japan, can’t walk down to the corner store and pick up our latest cutie (well, catch a train into Akihabara and walk to the goodie shops :P) whenever we want. This conundrum means we have to either buy on the spot without really knowing what it may turn out to be OR do some research. I do the later (and the former sometimes).
I use Kawaii 15 (sometimes, if I’m desperate, Akiba-Online — It’s not the nicest of places. Kinda creepy at times), Amazon Japan, Google, Yahoo! Japan Auctions (along with a host buyer, such as Ohta), Global Rakuten, HMV Japan and YesAsia to locate new items I want and to purchase them (Might I just say that you can go to Kawaii 15 and click on their ad links at the top of the forum to YesAsia and Amazon.co.jp. This gives them some support when you buy items). To start I’m going to show you some of the useful features of Kawaii 15’s forums. Below you will see two images with red rectangles around sub-forums:
I have highlighted the Media Reviews, Junior Idol (Online) Shops and Video Downloads (Direct Downloads) forums as these are the ones I frequently use when deciding on my next unknown purchase (as in getting a new girl I’ve never seen/heard of before).
In general the Video Downloads (Direct Downloads) forum will have some gems you may not be able to locate through normal channels, but most of the time you can find exactly the title you want (or never knew you needed until then). The uploaders are top notch and usually give you the catalogue code (something like CPSKY-213. Sometimes in brackets), runtime and the name of the DVD and the girl(s) starring in it, in both English and Japanese characters (the names in Japanese is important as the sites I link to either prefer it or won’t work without them), as well as the DVD cover and screenshots from the title:
If you’re still not sure give it a download to see if it is something that you want to part your money with. Sometimes the cover isn’t great or there isn’t one. In this case use Google and search for the catalogue number in the normal web search and in the Image search. I say to search the normal web interface because it’ll bring up sites like Oimoya-Shop which is useful as it has cover images and sometimes preview videos you can watch (It’s also a physical shop that you can visit in Japan ;) ) and U-15 天堂, which has a big collection of Jr. items on the site, including magazines, with lots of screencaps (I also use this site to find new items I would like to purchase ;) ). Sometimes you will come across a magnificent cover image in the Google Image results, but the site hosting it will be blocking non-Japanese IP’s from accessing it. In that case use http://japanweb.info/ and you’ll be laughing.
The Media Reviews section hosts members reviews of content they have bought or downloaded. It is something you may want to take with a grain of salt, and they can be rather old, but in general having someone else’s opinion does help. On a few occasions it’s helped me get things that I now absolutely love (the same thing goes for the Video Downloads section. I found both Miyuu Sasaki and Aikawa Seina from Kawaii 15 :D)
The last forum is Junior Idol (Online) Shops and it’s invaluable! It lists known usable online shops for Junior Idol goods and how to use them, if they are a little complicated to use. The guides that currently work are always in pink and are a sticky at the top of the forum:
As new places are found and verified as allowing foreign purchase they are added by members to the forum. The forum is also filled with the remnants of former gaijin-friendly sites, which is sad that it’s dwindle to only a handful. There use to be a site called Catalogue 55 that had EVERYTHING you could want. It went out of business last year unfortunately and nothing has taken its place yet, nor does it look like there is going to be.
The only places I regularly purchase Jr. Idol items from are Amazon Japan, HMV, YesAsia (sometimes. They don’t have the largest Jr. Idol catalogue), and Global Rakuten. Amazon Japan is the only place that has a reasonable sized collection of Jr. goods. They carry DVD’s and Photobooks (if you’re lucky) and are a breeze to buy from as they have the site in both Japanese and English (though using Japanese for searches works best ;) ). The only annoying part of Amazon Japan is that they don’t reference item’s catalogue codes, you can search using them but items don’t display what it is. HMV and YesAsia are quite good and can sometimes turn up little beauties of finds. They are in English and can be searched in both English and Japanese. Again, they don’t have the largest of Jr. collections, but they generally stock the more known idols. I got most of my Yukari Nakai DVD’s and Photobook from HMV and most of my Suzuka Morita ones from YesAsia .
Global Rakuten is my latest find. It’s in English, searchable in Japanese, and can ship direct from the marketplace to you without a middle host buyer. If you find this banner on a shops page:
then the store can communicate with you in English, and accept foreign forms of payment as well as ship outside of Japan. Not all places have it but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy from them, it just may mean communication is a little difficult. When searching you can either look for items that can be shipped direct to you (in my case Australia) or through the Tenso.com forwarding service:
The forwarding service is VERY useful for items you must have. It is going to be more expensive as you have to pay middle-man fees on top of the item, as well as both shipping fees (in Japan + overseas shipping).
The same is true for Ohta and his business SmileTrade:
I use his services for Yahoo! Japan Auctions. I started using him for Hello!Project and Idoling!!! goods, but he can get anything for you (but keep in mind to keep what you ask him to get clean, as in not risqué items). To get an item from an auction site, or indeed from the Amazon Japan marketplace or any other Japanese only site, email him with the URL of the item you want, along with the maximum price you are will to pay, if it’s an auction. He will do his calculations (commission etc…), you PayPal him the money and he will bid on the item on your behalf up to your limit (keep a watch on the item yourself and if it is in danger of going over what you told him let him know you would like to increase your limit). If he is unsuccessful he gives the money back, if the item is won for you and at a cheaper price than your maximum then the excess is refunded or used in shipping etc… Go to his website for up-to-date instructions and commission levels. He can also get concert tickets ;)
To search Yahoo! Japan Auctions just type in your search term, in Japanese (the title of the item or the Juniors name, for example), in the top search field and then press the search button to the right (don’t worry about changing categories because you don’t need to):
You will be given a list of all items available matching your search query. Find something you like, if you’re using Google Chrome then click the translate button (I highly recommend Chrome for Jr. Idol work ;) ) and find out what information the seller has on the item such as whether it’s new or used etc… then head on over to Ohta =) Simple, right? Just be prepared for the final cost, as well as none of the money being paid will reach the production company nor the idol, it’s mainly for out-of-print items and merchandise otherwise out of our reach as foreigners.
Not sure if this has be useful at all, but I’ll hopefully keep updating this with future things I use and ironing out any bad bits.