Package Delivery Issues
First, it is unfortunate but true that there are thieves who work for the local postal service. Some customers reported that the contents of their gift packages were opened and partially removed, so the recipient only received half of the contents. In other cases, the gift was missing all together and only the wrapping paper or carton was delivered, or the box has gone completely missing. This normally happens for the packages that have no tracking at all. So if you do decide to ship yourself: please make sure to purchase at least a basic postal tracking option.
Second, the postal service in Japan-apo-fpo regularly loses small packages. Once again, having the parcel tracked and insured will help to prevent a complete disappearance of the package. The best way to save your cargo is to send a big box weighing 1 kg (2 lbs) or more. In many countries such parcels are processed separately under the official postal stamp.
Third, concerning Customs in Japan-apo-fpo, their primary goal is to prevent drugs, weapons, explosive materials, and illegal products from entering Japan-apo-fpo. The list of products that are considered illegal would be pointless to include here considering that it's subject to change anytime, which would make this list outdated. In order to expedite the Customs process as much as possible, the paperwork must be properly completed and filed at the time of shipping. Customs has a right to open parcels and inspect them in detail. As you can imagine, this may compromise the appearance of the gift and damage gift wrap.
Customs does not normally open every parcel; these checks are rather random; however, their frequency increases when the declared gift value is over $100 USD. It is also more likely that your parcel will be opened when it has an unusual appearance: a "secret"-looking package (with a thick layer of poly-foam or multiple, visible layers of tape); a big box with noticeably small contents; gift contents that are shaking or knocking; or parcels with contents which can be interpreted as a powder are likely to catch the eye of a curious Customs agent.
Finally, when sending a gift containing a gourmet items you are limited to sending non-perishable items. So items such as cheeses and fruits are out of the question. Additionally, items such as cakes or chocolates are also tough to send as they are likely to melt in a hot weather or shipping depots in Japan-apo-fpo that are not always air conditioned. Also, fragile items containing glass or other delicate packaging must be wrapped inconspicuously, but then again, one takes the risk, when wrapping heavily, that the gift will be unwrapped by Customs and damaged further.
Is there a better way? Depending on the gift type you are looking to send, you can use a gift delivery company such as GiftBasketsOverseas.com - check our online catalog for delivery to Japan-apo-fpo or send us a custom gift request by email and we'll be happy to provide you with a custom quote for the gift desired.
In most countries, if the gift is over a certain value it is taxable, and Japan-apo-fpo is not exception.
The non-taxable amount varies greatly from country to country and is subject to change any time (ironic but true, this can happen even after you ship the gift to the recipient). It's quite disappointing to hear stories of gift recipients having to file comprehensive paperwork and being inconvenienced to file it with the Customs Office in Japan-apo-fpo. It's even more embarrassing to the sender to learn about the VIP recipient having to pay taxes to Customs. Some recipients are forced to do so since they are afraid to disappoint the sender and feel obliged to collect the gift regardless of the time, hassle, and money it takes.
Consider using a gift delivery service with a local presence in Japan-apo-fpo to avoid such disappointment.
Shipping Time Considerations
Between filing the paperwork, perfecting the packaging, cross-border delivery, Customs clearance, and local delivery within Japan-apo-fpo it may take anywhere between 3 weeks to 4 months (or more!) to get a parcel delivered to your recipient. So if you are flexible and the gift does not have to arrive on an exact date: this may not be of concern.
There is a common expectation about imported items in Japan-apo-fpo being overpriced on the local market. This is true about imported alcohol, some brands of chocolates, and electronics; these items may cost two times as much or more than in your country. However, the gift sender must also consider the costs of International shipping, packaging, insurance, and Customs taxes/duties in some cases coupled with risks described above.
Let's look at cost comparisons between Do-it-yourself versus using a Japan-apo-fpo gift delivery service:
In summary, it may cost 15-25% more to use a gift delivery service however the gift is guaranteed to be delivered to your recipient in 1-3 business days; there will be real humans handling your specific gift as opposed to faceless Customs agents and International Postal Services on both sides of the border.
Online Resources for shipping to Japan-apo-fpo
Do you need some help for shipping a gift yourself?
Below is a list of useful links to various shipping services that may help you get started: