What is the best way to ship goods from China to Japan ?


Because China and Japan are the biggest economies in Asia, trade flows between the two countries have become very important. As a freight forwarder in China, a big part of our clientele is composed of Japanese importers. Basing ourselves on our decade of experience between the two countries, we observed that the same questions are regularly asked to us, on the customs clearance procedures, the most appropriate freight method…

We decided it will be a great solution to build a dedicated article on the topic. No matter of the quantity, the category and the volume of the products you want to transfer, this article will probably answer most of the questions you’re asking yourself. Without regarding your experience in trades between the two countries, you will surely find new information helping you to start your import process or put it on the next level. We also putted several links and interesting advises that will help you avoid mistakes.

You can directly reach us, if you want to start your trade process asap. Our sea and air freight services from China to Japan enables us to transfer a full container (FCL) or less than a container (LCL), for normal, hazardous or perishable products. You’ve never been much closer from your Chinese supplier with SINO Shipping.

In a first part we will talk about the two freight methods linking China to Japan, sea and air freight. After, we’ll move on the customs clearing process and the trade relationsbetween the two Asian giants.




Can I be exempted of duties and taxes for an import from China to Japan ?


As there isn’t any Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between both countries, and that the China-Korea-Japan FTA is still under negotiations, it is almost impossible for you to benefit of a duties and taxes exemption. This is resulting in important paperwork and further customs clearing steps. Our great experience with customs in Asia is enabling us to take the process fully in charge, if you’re asking us, to ensure a quick clearance of your goods.


Necessary documents


Import permit in Japan

The whole clearance process is starting when your goods are entering the territory of Japan. You will be sent an import permit, that you should complete. Then you will present yourself to the Director-General of Customs, with the import permit joined in the import declaration file. The import declaration must detail the precise value and quantity of the items you’re importing. It must be issued to the corresponding customs desk, while your goods are already held in the customs warehouse. Also, the import declaration must be provided in 3 copies.


The Certificate of Origin (CO)

As you imagined, the CO is the official document certifying of the origin of your goods. It is witnessing that your shipment is composed of goods produced in a particular area of China. A notary public or a government must issue this document to make it valid.




The Bill of Lading (BL) or Airway Bill

After the Certificate of Origin, the Bill of Lading is the second most important document for your goods’ clearance. The CO is providing necessary details about your goods, while the BL is giving information about the cargo. It is also testifying of the payment process between the importer or freight forwarder to the carrier. A Letter of Credit (LC) will be issued after. The Airway Bill and the Bill of Lading are basically the same documents, but one is issued for an Air freight and the other for an Ocean Freight.

This example is detailing you what information a BL is providing:

1 = Shipper
2 = Consignee
3 = Notify party
4 = Vessel No.
5 = Port of loading / discharge
6 = Place of receipt / delivery
7 = Containers No.
8 = Goods description
9 = Net weight
10 = Dimensions / volume

Other documents

  • The Licenses, Certificates… (if any)
  • The customs duty payment slips
  • The Insurance certificate (if any)
  • The commercial invoice
  • The packing lists

Duties and taxes in Japan

Like most of the countries in the world, Japan is working with the Harmonized System (HS) of tariff nomenclature to classify traded goods. It is a combination of words and numbers used worldwide as a standardization scheme. All the products, no matter of their type are identified with a HS code.

The picture below is explaining the logic construction and the information contained behind a HS code number


You have the necessary information now to see what tariff barriers are applicable to your goods. Go to the website of the Tariff finder of the Japanese customsto know it.


You will normally find this result for pineapple :


Customs contact in China

China customs emblem

Customs contact in Japan

japanese customs

Customs process


When your products have arrived into the Japanese territory, the shipping company will notify you. If your importing goods for commercial purpose, your shipment will be designated as a “general cargo”. As soon as you receive the news, you should complete electronically and send the file containing all the documents quoted above to the corresponding customs office. Customs will use it as a base to clear your goods.


Here is below the custom clearance scheme in Japan:


Trade relations between China and Japan


A long time common history, with recent years of cooperation.


Historically, China and Japan have been more rivals or enemies than partners through times. But in a new era of cooperation, both countries are showing efforts to get rid of their common past and establish cordial diplomatic and economic bonds. Although there is still disputes about the claimed property of several territories, the two countries multiplied the meetings and negotiations to implement a Free Trade Agreement.

Recent statistics are showing that Japan is the second biggest trading partners of China, in both import and export, after South Korea. In 2016, 6 % of the goods and products exported from China were destined to the Japanese market. In value it represented a total transfer of 130 billion of USD. In the other way, China is the first import partner and the second export partner of Japan. During the same year 18 % of the products exported from Japan reached the Chinese market, representing 114 billion of USD in value.

This great numbers will only keep rising, if the China-Korea-Japan FTA is finally established in the next years.


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Japan is one of the largest world archipelagos, composed of more than 7,000 Islands. It is located in north east Asia, in front of Russia on the north, Korea on its centre, China and Taiwan at its southern extremity. The biggest area of Japan is composed by 4 Islands from south to north, Kyushu, Shikoku, Honshu and Hokkaido. A long and thin archipelago called Okinawa/Ryukyu prefecture is representing the country on its extreme south. The majority of the Japanese population, and the biggest cities and metropolis are on the Honshu Island. It is also where the biggest ports of the country are.

Thanks to a tradition of water navigation, and an obligation to find natural resources out of its own territory, vessels and ports infrastructures have always been something well developed in Japan. Nowadays, the country is the third maritime power in the world, slightly beaten by its Chinese and Korean neighbours. The busiest ports in Japan are Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka. Tokyo and Yokohama are welcoming a huge part of the imports in Japan, while Osaka is more focused on the exports. Tokyo Bay is the main port structure of the country which aligns 4 ports, Kisarazu, Yokohama, Chiba, Kawasaki and Tokyo. Terminals dedicated to the management of oil and chemical products are present in Chiba. Tokyo and Yokohama are the busiest container ports, far above the others.


*This is why in 2017, the volume of foreign freight by ocean was of 1,056 million tons, one of the biggest in the world.

Sea freight transit times


This table provides the average transit times required to reach the Japan from China:

Tokyo Yokohama Osaka Kobe Nagoya
Hong Kong
10 days 7 days 7 days 8 days
6 days

Sea freight rates


*As the two countries are particularly narrow, sea freight will almost be your all-time best option.

To be clear, ocean freight is well appreciated by international traders because you can transfer great shipments, for a very low cost. You will surely choose it if you’re planning regular cargo through times with large volume of products.



China and Japan are well connected by air. China Cargo Airlines is providing direct flight to the Airports of Tokyo Narita and Osaka Kansai, from numerous Chinese cities. China Southern Airlines is also linking directly Japan to China. On the other side Nippon Airway and Nippon Cargo Airlines are deserving Chinese cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou. 

Airports in Japan are well-developed and effective, even if they aren’t numerous. There are only 6 international airports for the whole country of Japan, and five of them are situated in the Island of Honshu. They are serving as intermediaries between the other 45 airports of the country. All the international goods and passengers are passing by these 6 airports before landing to their final destination in Japan. Here are the cities owning an international airport:

  • Tokyo; Narita and Haneda
  • Chubu
  • Osaka; Kansai and Osaka
  • Nagasaki


Air freight transit times


6 hours door-to-door are necessary for a plane to reach Japan from China. You will receive your products within 3 days, with an express freight (courier), while with a regular air freight they will be transferred in less than 8 days.

Air freight rates


*Two methods must be employed to find out the chargeable weight of your shipment

You must calculate the chargeable weight with the two methods, but the highest value should remain. It is the one that will serve to charge you.



* Your products will be differently charged for express services. The volumetric weight ratio will be 200 kgs = 1 CBM

Inland trucking in Japan


*As your office or residence isn’t located near a major port or airport, you may ask for a trucking solution to deliver your items. 

SINO Shipping is honoured to provide great trucking services in the most of the Japanese territory. On your demand, your goods will be delivered everywhere you are. All the airports and ports where we are in Japan, have a trucking hub to keep your shipment flowing.


Freight insurance


There is always a part of risk involved in a cargo. A ship accident, a theft or a storm are occurrences that should never be neglected. SINO Shipping teamed up with the greatest freight insurers in the market to cover your goods in any circumstances. With your subscription, your cargo will be refunded in case of any damage on your goods. It will only cost 1-3%, depending on your goods’ category, of the transport + shipment value.

A missing of supplies can be fateful for most of the businesses. Avoid this situation by providing further security on your products with our insurance policy.

Interested in our logistics services? Need further assistance & dedicated information?
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