Lost in Translation
I am surprised that so many of you are interested to order brushes from Japan, I get many emails asking me for help so I wrote this little post containing some advice and one tip or two.
As you can imagine it’s not an easy process, sometimes you take risks because either you don’t know the brands or you don’t know if you managed to go through the whole process in a proper way, sometimes I click and pray that my European credit card is accepted, that they get to the right destination, that they deliver the correct products and that the products I chose meet my high expectations…
Brushes to me is Art, when I buy a brush I am ready to take some risks and spend some money to find unique treasures. I am very lucky to have found other happy souls like me who either do some research themselves or who enjoy splurging from time to time with more security. The info below can also be applied to any other items you wish to purchase in Japan but you’ll need to check the customs regulations in case the items are not allowed to enter the country of destination.
Japanese manufactured brushes is a tradition, to be able to pursue their tradition and quality they need to have a controlled production both with materials and craftsmanship, they just cannot multiply the number of brushes they produce as easily as machines could. Since the process is very local, often only a family business, the websites are in Japanese, the shipping may not be international and the production is very low.
Yes you may be …
but there’s always a way.
I don’t speak Japanese, I just use whatever tools and instinct I have to navigate the Japanese websites, so if I can do it, you can. Google Chrome is my best friend when it comes to Japanese navigation so first, if you don’t speak Japanese, you should install it. Go here to download it if you don’t have it and if you can install it. Once you have it, your pages will be automatically translated to the language you request.
Tip: Not everything is translated, text embedded in images is not, but there is a very useful tip that I can give you (works sometimes) : when you hover on a Japanese menu that didn’t get translated, there is a big chance that the text appearing at the bottom left of your browser, IS in English :
Not that this will solve all the problems but at least you won’t have to click in all menus to find the one you are looking for
Hakuhodo have two websites, the Japanese and the USA. You certainly know the USA website but not all the items are available. Today thanks to their comments in this blog we know that for some of the items not appearing in the USA store you can contact them and they will get them for you, for other items you will still have to go via the Japanese website, then ask a friend to forward them to you or use a forwarding company like Tenso. Not all the companies agree to use forwarding companies so there, you may be facing another issue.
Their Japanese website allows you to engrave the brushes with your name. The letter color is not translated so either you type colors into google translate and then see if they are mentioned here or you ask a Japanese friend to help you… I am lucky to work with my dear Japanese colleague Samir, he is just two desks away from me and he is always very pleased to help (thank God!)…
Even with Google Chrome, not all is translated:
The Hakuhodo Japanese website has an English browsing area but in that English part you cannot put items in your basket, you will have to switch to the Japanese part to be able to shop:
My first Japanese order was a disaster but it wasn’t with Hakuhodo, my card was debited twice because they had cancelled the order then reactivated it plus I had many other problems -items not correct and the forwarding company I was using was not practical at all and made me loose money. Then I found other solutions, either colleagues travelling to Japan or other services that I will share here. The first time it’s complicated, but then it gets dangerously easy…
Others like Kohlindo (Chikuhodo), Now-eproject (Chikuhodo), Bonboncosmetics (Chicca, RMK, Suqqu, Lunasol, Three, etc), Ichibankao (Suqqu, Lunasol, Addiction, Three, etc) have easy delivery but are more expensive than buying products in Japan so you just need to know that.
Then you have the more difficult sites, where you may need some help. Koyudo is in Japanese but they have an international document that you can use to order and payment is by paypal. For others like Tanseido, Hakuhodo Japan, Kihitsu, Houkodou, Takeda it will be tough. You have a few options :
- You ask a friend in Asia to get them for you
- You go to Asia
- You use a forwarding “agent” (somebody who does that for you in exchange of a commission).
- You use a forwarding company
- You are adventurous
The #1 and #2 options are obvious, for the #3 there are some agents that I know, for example Tommy. I have been ordering with her for a long time, avoids me the hassle. Super easy, you send her your order, she checks the items and price, invoices you with the total and commission but she does all the job for you, then she ships the contents.
When you want to use a forwarding company, option #4, you have to find the one you want to work with (I use Tenso), you have to create an account and have the orders that you place sent to the address they give you.
When you are requested to fill your name in Katakana, it’s easy, click here and copy it from the Katakana result into the order form :
Note: you will have to translate both your names, not only the surname and there are many translators online, this is not the only one.
If you use Tenso, you have all the details on their help page, I have erased my personal details just to show you an example :
Tip: In some sites and forms, if you enter the zip code, the address will be filled automatically
As I said before, the brushes are handmade and sometimes there is no stock at all, when you place an order you’ll have to be patient and wait. For Koyudo, I sometimes have to wait 2 or 3 weeks and I am well aware that the communication skills are not always excellent, this is due to them not speaking English or not having enough task force to do it all and it is not that easy to hire.
Regarding option #5 – Be Adventurous – I am referring to new territories yet to be fully explored. I tried and found a few excellent surprises but not all is worth it and there is a risk. If you saw my posts about the Kyureido Fine-Kalla brushes, they come from Rakuten (the links are on the Temple in the Seller field, providing they have been bought via Rakuten). I was very lucky with these Kyureido brushes but it’s an adventure. It’s a bit like Amazon, the Rakuten seller I used did deliver international but some of the shops within this site don’t.
For even more adventurous research modes, you can learn (or translate) a few words in Japanese and browse in Japanese
Tip: Some brushes -even if stamped with different names- come from the same Manufacture, they are OEM brushes, they are not copies or fakes but they may come from a similar range bought by other companies for their own business.
Be careful with any online shopping you do, there is always a risk and neither I, nor my kind commenters will be held responsible of any issue encountered and sometimes, problems happen.
Note: If you come from the Hakuhodo world, or Chikuhodo, or Koyudo you may not find better options in Rakuten but if you come from the beauty counters that are commonly found worldwide (Chanel, Guerlain, etc) the brushes from Kumano are certainly of better quality vs price.
If you have the chance to go to Japan or Asia and want to visit the Japanese beauty counters, the only tip I can give you is visit the online stores, there is often a place where they mention their stores, for example Hakuhodo Japan, in their list you see the Malls are listed too, if you are at the right place but can’t find the counter, take a logo or a brush with you and go to the information desk, my french/spanish accent did not help but at the end of my trip I got better at Pictionary – but spent funny moments with the information desks. Try to draw a make up brush, a power adapter or an English keyboard and you’ll understand…
I am not affiliated with these companies, I just decided I would summarize this in a post to be able to answer those of you who contacted me. I have tried to contact Tenso for example to get offers or an “easier/cheaper” collaboration for you but never got answers. I also tried to get coupons for you with some brush companies but that is not easy… I hope one day it will be possible.
If anyone would like to add his or her own tips, please kindly do so