Guide to Hobby Link Japan

You have heard of this Hobby Link Japan online store but you need some guidance to help you through the purchasing process? First of all, this information might be more helpful to those people who resides in the Philippines, situations might be a little bit different for those who live in other countries. Also,the procedures […]

You have heard of this Hobby Link Japan online store but you need some guidance to help you through the purchasing process?

First of all, this information might be more helpful to those people who resides in the Philippines, situations might be a little bit different for those who live in other countries.

Also,the procedures stated in this article is based solely on my own experiences with HLJ (and may be true as to the time of this writing), so an experienced HLJ shopper other than me may have slightly different processes that works for him or her compared to mine.

So what is HLJ?

HLJ or Hobby Link Japan is an online store based in Japan selling items for hobbyists and toy collectors. I learned of its existence because of gunpla and recommendations from other hobbyists.

What are HLJ’s strengths?

  1. It offers you your own storage space in their Private Warehouse which they could use to keep your purchased items for 60 days or until you are ready to ship, this allows you to progressively collect the items individually and then consolidate them into one shipment package.
  2. The overall search and browsing experience using their site’s web shop user interfaces is pretty user friendly enough, I find it easy to use browsing their wide range of catalogues.
  3. Prices are never higher than the suggested retail price, you’ll find that the yen value indicated in the gunpla box is not always same as the actual HLJ price, so it means they are already discounted.
  4. Shipping fee estimates. HLJ can calculate a shipping fee estimate based on the items size, shipping option and the shipping address. You have choices for different shipping options, to name a few: International Standard (SAL), (Express Mail) EMS, and DHL.
  5. You can choose the currency at which makes HLJ to display all the prices in the chosen currency. Really useful function.
  6. Great customer support, when you met with some trouble about your certain order the first thing you need to contact is the HLJ customer support at trouble@hlj.com, they usually respond after 1 hour or so (We have to understand that they might have lots of customers to tend to as well if response time gets longer), but most of my inquiries and troubles were solved by them.
  7. The website is secured with SSL to protect the data you share with HLJ, and also login sessions expires quickly which adds extra protection to your account in case you left it hanging around, the drawback is that you need to login again each time your login session expires, sure that is annoying but is understandably there to protect your account from mishandling or breaching.
  8. Payment options include Paypal, which is what most people use today when purchasing on the internet.
  9. All year round they might have some promotional campaigns giving you opportunity for freebies and discounts.
  10. Most of the time they make some perfect job putting your items securely on their boxes. You will find some plastic cushions and bubble wraps.
  11. You can skip this entire article and instead go to their dedicated help pages for a more up to date info: https://support.hlj.com/hc/en-us/

Are there alternative online stores similar to HLJ?

Yes, there are other options if HLJ does not have what you need, I find Hobby Search and AMI AMI a great alternative to HLJ. In fact, I think Hobby Search does a better job at presenting item details than HLJ, for example they have scanned images of the manuals and pictures of the content, so most of the time when I want to look at a certain gunpla I search it also on Hobby Search just to see more pictures of the item I am looking to buy on HLJ. But today, let’s stick to HLJ.

HLJ Purchasing Guide:

I would like to note that its been 5 years since my first purchase on HLJ, and since that time HLJ had seen some changes in their web shop processes in particular their payment process. I will however just focus on the current purchase flow that I use as of the time of this writing.

What are the requirements for purchasing on HLJ?

Create an HLJ account

If you plan to purchase on HLJ then you must create a personal account on the HLJ website, this is a requirement for most online web shops similar to HLJs. Creating an HLJ account is the first thing you need to do, while there you must also fill up as much personal information on your HLJ Profile Page including your Billing Address

A PayPal account

PayPal is an easy to use payment gateway, it is one of the payment options that HLJ supports so you better have a PayPal account. To create your own PayPal account, a fund source may be a requirement, usually a bank account or an Atm credit/debit card. Note that it is also possible for Paypal to let you pay without you creating a Paypal account and just instead provide your credit card information, but I personally think that you are more secured if you do have your own Paypal account so your bank and credit card details are more safe then inputting your card details any time you purchase online.

A Bank account.

This is where your money will come from when you want to purchase via the PayPal. So you need to have one, depending on the bank account type you applied for you may obtain a credit or debit Atm card, in my case I have a savings account with a debit card. Most bank in the Philippines already compatible with PayPal, but you need to double check with your selected bank if their card is ready for use on PayPal. Note that HLJ has other options so they can charge your bank account directly, but I found the PayPal option much faster and easier.

The cart and checkout

Having all those three requirements you are now ready to go search for your items, add the items to your cart, and checkout. If you are confused about the checkout process then check out this HLJ help page about the “Checkout Process” https://support.hlj.com/hc/en-us/articles/200981574-The-Checkout-Process

The Payment method

If you have your Paypal and Bank ready for any online purchase (I assume you have checked and tested that these two works hand in hand with each other), then you must choose “Paypal”, this is the one I use currently, the difference between this new Paypal payment method versus the Paypal payment from the old HLJ in the past is that this one no longer emails you for a “Payment Request” that contains a link to redirect you to Paypal website in order to authorize and finalize your payment to HLJ using Paypal. I asked the Customer Support about this change in payment method and he replied to me with this link: https://hlj.com/paypal-switchover-explanation-page

This new “Paypal Billing Agreement” automatically charges your Paypal, so this means that you have to be sure that you really like to purchase the items in your order that you have checked out from your cart, once HLJ emailed you with “Order Confirmation” emails then you have about 12-48 hours to edit your order (to remove items or change quantity) before HLJ automatically begins the payment system on your order.

Once you received emails from both Paypal and HLJ about “paypal payment received” then that means your purchased items will now be put to your “Private Warehouse” or be shipped already if you chose the “Ship if Available” option to your order.

Frequently asked questions:

What does the item availability statuses means?

Many of my colleagues who watches me order from HLJ are confused with some stock statuses that HLJ has, in particular the “Backorder”, but for your convenience I will just give you a link to a better explanation from HLJ site itself: https://support.hlj.com/hc/en-us/sections/200200984-Stock-Status

How long does the shipping takes?

If you are in the Philippines, then based on my experience The worst waiting duration I endured was 6 months the fastest was 15 days, but on average it will be somewhere around 30 to 50 days. This is using SAL shipping option, the cheapest option there is. if you chose EMS, it will be around 15-30 day. If you are in some other country then let me give you a helpful link here: https://support.hlj.com/hc/en-us/articles/200989664-Shipping-from-Japan

Does the package comes to your door?

For me, no. It always arrives at the nearest possible Local Postal Office, I believe this is true for the SAL and EMS options, I am not sure with DHL and other shipping methods. What comes to your door is a piece of white card from Postal Office basically notifying you that you need to pick up your parcel at their office. In cases where the notification card has failed to reach me and 30 days have passed since the “Shipping Notice” from HLJ then that’s the time I go to my Post Office and inquire about my package or parcel, often times they already have it at first check. If you want to track your package then SAL shipping option is not for you, go try EMS shipping option, it has tracking number that let’s you know the location of your package.

Why SAL shipping option?

For one it is the cheapest shipping option there is. Sure it takes a lot more time to arrive since it is transporting your goods via the ocean, but I have never experienced any lost packages whatsoever, it will surely arrive you just need to be patient. I also tried EMS and it arrives much faster and has tracking, but one time I got one of my EMS package held by customs and asked to pay for import duty and tax for around 25 dollars, since that time I have feared using EMS and settled for SAL, and never had any extra duty or tax payments again. Note that there is also “Registered SAL” which slightly more expensive, I tried this one but felt like no difference with the “Unregistered SAL”.

Why EMS shipping option?

EMS or Express Mail Service, is fast and has tracking system. I feel like I may have been putting a lot of fear on EMS in a past situation where it might have been a single mistake by the Customs people subjecting me to pay import duty, so now I am actually reconsidering using EMS… in fact, my last haul as of this writing was shipped via EMS and it arrived only 7 days and no import duties to pay (to my relief), but the duration of the shipping was so fast, I remember my past EMS shipments are like 10-20 days, I guess express shipping nowadays have been widely improved.

Import Duty and Tax?

Yes, when you ship something from overseas it is likely to get taxed. I have been taxed once before when I used an EMS shipping option on a package that has a total value of 8,000 yen including shipping. It was dubious as to why they taxed me for such a package of only 8,000 yen in value, the people at the Post Office back then says to me that it happens some times, it might be just a mistake on the customs part. They also told me that you will only be certainly taxed when your package value is more than 10000 Pesos or 200 US Dollars. For more details about Import Duty and Tax with HLJ then read it here : https://support.hlj.com/hc/en-us/articles/200989674-Import-Duty-and-Tax.

What happens after the 60 day Private Warehouse runs out?

Any items that gets past 60 days in the Private Warehouse are subjected to “Auto-Ship”, this means that particular item will be shipped to you and you will have to pay for the shipping fee of that single item, if you have the Paypal Billing Agreement, HLJ will charge your Paypal and notify you with the “Shipping Notice”. I suggest that you need keep in mind your Private Warehouse items, HLJ will help you keep track of it since they also sends a weekly status of your Private Warehouse to help you determine the amount of days your items are kept to your Private Warehouse.

Update as of September 26, 2018: Hobby Link Japan has updated its overall site design, all the old functionality are still there, just a fresh new look to it. I am used to the old site design, I am gonna miss it but the new design looks lots better on mobile devices.

Update as of September 26, 2018: I have also started using the new design of HLJ site to ship my current Private Warehouse items. This time I will gamble and try to use the EMS shipping option, hope customs will not tax this package.

Update as of October 3, 2018: A successful EMS shipping has happened to me. It took only 7 days to arrive with no import duties to pay. I am updating my guide.

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