This post originally appeared on a men’s fashion site I built months ago. I’ve reposted it here since the site it was originally published on is no longer updated.
Today, we’re going to look at a great source for buying used men’s brand name shoes: Yahoo Auctions Japan.
To most of us in the Western world, Yahoo is a dying brand. It’s the search engine you only use when Google isn’t returning what you want, or maybe an email provider you use out of habit. In Japan, however, Yahoo is a massive company that gets more traffic than Google and runs one of the country’s most popular mobile phone networks.
One of the best features of Yahoo Japan is Yahoo Auctions — an eBay-like auction site where people sell everything from appliances to designer goods. Thanks to the weak Japanese yen, Yahoo Auctions Japan is arguably the best place around to buy used designer goods, especially shoes from companies like Allen Edmonds, Alden, Red Wing, Loake and others. You can also find very competitively priced Japanese clothing and shoes on there if you look hard enough.
Yahoo Auctions Japan has several huge advantages compared to eBay. The biggest are:
- Pricing. Because of the very weak Japanese yen (currently 123 yen to the dollar, down from 80 yen to the dollar just a couple of years ago), prices on Yahoo Auctions are much lower than eBay for the same goods.
- Quality. For whatever reason, Japanese people, on average, seem to take better care of their shoes and clothes than Americans and Europeans. Most shoes are sold with their original boxes, sometimes even with the original receipts, and are usually in very good condition.
- Sizing. If you have small feet, you’ll find it much easier to buy shoes that fit from Japan than on eBay and other auction sites aimed at Western customers. There’s also less competition for medium-to-large sized shoes, since fewer people wear large sizes in Japan.
- Fakes are extremely rare. This is less of a problem for shoes and boots, which are rarely faked, but it can be an issue if you’re shopping for brand name clothes or high-end watches. I have yet to come across a single fake item on Yahoo Auctions, whereas fake watches and clothes are frequently sold on eBay.
To give an example of what’s available, while researching for this post I found a lightly used pair of Red Wing 8179s (a special Japanese product code called the 8130 Moc Toe Black Chrome in the West) for 10,000 yen, or $80. Beautiful, lightly used Allen Edmonds dress shoes can easily be found for under $100 Buy It Now, often with a free pair of cedar shoe trees included. There are also several pairs of Wolverine 1000 Mile boots in great condition available now for under $120.
Using a proxy shopping service
Yahoo Auctions Japan also has one pretty major downside: it’s based in Japan. The entire site is in Japanese, the products are sold and shipped from Japan, and you need a Japanese bank account and address to buy from pretty much all of the merchants.
Luckily, this annoyance can be fixed by using a proxy service like FROM JAPAN. This company (there are many others, just google “Japan proxy service”) acts as a middleman between you and the merchant. You send them the item you’d like to bid on and, for a fee, they will place your bid, deal with the merchant and make sure your product gets sent to you. All of the major Japan proxy services take credit cards and PayPal.
The cost of this is pretty reasonable. FROM JAPAN charges a 200 yen winning fee (about $1.60), a 5% commission on the price of the item, plus shipping and transfer fees. You can also pay for stuff like insurance if you’re worried about your item not making it to your country from Japan. In my experience, Japan Post and the various international shipping companies are pretty reliable, but since insurance isn’t that expensive it might be worth it for the extra peace of mind. You can calculate the full price of buying an item through a proxy here.
Searching for good deals
To search for shoes (or anything else you want to buy), just use the search on FROM JAPAN and remove all merchants except for Yahoo Auctions. Most results list the brand name of the item in English and Japanese, so searching for keywords like “Allen Edmonds” or “Red Wing” will bring up plenty of results.
If you want to bring up a greater variety of items, you can also search using the Japanese name for each brand. I’ve listed some of the most popular brand names in Japanese below:
- Allen Edmonds is “アレンエドモンズ”
- Alden is “オールデン”
- Crockett & Jones is “クロケット&ジョーンズ”
- Loake is “ローク”
- Viberg is “ヴァイバーグ”
- Red Wing is “レッドウィング” (Red Wing is very popular in Japan, so cheap used boots are easy to find.)
- Wolverine is “ウルヴァリン”
In my experience, the less known brands can be very tough to find on Japanese auction sites. You’ll get the best selection if you search for big brands like Allen Edmonds or Red Wing. Smaller brands are occasionally on there (and often massively underpriced) but the selection isn’t particularly great.
I normally avoid bidding on items and stick with auctions that have a Buy It Now price. You can save a lot of money by bidding, but I hate waiting and prefer to just spend slightly more to make sure I get a specific item as quickly as possible. FROM JAPAN has a sniper bidding service, where they will place your bid right at the end of an auction, which is a good way to get items below the Buy It Now price.
Japanese shoe sizing
Japan uses a different shoe sizing system from the Western countries. Most shoe sizes are calculated based on the length of the shoe, eg. 25cm or 27.5cm. You can use this shoe size chart to convert the Japanese size into a British, European or American shoe size. Most of the time, the auctions will list all of the relevant sizes, but occasionally you will run into an auction that only has the Japanese size listed.
Bidding, buying and shipping
Bidding through FROM JAPAN is pretty self explanatory. Find the item you’re interested in, check that it’s in good condition (you can use our guide to bidding on shoes on eBay for this), and place a bid or Buy It Now. You can pay using either PayPal or a credit card.
FROM JAPAN offers the usual shipping options — EMS, FedEx, and standard Japan Post. You can also specify the item value that you’d like to appear on the label, which is useful for people in countries with aggressive import taxes (although we do not recommend breaking the law). If you want to buy multiple items, you can ask them to combine them into a single shipment to reduce the delivery costs.
Have fun, and don’t spend too much
I discovered Yahoo Auctions earlier this year when I lived in Tokyo and filled my closet with beautiful shoes and boots, all while spending less than $1,000 in total. If you’re on a limited budget and want to buy good quality used shoes, I highly recommend taking advantage of the weak Japanese yen and getting a couple of pairs for yourself.
By the way, Japan has hundreds of excellent second hand stores offering everything from high-end suits to excellent Goodyear welted shoes, always at very competitive prices. If you ever visit Japan, drop into a Mode Off or Brand Off store to see what’s available — you might stumble onto a pair of excellent shoes for less than 20% of the regular retail price.