“Ii no ka? Yahoo! Auctions!” Since 1998, Yahoo! has dominated online auction services in Japan.
(I guess we’re writing a ‘Yahoo! Auctions Japan 20th Anniversary’ post next year…)
At the time of writing, Yahoo! Auctions has websites for Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Services for the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and Singapore all shut down.
Sucks for international users who want to buy from Japan online.
The biggest online auctions site in Japan
“So, Japan’s never heard of eBay?” – not exactly.
eBay did launch in Japan, under a year after Yahoo! Auctions got there. It wasn’t fast enough.
Like Wile E. Coyote failing to nab that Road Runner – again.
In those first few months, Yahoo! got BIG in Japan. Name recognition, reputation, the works. By the time eBay arrived, it didn’t stand a chance.
How did that happen? In Japan, Yahoo! partners with Softbank. Yeah, that rich and famous Softbank. That probably helped them a lot.
How Yahoo! Auctions works
Honestly, it works just like eBay.
What, you were expecting it to be more complicated?
It works like every other auction site. Search for items, scroll through the results, see current bids and how much time’s left. Place your bid… and hope nobody snipes you at the last minute. Or snipe them back. Up to you.
The main difference with Yahoo! Auctions is that it’s tailored for Japan. Pages are only shown in Japanese – unless you use a proxy shopping service that’ll translate for you. (Hint hint.)
The biggest hurdle for international buyers is Yahoo!’s ‘kantan kessei’ payment service. The exact same thing that makes it really simple for Japanese users. It only works with accounts and credit cards from certain Japanese banks.
Visa, JCB, MasterCard, etc. are all fine – as long as your account name’s in katakana. If you can’t fill in that bit of the form, you can’t buy anything.
Oh, the things you’ll buy… maybe
Shopping on Yahoo! Auctions is like wandering around a bazaar on holiday. There’s loads of weird Japanese stuff to look at. If you’re looking for something in particular, you’ll find it… eventually. If you’re just browsing, you might get lost.
Other auction sites have some stricter rules on what you can sell. Yahoo! Auctions gives users a lot of freedom. In 2016, a company used an auction to sell their solar power plant.
One recent trend is the ‘intai set’ or ‘retirement set’. Collectors who’ve decided to leave their fandom will auction off their whole collection at once. We’re talking thousands of Yu-Gi-Oh cards, or hundreds of retro games here. And sometimes they sell for enough cash that the seller could retire completely.
Just look at what you could win
We did some searches ourselves, to see what’s listed on Yahoo! Auctions now. We haven’t linked to specific items – chances are, by the time you read this they’ll be snapped up.
The obvious place to start was by searching for ‘omoshiroi’ stuff – funny/interesting. Top result: a small plastic model of an awkward-looking cat. Funny or interesting? You decide.
Results for ‘tsumaranai’ (boring) include several books on ‘how to talk so people won’t think you’re boring’. And that’s far from the only reading material. Checking out the ‘okashii’ (strange) listings led us to the ‘How to Living Dead Zombie for Dummies’ book. Written in Thai.
Then, we had to check out the big trends. You wouldn’t believe how many 1-yen Yuri!!! on ICE coasters are out there. And if you want pen-pineapple-apple-pen envelopes, Yahoo! Auctions is the place to be.
Using Yahoo! Auctions from outside Japan
So you don’t have a Japanese bank account. Or a credit card. You don’t even know what your name would look or sound like in katakana. How are you going to get your hands on those Yuri coasters?
The most popular way to buy from Yahoo! Auctions internationally is by proxy. Either a person or company in Japan can bid and buy on your behalf. You tell them what you want, give them the money, and they order it for you.
Check out how proxy shopping gives you easy access to Yahoo! Auctions in Japan.