Importing from Japan to the UK: A Business Guide

Japan’s economy is one of the biggest in the world. The UK exports to Japan to the tune of almost £9.6 billion a year, so it’s not surprising that importation from Japan is also in high demand.

The country has a large industrial sector, and is home to some of the world’s best producers of motor vehicles, electronics, machinery, tools, chemicals, metals and more.

Japan is the EU’s second biggest trading partner in Asia after China, and the EU is an important market for Japan.

So if you’re considering Japan as a country to get your supplies or your goods from, then this guide to importing from Japan will show you what you need to do for a successful venture.


Japan Fact File:

Official Language: Japanese
Currency: Yen
GDP: 3.2trn (estimate)
Calling Code: +81
Capital City: Tokyo
Largest City: Tokyo
Population: 126,880,000

Shipping Costs

There are a number of different ways that you can get your goods from Japan to the UK. Air freight is likely to be the fastest, but you can choose from sea, road and rail options too if you’re looking to save on your budget. The type of freight that you choose will depend on the limits of your budget and the volume of your imports. The faster the shipping the more expensive it is likely to be.

Restricted Goods

There are a number of restricted and prohibited goods that you cannot bring into the UK from Japan. The obvious, such as illegal drugs, offensive weapons and obscene materials, are banned, while others are simply restricted. Some goods need an Import Licence. If you are unsure, make sure that you check.

Use the online Trade Tariff to discover the correct commodity codes for your goods. These are used to classify your goods, to make sure that you’re following the correct procedures and paying the right amount of tax, and whether you need an import licence.


Consult this list on for further information on which goods that you can and cannot bring into the UK.



As a UK business importing from Japan, you’ll need to fill out the right documentation and follow the right regulations. Because you are importing from outside of the EU, you’ll need an EORI, or an Economic Operator Registration Identification number. This is used for communications with customs officials to identify your business.

The EORI number has replaced an older system named TURN, so you may need to check whether your business has one.

Tax and Duty

Ensure that your business is VAT registered. This will ensure that you only pay one set of VAT taxes as opposed to the UK VAT and the Japanese equivalent together.

Make sure that you fill in a VAT return form, and you can claim this back if the goods are for use in business or to make taxable supplies.

You are likely to have to pay duty on the goods that you’re importing from Japan. The amount that you pay will depend on how the goods are classified according to the online Trade Tariff as detailed above.



You must declare all imports from Japan to HMRC using the Single Administration Document (SAD) through the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system. This records the declaration electronically, automatically checking for entry errors, and tracks the movements of goods within ports and airports.

Commercial Invoices

A commercial invoice is needed for your imports. They list information such as what your goods are, their costs, addresses, VAT numbers and more to ensure that your goods reach the right destination.

Work with TNT

Here at TNT, we make importing from Japan easy and quick. Our Express Import Services mean that you can get your goods imported on time and on budget. Our air, road, sea and rail freight network cover over 175 different countries, including Japan, so you know that instructing us to manage your imports will streamline the process and help your business save on time and money.