You've probably seen the YouTube videos of Pokémon fans showing off cards in Japanese that haven't yet been released in English. You've probably also seen the videos where people rave about the quality of Japanese cards versus the other languages.
It's no secret, Japanese Pokémon TCG cards are pretty cool!
So you're at a point where you'd like to add some Japanese cards to your collection, but you're not sure where to start. Where do you buy them if you're living in the United States or Europe? How do you decipher the naming of the Japanese sets versus the naming of the English sets?
In this article, we're going to explore some of the Japanese Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) sets and where are some good places to buy them.
Let me start by saying that there are a lot of places to buy Japanese cards. I'm only going to be talking about personal experiences and successes that I've had as a collector.
The Differences Between Japanese and English Pokémon TCG Sets
There are quite a few differences between Japanese Pokémon TCG sets and English sets and its beyond just the language that appears on the card.
Here are some of the differences:
- The English and Japanese set names are different.
- The back of the cards have a different design.
- Japanese booster packs typically have five (5) cards instead of ten (10) like the English packs.
- Japanese booster boxes typically have thirty (30) packs instead of thirty-six (36) like the English boxes.
- You're not guaranteed a rare card in a Japanese booster pack.
- The card material feels different when held.
If you're new to Japanese Pokémon cards, I bet that list was longer than you expected.
Alright, now that we know some of the differences, it is worth digging deeper into the most complicated part of Japanese Pokémon card collecting. The set names!
Back in the 1990s, it was easy to decipher which set the Japanese and English cards came from because the set names were called the same. However, in modern sets, they are not the same.
Japanese Pokémon TCG sets tend to be smaller subsets to the English variety. What do I mean by this? Take the Pokémon Sun & Moon Cosmic Eclipse set in English. The Japanese version is broken into the following:
- Pokémon Sun & Moon: Remix Bout
- Pokémon Sun & Moon: Alter Genesis
Typically the Japanese set will be two smaller sets of the English set, but there of course could be exceptions.
So how do you know prior to buying these Japanese Pokémon TCG cards? I use two different websites to help me decipher what Japanese cards I'm buying:
The Bulbapedia website does a good job at telling me which cards are from which set, both English and Japanese. The Pokéllector gives me a nice list of Japanese sets and the Japanese cards that are in them. Put them together and I can figure out which English set a Japanese Pokémon card belongs to.
Buying Japanese Pokémon Cards Online and Understanding the Fees
Now that you have some sense of what makes a Japanese or English Pokémon set, we can focus on buying some if you're outside of Japan.
Please note that there are many sites to buy Japanese products from and those sites will vary significantly depending on what country you are shipping to. I'm in California in the United States and I'm only speaking on my own personal experience.
When buying Japanese Pokémon TCG cards, I buy from Plaza Japan. Many people will tell you to just buy from the Japanese Amazon website, but I've been burned with so much counterfeit product on Amazon in the past, that I just don't want to risk it.
The prices on Plaza Japan or any Japanese website may seem quite cheap up front, but there are a few things you have to remember:
- Japanese booster packs have fewer cards than English packs.
- Japanese booster boxes have fewer packs than English booster boxes.
- The prices don't reflect the currency conversion, international shipping, or customs fees.
The biggest thing that got me when buying from Japan was the currency conversion. I had anticipated a higher than average shipping fee and I knew how many packs I was buying. What I didn't know is how much PayPal or my credit card processor was going to charge to turn USD into Japanese Yen.
By the time it is over, expect to pay around $100.00 more than you thought you were going to pay.
The amazing thing is that when I ordered from Plaza Japan, I got my shipment in about two (2) days. This is faster than most domestic shipping in the United States. I don't know how that happened, but I'm not complaining.
Buying Japanese Pokémon TCG cards is a different experience than buying English cards if you live outside of Japan. You're dealing with different sets, different card quantities, and varying purchasing fees.
If you haven't owned any Japanese cards before, it's totally worth it!
Want to see a video of me opening a Japanese booster box? You can find it below. I even share with detail how to buy Japanese Pokémon TCG cards in the video.