Back in February I took my daughter on holiday to England. I call it a holiday, but I spent the first couple of days clearing my books and accumulated clutter. I wrapped and packed 21 large cardboard boxes and asked a shipping company to ship them to Japan.
I found the shipping company on the Internet at http://www.shipit.co.uk/ . They offered a collection service and charged just under 800 quid to ship the boxes plus a William Morris carpet from mother’s house in Yorkshire to Kobe Port.
It was up to me to get the boxes (and carpet) from the warehouse in Kobe port to my house in Hiroshima.
I chose shipit.co.uk on the strength of their claims to take good care of packing, and also on the strength of the testimonials.
The lorry arrived in good time – always a bonus in England – and was gone in less than 10 minutes.
We then went away on our holidays to Blore Hall in the Peak District and I forgot about my boxes – after all, they were not due to arrive in Japan until the end of April or beginning of May…
One month later, back in Japan, I received notification that my boxes were still in England and that I would shortly have to pay warehouse charges. It turned out that I had missed an e-mail advising me that I had requested insurance but not paid for it.
When I saw that I would have to itemize every single packed item I decided not to bother with insurance at all since I had not written down a comprehensive packing list.
All that remained was for me to pay by credit card and, one month late, the goods were on their way. Meanwhile, there was a lot of news on BBC World about Somali pirates so I would not have been surprised had I never seen my goods.
Then, at the beginning of the month, I got a fax in Japanese informing me that my goods had been unloaded at Kobe and that I had a week in which to remove the said goods from the said port. There was also some disagreement between the authorities at Kobe and Shipit.co.uk as to whether or not I needed to present a Bill of Lading. Getting that sorted out took a few days.
The next problem was finding a shipping company to pick up and deliver the goods, oh but before that could be done there was a customs check, and also I had to pay 12,000+ unloading fee. But who to pay it to? I spent the best part of three mornings on the phone trying to organize everything, and the Mrs was assisting on the phone and Internet in the evening.
A week later someone put me onto a friendly chap called Mr Kurihara who seemed to know all about my case (I guess I was getting quite well known in his office as the private individual who was bringing 21 boxes of BOOKS for personal use through Kobe Port, which is used almost exclusively for the import and export business…).
Mr Kurihara laid out a plan of action in which he would estimate the cost of dealing with my case and would then go ahead subject to my approval. He turned out to be totally reliable and a few days later I paid the landing fee and the boxes passed through customs, onto a delivery truck and arrived at our house on Saturday morning, several hours ahead of schedule, for a total cost of 95,000 yen (I was expecting the cost to go as high as 150,000).
I was out when the boxes (and carpet) were delivered. The wife told me that there was just one delivery man who unloaded everything and piled it up in our genkan. Here’s a photo of the scene:
I have since discovered that the Japanese shipping company Kuroneko (Black Cat) has an office in London and that they ship goods back to Japan for Japanese tourists, so I guess anybody in England wanting to ship goods to Japan should telephone them first… It might save you a lot of hassle with the Kobe Port Authorities. If anybody has any legit stuff stuck in Kobe Port, drop me a line and I will put you in touch with Mr Kurihara!