You can easily make some money by selling your unwanted items online on Mercari, even if you aren’t fluent in Japanese! Here we explain the process step by step and even give you some copy-and-paste template phrases for your product descriptions in Japanese.

Thrifting for fashion and household items is a big thing in Japan at the moment. While you can definitely save some bucks from buying used, you can also easily make some by selling your unwanted items online on Mercari.

It is by far the most popular site in Japan, and the system is surprisingly easy to use and hassle-free. If you have intermediate Japanese language skills, you can definitely manage with the help of our selling guide:

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What sells on Mercari Japan?

If you have been in Japan for a bit, you already guessed it: branded items. Japanese buyers will love your international brand and designer items as well as popular Japanese high street brands. This is definitely true for fashion, but also for electronics and other goods. Unfortunately you will have a very hard time selling anything unbranded, even if it’s a handmade, 100% genuine leather bag you got on your last trip to Milano. It probably won’t come up in searches as it lacks a brand name and buyers will be weary if it really is high quality.

A good way to gauge if what you got will sell is to search for similar items on Mercari and see what comes up. You can see average asking prices and how popular something is from the number of likes and comments on an item. Also, sold items stay in the listings so you can check if people have actually purchased the likes of your item before.

Uploading a product online

You get to the upload page by clicking the red camera symbol in the bottom right corner on the homepage.

Below is a translation of all the functions on the product upload page:

selling online mercari Japan English translation
Photo by Mareike Dornhege

Best photos for selling online

You can upload up to 4 images per item and using all slots is definitely recommended. First, see if you can get a picture of the product from the manufacturer’s website. Then fill the remaining slots with 2–3 images of your actual item, both a full view and a close-up of the material/detailing should be included. Try to take the images during daytime for softer lighting. For clothes, having them either on coat hanger in front of a white wall or draped on a wooden floor seems to be popular.

Tip: If you have more than one fashion item to sell that go together, arrange them as an outfit and snap a pic. This makes the products not only look more attractive and highlights their versatility, it can also encourage buyers to search for the other items in the image that they might be interested in.

How to nail the product description

Here is an example of details to include to avoid a lot of questions:

  • Brand name : ブランド
  • Item type/model name: アイテム/モデル
  • Size: サイズ – List the size on the tag and Japanese equivalent.
  • Color: 色
  • Material: 素材
  • Measurements (bust/waist/length): バスト /ウエスト/着丈 – For skirts and dresses, include at least the length in cm. From my experience, it also helps to include the waist measurement.

If your item is a rather recent purchase, go to the brand/designer’s website and see if you can copy/paste the product description in Japanese. This will save you loads of time and you only need to add a canned phrase on the product’s condition and you’re done!

The different categories

First, here is a drag-down menu where you select the category in three steps. Most of the terms are in katakana, so it is easy to use. You will end up with, for example: ladies -> skirts -> mini skirt, which is レディース -> スカート -> ミニスカート in Japanese.

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If it is a fashion item, size can be selected next. Make sure to convert it to Japanese sizes (e.g. a European XS would usually equal a Japanese S). Then, select the brand.

Important: how to describe the condition of your goods

A really important criterion is the condition of the product. Even though it is a secondhand site, Japanese buyers expect immaculate goods unless stated otherwise. Overstating the condition of your items can lead to the deal being canceled or negative reviews, which would deter future buyers from purchasing from you.

Only select new/unused (新品、未使用) for items that are still in their box or have tags attached.

The next category, slightly used (未使用に近い) is good for anything you have only used once or twice and that has no visible signs of wear and tear at all.

For anything else that is in a good condition, used without visible wear and tear, then 目立った傷や汚れなし is a good choice.

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When in doubt, choose has some wear and tear or has wear and tear (やや傷や汚れあり/傷や汚れあり) to avoid disputes.

Also, state the condition of your item in the description.

Template Japanese phrases for selling online

Here are some useful phrases:

I only used it twice, so it is as good as new.

I used the product 3–4 times. It doesn’t have any noticeable wear and tear.

It is probably not anything significant, but I’ve set the condition of the product to “has wear and tear”. Please note that this is a secondhand item.

Shipping options

For the shipping options, it is a good idea to go with the default settings, as these are popular with buyers. Of course set your location to wherever you are shipping from.

Finally, set a competitive price by checking Mercari for similar products and remember that 10% handling fee will be deducted, plus a shipping fee if you decide to include it in the price.

Below is a Japanese-to-English translation of the shipping options:

Photo by Mareike Dornhege

Help! How to handle comments in Japanese

You will probably get comments on your listed goods from interested buyers, most frequently for a price reduction (値下げ). Offering a 5–10% discount is very common and you should start with that. Buyers can search in your profile for a list of sales and see how much discount you have given in the past, so don’t be a pushover and get stuck with steep discount requests from the beginning!

The shipping process

Our favorite part about selling on Mercari (compared to eBay) is how easy the shipping is. You don’t even need to write any postage labels! Once it is sold, I highly recommend that you select rakuraku mercari (らくらくメルカリ) as the shipping option. You have the choice to either post it from a convenience store or any post office (select yuuyuu mercari/ゆうゆうメルカリ for the latter in the sub-options) for ¥175 yen as long as the parcel is within A4 size and under 3cm thickness. Larger items also ship at low fees subsidized by mercari.

The postage will be automatically discounted from your sales price. Simply package the item carefully (using old shopping bags from fashion stores is a common thing) and bring it to the counter. Here they will scan your QR code in the app, print out a label, attach it and you are done. It literally takes a minute. The app will automatically update with a tracking number and the progress of the sending process. Bonus: your and their address stays private—everything will be processed by Mercari and Yamato/Japan Post anonymously.

However it is common courtesy to send some messages during the process. Again, here are some phrases for you to use:

Thank you for buying my item. I will post it shortly.
ご購入ありがとうございます‼︎ 配送までしばらくお待ちくださいませ。

It has been sent!
只今配送しましたので ご確認お願いします♫

If you don’t hear from them after that, you can write:

I see that the item has been delivered. Please complete the transaction (aka please leave feedback).

Money! The payout of it all

You can either use the money you earned as credit on the site or have it paid out to your bank account. Note that there is a transfer fee of ¥210 for payouts under ¥10,000. And most importantly, your profits can only be claimed for 3 months!

Do you need fluent Japanese for using Mercari?

Don’t worry about your Japanese, even if it isn’t fluent! I have a 5-star rating on Mercari for my purchases and sales and my Japanese sure is wonky at times, but other users really don’t mind. Just take good pics, provide detailed descriptions and communicate in polite Japanese, as Japanese buyers expect A+ service, secondhand or not. You will quickly pick up on Mercari’s own lingo and can just copy frequently used phrases.

So, have fun, make some cash and learn some Japanese at the same time!

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