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The different methods of transportation between China and Japan?

Japan is an archipelago located in the North-East of the Asian continent. China, on the other hand, is located on the Asian continent. Despite the proximity of these two countries, rail or road freight is impossible, as the two countries are not connected by land.

The shipping time from China to Japan varies depending on the mode of transport chosen.

Trade between these two countries is therefore done by sea freight, as well as by air freight.

Below, you will find a comparison of these two types of freight, listing the advantages and disadvantages of each. We also list the major ports and airports. We'll do the comparisons, and then you can choose the freight that suits you best! 

Sea freight from China to Japan

Sea freight is often used to export goods to Japan due to its efficiency and reliability.

Overview – Trade relations between China and Japan

According to the most recent data of 2021, trade between China and Japan has continued to grow despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Regarding sea freight, China is Japan's largest trading partner and accounts for a significant share of its imports and exports.

According to data from the Japan Maritime Center, the total sea freight trade volume between China and Japan reached 260 million tons in 2020, an increase of 3.2 percent over the previous year. China's imports from Japan rose 1.9 percent to 61.07 million tons, while Japan's exports to China rose 4.1 percent to 199.38 million tons.

To transport these goods, sea freight is a popular means of transportation for exporters and importers. Rather cheap, sea traffic is very important in international trade. Ships carry mainly manufactured goods in large quantities.

In China, goods can leave or arrive from various major ports: Guangzhou Port, Shanghai Port, Shenzhen Port, Ningbo Port, Qingdao Port, Tianjin Port, Hong Kong Port, or Xiamen Port.

On the Japanese side, several ports are also able to receive and ship goods: the Port of Nagoya, the Port of Chiba, Yokohama, Kitakyushu, Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo...

Port of Nagoya

Japan's largest port by volume, the Port of Nagoya handled nearly 195 millions tons of cargo during 2019. Handling all types of cargo, this port handles ships from all over the world from the tip of Ise Bay, located on the east coast of Japan's archipelago on the Pacific side. Since its opening on November 10, 1907, the port has continued to grow.

The port of Nagoya also has the distinction of being the country's leading automobile export port. Indeed, more than 1.4 million cars are shipped every year.

Connected to more than 170 countries around the world, Japan's largest port is a key entry point to the country.

Website: Nagoya Port Authority


Port of Chiba

Located inside Tokyo Bay, Chiba Port is the second largest port in Japan in terms of tonnage, but it is also the largest port in terms of surface area. Indeed, the port covers more than 24,800 hectares. Each year, Chiba Port handles an average of 167 million tons of cargo, which represents nearly 65,000 ships handled per year. Container ships mainly handle industrial cargo, importing oil, liquid gas, crude oil and other petroleum products into Japan, and exporting mainly vehicles, steel and chemical products.


We can also mention other less important Japanese ports, but with the capacity to receive cargo ships: Yokohama, Kitakyushu, Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo...


How much time does it take to ship freight from China to Japon?

Average sea freight shipping time from China to Japan is between 3–14 days.





Shanghai 2 3 3 1
Shenzhen 8 5 5 4
Guangzhou 5 6 6 4
Qingdao 3 3 3 2
Tianjin 3 4 4 2
Ningbo 3 3 3 2
Dalian 3 4 4 2


What container can I choose for shipment between Japan and China ?

There are three standard container sizes:

  • The 20'GP container, with a capacity of 33m3
  • The 40' GP container, with a capacity of 67m3
  • The 40' HC container, with a capacity of 76m3

For each of these container sizes, two options are available in terms of ocean freight:

Special transports

Using a shipping container to send goods to Japan can provide additional protection during shipping.

Reefer container

When goods are transported in a refrigerated container, the temperature is controlled in order to preserve them throughout their journey. Indeed, the goods using this type of transport are so-called "sensitive" goods, that is to say they are perishable, or of chemical origin. Thus, different parameters can be controlled, such as temperature, atmosphere regulation, or humidity level. These containers are available in multiple sizes in order to adapt to each shipper's requirements.


The roll-on/roll-off mode of transportation, more commonly known as "Ro-ro", was created to transport wheeled cargo, such as trailers, semi-trailers, automobiles, trucks, or railroad cars. Ro-ro ships carry goods that are driven and towed on their own wheels, in and out of the ship.

The advantage of this type of transport is undoubtedly the need for less physical handling, but also its low exposure to water or any other weather conditions. This is mainly due to the fact that the cargo is stowed in the vehicle decks during the entire journey.

The goods transported in Ro-Ro are safer, and this solution is the least expensive for the transport of special cargoes.


The goods travelling by means of a "bulk carrier" are divided into two distinct categories :

  • "Bulk cargoes": they are transported in the hold of the ship
  • "General cargoes"

Each ship has a specialty (coal, ore, etc.) defined according to the goods, whether liquid or solid, for which they are suitable to transport: coal, minerals, etc...

Out Of Gauge (OOG)

Out of Gauge containers are divided into two categories:

  • The "Open Top Container": This means of transport is used to carry finished products of a relatively large weight. With this type of cargo, the handling is important, because of its loading which must be done with an overhead crane or a crane.
  • The "Flat Rack Container": This means of transport is used to carry oversized (in height or width), bulky or heavy products.

Open Top Containers are used to transport goods that cannot be transported using standard size containers. It guarantees the safety of the goods, and requires less time for loading and unloading.

How much does sea freight between China and Japan cost?

The cost of shipping by sea freight varies depending on the weight and volume of your goods. For these reasons, it is imperative to know these details in order to calculate the price.

According to the equivalence rule, the weight/volume ratio is "1 ton = 1 m3".

  • According to the above rule, sea freight, whether groupage or conventional, is established in Paying Units (PU). The UP unit of measure is equivalent to:
    • or in volume expressed in cubic meters
    • or in mass expressed in tons

Regardless of the unit of measurement, the number chosen will always be the one that is to the advantage of the carrier and corresponds to the highest number.

Example: The mass of a load is equal to 8 tons, and the volume is 10 m3. Here the price will be 10UP.

On the other hand, if the cargo has a mass equal to 9 tons and a volume of 4 m3, the price will be 9 UP.

As for the full container, the price will be determined on the basis of the "container package". This means that the invoice will be based on the shipping company providing the container, as well as the type of container used.

Rate surcharges

Additional charges, over and above the rates initially charged by the carriers, depend on specific contexts.

BAF : Bunker Adjustment Factor

This surcharge, introduced following the first oil crisis in 1973, is a percentage applied to the initial cost of freight. This cost fluctuates with crude oil.

CAF : Currency Adjustment Factor

This surcharge is a percentage that is applied to the initial cost of the freight and the Bunker Adjustment Factor. To hedge against currency risks, shipping companies prefer to use freight rates that are calculated in dollars, especially because of the fluctuation of this surcharge with the rate of this currency.

THC : Terminal Handling Charge

This surcharge corresponds to the handling costs, which means the loading and unloading of the goods at the port.

When it comes to containers, the amount is fixed, and corresponds to the price of a container.

However, when it is a groupage, the amount is variable, and the price corresponds to the volume or weight.

ORC : Origin Receipt Charge

This surcharge is introduced only by Chinese ports. It must be paid at the departure of the Chinese ports. The country's ports have chosen to introduce this tax in order to be able to finance their development in a rapid manner.

Port Congestion

When a ship is not allowed to unload its cargo at its port of destination due to congestion, shipping companies lose revenue. Indeed, ships sometimes wait up to several days before they can reach the docks to unload. To overcome this, they have decided to introduce a surcharge.

Surestaries (Demurrage)

When a shipowner takes too much time to load or unload goods, compared to the time initially fixed, it generates a loss of time, and thus a loss of money. To compensate for this, charterers have set up mandatory indemnities for shipowners.

This demurrage is therefore established when a charterer has taken longer to load and unload, whether or not it is due to his will, congestion or a strike.

In short, demurrage is the cost of leasing containers as long as the container is still in the port's fleet and awaiting shipment.

The cost of shipping goods varies depending on many factors. If you have any questions about shipping, sourcing, or storage of your goods, feel free to contact our DocShipper experts! They will answer all your questions within 24 hours. 

Docshipper advice: For all requests, contact our sea freight specialist between China and Japan, in order to provide you with the best solution at a competitive rate. Fill out our online form. For more information on this method of transport. You can also take a look at our dedicated page: Ocean Freight.


Air freight between China and Japan

Air freight to Japan is a fast and convenient option for shipping goods.

The different types of air freight

In order to get your goods to a destination as quickly as possible, air freight is the most appropriate mode of transportation. It will be the fastest way to get your product from point A to point B. This type of transport is also the most reliable. Indeed, air freight is used in particular for the transport of objects of great value, clothing, as well as seasonal goods, electronic products or / and goods having a significant risk of deterioration at sea.

Two types of air freight can be distinguished, both in terms of service and price:

  • "Conventional" air cargo: Goods transported by conventional air cargo are carried on scheduled commercial flights of airlines such as Air China, All Nippon Airways, China Southern Airlines, or even AirAsia Japan, and exploit the empty spaces.
  • "Express" airfreight: Goods transported by express airfreight use aircraft dedicated solely to airfreight. This solution is offered by courier companies, such as FedEx, DHL, UPS or even TNT, which offers door-to-door solutions.

The express service allows the delivery of goods in the shortest possible time. Regardless of their destination, they can be delivered by hand.

This service is an "all inclusive" solution, which means that the buyer does not need to clear low value shipments through customs himself. The cost of this type of transport is very competitive, especially for goods with a volume of less than 1m3.

Why do we choose air transport?

  1. The speed

As we have said before, air freight is the fastest means of transportation. In the field of trade, speed has become one of the main criteria.

2. Schedule reliability

Since the departure and arrival flight times are scheduled in advance, they are relatively reliable. Moreover, if a good misses its flight, it will be able to take the next one, scheduled only a few hours later. This means that there will be very little delay in delivery.

3. Multiple destinations

Goods can be sent all over the world. This is due in part to the extensive network of destinations that airlines have, covering almost the entire world.

4. Low insurance premium

Because of the relatively short transit time, the insurance premium is quite low with this type of freight. Even though air freight is quite expensive compared to other types of cargo transportation, it still saves money in terms of insurance costs.

5. High level of security, reduced risk of theft and damage

The airport areas are very strict and controlled. Thus, thefts and damages are reduced. Security is therefore increased with the use of air cargo.

6. The need for storage and low storage

In terms of storage, air freight is advantageous because it requires very little. There is no need to have storage warehouses, as goods are shipped regularly and in small quantities. The goods also spend less time with customs, inspection and handling. They are released after only a few hours.

7. The need for low packaging

Air freight does not require as much packaging as other types of freight. This saves money by avoiding the need to employ the services of professional packers that are essential when using ocean freight. This will not only save you time, but also money.

8. The follow-up

When a shipper uses airfreight, he usually has a tracking service, offered by the courier companies. The goods can be tracked from their departure to their arrival using an application.

NOTE : Air transport is only one step in the import/export process of your goods. The international transport of goods, especially by air, must necessarily go through the administrative services, but must also be the subject of transport cost study, including airport charges. Don't hesitate to call on our DocShipper experts to help you with all these steps!

What is volumetric weight?

  • For conventional freight: the equivalence rule is set as follows: 1 ton for 6m3, that is to say weight/volume ratio of 1-for-6, and a gross weight charge for a ratio of 1-for-6 or less. In order to obtain a volumetric weight used as a basis for pricing, the actual volume is divided by 6. For example, 1 m3 is equal to 167 kgs, that is to say 1 for 6.
  • For air freight: the equivalence rule is defined as follows: 1 ton for 5 m3, which represents a weight volume ratio of 1 to 5.  For example, 1 m3 is equal to 200 kgs, that is to say 1 for 5.


How much time does it take to ship air cargo from to China to Japan ?

The air freight shipping time from China to Japan can vary depending on various factors such as the airline used, shipping methods chosen, time needed for customs processing, and weather conditions. In general, the transit time can take between 1 and 5 days.

Door-to-door delivery between China and Japan

The door-to-door delivery method means that the freight forwarder takes care of the entire shipping process, from pick-up to the final destination. The door-to-door method can be used for any type of cargo, whether it is air or sea freight.

This method of delivery is very frequently used, and is very much appreciated by the customers. Indeed, this method of transportation takes care of all the procedures related to the transportation of goods. It is fast, convenient, because the products are taken care of from the beginning to the end of the operation. their journey: from the collection to the delivery at destination, which includes the stages of loading, collection, forwarding and customs clearance.

This method is not only a time saver, but also a money saver.

With an expert team like Docshipper, you don't have to worry about importing your goods, we take care of the whole process! We supervise your shipments from your supplier's door to the final destination of your goods.


Customs clearance in Japan

Customs clearance in Japan is the verification and authorization process for imported goods to enter the country. This is a mandatory administrative procedure for all goods entering Japanese territory, and it is supervised by the Japanese customs authorities.
Compliance with customs rules and regulations is essential when importing goods into Japan. Violations of customs rules can result in penalties, fines, or even criminal prosecution. It is therefore important for importers to comply with Japanese customs rules and to call on customs experts if necessary to guarantee a legal import.

Customs duties in Japan

Customs duties in Japan vary depending on the nature of the imported product. The duty rates of applicable customs can be viewed using the Harmonized System of the World Customs Organization (WCO)..

However, customs tariffs may vary depending on the nature of the products, origin and destination, and information can be updates regularly. It is therefore indispensable to consult the Japanese customs authorities or use a customs broker for up-to-date information on applicable customs tariffs.

The customs procedure in Japan

The customs procedure in Japan is a series of steps that you will need to follow to bring your goods into Japan. Here are the main steps of the customs procedure in Japan:

  1. Advance registration: The importer must register with the Japanese customs authorities to obtain an importer identification number.
  2. Customs declaration: The importer must provide a customs declaration describing the imported goods, including their nature, origin, value and quantity.
  3. Goods Inspection: Imported goods may be inspected for compliance with Japanese safety and quality standards.
  4. Payment of customs duties: The importer must pay the applicable customs duties on the imported goods.
  5. Customs Clearance Authorization: Once all the previous steps have been met, the Japanese customs authorities authorize customs clearance and allow the importer to remove the imported goods.

What are preferential tariffs?

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How to calculate customs duties and taxes?

In order to calculate the taxes and duties, there are three distinct points to consider: 

Step 1: Determine the "HS code" or tariff species of the goods.

There are 3 steps to determine the customs treatment: the customs value, the origin, and the HS code of the goods.

The HS code or Harmonized System now covers 95% of world trade and is used in 207 countries. This system was created in order to methodically and uniquely classify products in all countries that use it. Thus, a number is assigned to each good that is traded internationally. This makes it possible to obtain relevant data, such as statistics and offers to compare trade flows.

Here is the composition of a HS code

hs code pineapple

Does Docshipper charge customs duties?

Docshipper will not take any commission on your customs duties. Official documents, such as customs documents, will be forwarded to you after customs clearance. This will prove to you that we do not take any commission.

Please also note that Docshipper will collect the customs clearance fees. This is because our experts will put together the administrative file for you to declare to the customs authorities. The government will collect the customs duties and taxes.

Procedure and customs contact


Required documents

Bill of Lading

The purpose of the bill of lading is to certify that the described goods have been delivered by the exporter, in other words, this document is a proof of transport. The goods mentioned in this official document are taken over by the terms of the contracts between the transport company and the shipper. On this document are mentioned the prices of the goods and the names of the points of transport of the goods.

Being an official document, the bill of lading is legally valid. Every detail necessary for the processing of the freight shipment is mentioned on this document.

For air freight, the equivalent of this document is called "Air Waybill".

Packing List

Created by shippers for the different parties involved in the logistics chain, the packing list is required for all air and ocean freight shipments. It contains all important information such as invoice number, sender, type and number of packages, as well as the description of the goods, which must be identical to the information on the bill of lading.

Original Invoice

In order for your goods to clear customs, you must be in possession of the original invoice. Note that the quantity mentioned on the original invoice must be the same as the one mentioned on the packing list.

Certificate of Origin

Attesting the country of origin of your shipped goods, the certificate of origin is a mandatory document in the field of international trade. It notifies the country of manufacture of the goods. It mentions the country where the products are manufactured, not to be mistaken with the origin of the goods. This document is very important to allow exporters and importers to benefit from preferential rates of customs duties, which is advantageous for certain categories of goods.

Restricted and prohibited products

Some goods are subject to strict and specific import restrictions. Some also require licenses and/or permits.

Sometimes some goods are not allowed to enter the import territory.

In the following two lists, you will find a list of goods that have a restriction or even a ban on import.

Cooperation relationship between China and Japan

Signed on November 15, 2020, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a free trade agreement between 15 Asian countries. It includes 10 members of ASEAN: Burma, Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. 5 other countries also join this agreement: Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

After 8 years of negotiation, it is the most important trade agreement in the world, and will affect more than 2 billion people. Its entry into force is not yet active.

Note Docshipper: If you are planning to import goods from China, our specialists are able to take care of many other logistics operations such as customs clearance! For more information, contact our experts via our form, you will receive a free quote within 24 hours.

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