The order was placed with the Kôdôkan shop well in advance. Destination was the EC. Ordering and processing at the Kôdôkan Internet shop was straightforward and efficient. They got promptly back to check with the embroidering and I provided the name both in Western script as well as the correct reading in katakana. Because the person has a relatively long name the embroidering kind of skyrocketed the costs for the belt which were approximately 98 euros or $137, shipping not included. Shipping was another 52 euros or $73 for express delivery using EMS.
The belt was finished earlier than expected and they informed me of pending shipping and I received tracking information the next day.
The tracking information shows it took just 2 days to make from Tokyo to the country of destination. Still pretty efficient, the Japanese, when it comes to that. Then the local bureaucracy started. The belt was then stuck in customs for not less than 3 days. It left the next day to the post office. Then was processed in the post office only the day after early in the morning, but the post-office decided to keep it nevertheless to the day after before sending it out for distribution. So, all in all about 9 days ... 2 days from Japan to the country of destination, and 7 days in local to cover the 25 km (16 miles) between the international airport entry where customs are and my city. Customs then decided to add another 42 euros ($59) on top for import taxes and administrative processing. I inquired with them and the upper limit of costs (costs of the item + shipping costs included) that they will let pass without levying import taxes is 25 euros or $35. Probably won't apply to many goods which someone orders internationally. I also asked them why when I travel by plane I am allowed to import something like 150 ($209) or 200 euros ($279) of goods bought abroad for free, but why this amount is only 25 euros or $35 ? They told me they had no idea.
So to give you an idea, the costs of the belt in total amounted to something like 190 euros ($265): about 98 euros ($137) for the belt, about 52 euros ($73) in shipping costs, and about 42 euros ($59) in customs costs and yes, the 42 euros ($59) are not charged just on the actual of costs for the belt but on the costs for the belt AND on the shipping costs. So you basically also pay taxes on the stamps and wrapper.
So here you have an exact and detailed true example, not just a polished version from a company or seller. This is just for a belt. If it were a gi, import taxes would have been way higher and so would be shipping due to the weight. Also note that despite express delivery it still took 10 days even though the international trip took only 2 days and it was on a nonstop flight without any further need to be transferred to a connecting or domestic flight. So, it's as straightforward as international transport can possibly get.
Is there a way to avoid this ? Yes, there are three ways to avoid this:
1. Have it brought with by someone who travels in person from Japan to your country. He could take much more without being submitted to taxes since they appear to apply different maximal allowable tax-free imported goods.
2. Have it transported to a friend in a neighboring country also within the EC that does not apply the same rules and that does not stop packages with goods of limited costs and have it then send to you by him/her. The second shipment then comes from within the EC and no taxes will be levied to that, making the double shipment cheaper and likely quicker than the direct international shipment to your address.
3 Instead of having it shipped by post, pay extra for having it shipped by DHL or FedEx. For reasons unknown to me, packages that are transported by these companies somehow are treated differently. Perhaps this is because they use their own dedicated customs service and these people actually have a brain, I do not know. I have had several shipments by these courier companies to the same country and not a single one was taxed. Conversely, every single shipment I have received by post from outside of the EC has been taxed, UNLESS the piece is so small that it can fit within padded envelope and is likely considered as just 'mail'. In any case, despite the extra costs for FedEx or DHL, it often turns out cheaper because as you can seen the import taxes that were charged to me when using ordinary or express mail were roughly one third of the total price.
And of course customs also opened the package to inspect it manually. You would think that these days they have scanners and narcotics dogs for automated processing of small innocent packages like this and would only need to actually open those that trigger an alarm, right ? Nope, not here. It is still done the exact same way as when I for the first time I ordered a gi by mail directly from Japan I think back in 1992. At that time I was so stupid to think that it would be cheaper than ordering it through a specialized jûdô shop in France which was one of the few that in the 1970s and 1980s would carry true Japanese gi.
Anyhow, good luck, be warned.