The market for used goods in Japan is big and very popular. You can purchase almost anything from brand clothes to a car or a home appliance. In order to engage in the dealing of the reconditioned items of any kind, you need to obtain a “second-hand goods dealer’s license” or kobutsusho in Japanese. It is also sometimes referred to as an “antique dealer’s license” and the “used items dealer’s license”. In any case, it covers retail of goods that have been in use or in somebody’s ownership before.
This guide will explain which areas of the second-hand trade are covered by this license and how to obtain it. Getting a license is crucial in order to protect both the seller and the buyer from frauds and to help resolve issues with the stolen items that might have ended in the second-hand retail. For this reason operation without a license is punishable by the law.
Getting a second-hand dealer’s license in Japan
What areas of trade are covered by the second-hand dealer’s license?
In total there are 13 areas of trade that fall under this license. If you plan to sell a wide range of items from several categories, you need to obtain several licenses to cover all of them. Sometimes in addition to a license you might need a certificate that allows you to perform duties related to your main line of business. For example, a certificate for judging of antique works of art for export issued by the Agency of Cultural Affairs, or an approval of metal and scrap dealer when trading, for example, iron, copper, aluminum.
There is no limit to the number of licenses you can have. Thus, make sure that all of your items are covered by the appropriate type of licenses and certifications. The categories of trade are shown below:
- Bags, shoes
- Bicycle and their parts
- Books, magazines
- Cameras, video cameras
- Cars and their parts
- Gift certificates, tickets
- Motorcycles and their parts
- Office supplies, personal computers, home appliances
- Tools, furniture, musical Instruments, softwear, CDs/DVDs
- Watches, jewelry
- Work of art
When the second-hand dealer’s license is not needed?
The license is not needed when you are selling items that you:
- have once bought for yourself and used,
- have once bought for yourself, but never used,
- have received free of charge,
- bought during your overseas travel, or
- you are buying back the items that you once sold to someone.
Types of second-hand dealer’s licenses
There are two types of licenses depending on the way of incorporation. Second-hand dealer’s licenses are issued for the private entities (individuals) and legal entities (corporations). Keep in mind that you cannot perform corporate duties if you have an individual license, and you cannot inherit the business if you have a corporate license. You can always change your license type when needed.
Where to apply?
Applications are submitted to the security officer of the Metropolitan Police Department. Remember to apply to the department that has jurisdiction over your business address, not over your residence address.
Make sure to allocate enough time in your schedule as the application procedure may get lengthy.
The application costs 19 000 yen. Please note that even if your application was rejected, you cannot get a refund for the application fee.
Below are the core requirements to obtain a second-hand dealer’s license. The police may ask for some additional arrangements that are not mentioned here depending on your particular case. When applying for the license you need:
- a proper residential status: permanent resident, spousal of Japanese national, Japanese national, business visa etc.
- to set up a business office, have the contract papers for it.
- to set the plate with your license number at your shop. The plate is provided by the police officer when you get your license approved.
- to appoint a manager. It can be anyone of your full-time employees. Or you can be a manager yourself if you apply as a private entity (individual). Note that the person who lives too far away from the place of operation and cannot be present at the business office cannot be appointed to the manager position.
- a parking lot for a used cars business.
- any additional materials and arrangements that police asks for.
When you apply as a private entity (individual) you will need the following documents:
- A recent photo of your face.
- Your residence card. Individuals that do not have a residential status in Japan cannot apply for the second-hand dealer’s license. You can apply if you are a permanent resident, spouse of the Japanese national, Japanese national, you have a business visa, etc. Make sure to provide your residential address.
- Documents proving your identity. Submit documents that do not have your individual number (“my number”) code on it.
- Certificate of registered matters.
- A written oath where you pledge not to break the provisions of the Article 4 of the Second-hand Articles Dealer Act. Foreigners should attach a translation of the oath or the following inscription below the signature of the person signing the oath: “The content of the oath was translated into XX language and I have signed it fully understanding its meaning. Translator YY (signature) /stamp/”. One copy is for the owner, the other one for the manager.
- Brief biographical outline: describe the last five years of your work experience.
- Certificate of non-registered matters (a certificate about the absence of registration as an adult ward or as a person under curatorship, meaning that the signer has no mental issues that can prevent an individual from performing their duties by themselves. A person should be in clear mind and able to make adequate decisions).
- Documents proving your right to use the office premises: certified copy of the building register, rental agreements, etc. If instead of an office you have some other kind of room or building, you need to get the written consent of the owner to use these premises for your business.
- Ground plan of the office. For example, layouts from the rental agency.
- Map of the office vicinity (area to the nearest stations).
- Documents proving the right to use the chosen URL. For example domain registration documents.
For legal entities in addition to the above-mentioned documents you need to submit:
- A copy of the registration book.
- A copy of the articles of incorporation.
The police can ask you to bring more documents if needed because different types of used items need different supporting documentation. Before making an application consult the police officer about the set of documents you need to prepare.
License for dealing in a second-hand products covers a wide variety of activities, from personal items to dealing in cars and machinery to works of Fine Arts. You can apply for your license as a private entity (individual) or a legal entity (company). The up-to-date information regarding the application fees and procedures as well as guidelines for your particular case is available at the Metropolitan Police Department.
The police make sure that stolen items will not end up in the second-hand market and or cause damage to the trading parties. Be sure to obtain your license before the start of operations in order to keep clear of fines and legal consequences for running a business without a license.
Japanese Work Visa FAQ
How long does it take to obtain the second-hand dealer’s license?
It takes 40 working days. Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays and New Year’s celebrations are excluded from this number. Thus, it will take about 45 days since the submission date of your application.
What will happen if I run my second-hand store without a license?
Operation without a license can lead up to 3 years of imprisonment or up to 1 000 000 yen in fines.
Can I trade from my house?
Even though there have been cases that allowed to manage the second-hand business from one’s home address, it is highly recommended to set the physical store that is separate from your place of residence.
Can I trade over the Internet?
Yes, you can. However, you still it the license from the public safety officer. After you have obtained the license police has the right to check the related documents.
Which laws regulate the second-hand dealing in Japan?
The Second-hand Articles Dealer Act is the key law regulating the used items trade.