There are a lot of sites out there that offer Japanese middle-man (aka proxy) services. They are all a bit different in terms of what extra fees they have, how they handle bidding for you, etc. Most of these sites all have an English version to them so you should do your research into what is best for you.
Here's what you should research:
Here are few recommended proxies:
I'm just doing this section on Yahoo Japan Auctions, since most other Japanese shops just have a buy now button.
Once you have your proxy, now it's time to buy that item! As stated above, depending on your proxy you may have to make a deposit to the website before bidding.
Here's a quick look at what certain parts of Yahoo Japan Auctions page mean:
Google translate is your friend! Be warned though, it often messes up the time remaining for some reason.
Your proxy will walk you through actually bidding on the item, and also on what fees you may have. You'll have proxy fees, but also the charge of shipping the item from the seller to your proxy. Some sellers do list shipping cost directly on the auction page, so that's something to look for.
One thing to note with Yahoo Japan Auctions is sniper bidding. This can actually be confusing as it's a bit different than eBay. If you place a bid within the last 10 minutes of an auction, the auction time is extended by an additional 10 minutes. This means that you can't full on "sniper" an auction, and the auction can go on a lot longer than you might expect! I personally have had an auction get extended for 3 hours over the planned end time because someone else kept trying to bid just a bit higher than me O_O
Once your proxy lets you know they have the item, time to choose shipping! Some proxies will hold items for up to a month without extra fees if you want to combine shipping on items.
Here are the common Japan Post shipping methods:
Most of these can have tracking added on if not already provided, which is highly recommended for the cheaper shipping options. You will also have to declare a value on the package. You can choose a lower value which may lower shipping cost, but note that if your package gets lost or damaged you can only get reimbursed up to that value.
At this point, your proxy will probably have a total for you to pay which includes the proxy fee, seller-to-proxy shipping charge, and final shipping charge.
If you don't want to use a proxy, but still want to buy some Ginga merch, here are a few sites to look at:
Remember that you can search Google with "# yen to usd" (or other currency) to get a very accurate calculation with current exchange rates. But if you just want to eye-ball really quick how much an item is in USD, this works well. If you have a trick for other currencies I'd love to put them up here too!
Example: 40500 yen
What to do: Just add a decimal point! The result will be a bit higher than the actual cost, but I tend to like that as I can "pretend" it includes the proxy fees and some shipping costs.
So 40500 yen is approximately $405.00 USD (Google conversion: $364.86 USD)