The minimum font size for labels is approximately 8 point for all characters. Labels should include the following information (as applicable), in Japanese:
- Name of the product
- The word “Imported” and Country of Origin
- Name/address of the importer
- Ingredients, other than additives, in descending order of weight percentage
- Food additives in descending order of weight on a separate line from other ingredients
- Alcohol content
- Container Volume (listed in milliliters or liters)
- The net weight (metric units only)
- “Best before” date
- Method of use, storage instructions, or preparation, (when established by the Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare for the product, or when its absence could cause confusion).
- Labeling to prevent consumption by minors (All liquor containers must clearly state that "Consumption of alcohol by minors is prohibited," or "Alcohol may only be consumed by those ages 20 or over.")
It is strongly recommended that in the event that a product label does not clearly indicate additives, preservatives, coloring material, spices or flavorings, a certificate with detailed descriptions of the ingredients (i.e., the names of chemical compounds, chemical names and international index numbers on the colors) be attached to each shipment in order to expedite import procedures. Details of food importing procedures may be viewed on the MHLW website:
Also, visithttp://www.maff.go.jp/e/jas/ for information regarding the JAS (Japan Agricultural Standards) labeling enforced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Japan.
Beginning April 1, 2002, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) began enforcing the allergen labeling scheme on foods containing ingredients known as allergens. MHLW designated five ingredients as allergens subject to labeling.
The five designated foods (wheat, buckwheat, egg, milk and peanut) are subject to mandatory labeling. Foods containing those five foods, or ingredients prepared from them, must be labeled. If a food contains an ingredient made from a designated potential allergen, the label must identify the source. Please refer to the USDA FAS report JA5037 on Revised Allergen Labeling for more information: https://apps.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200506/146130065.pdf.
Genetically Modified (GM) Food Labeling:
In Japan, genetically modified content must be labeled when it exceeds 5% of the total weight. Wine products, however, are not currently listed among those food products that require such labeling.
Please refer to the USDA FAS report JA6013 on biotechnology for more information on Japanese labeling requirements for products derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or products containing ingredients produced from GMOs: https://apps.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200603/146176991.pdf.
- “Notification Form for Importation of Foods, etc.” – two copies required
- Sanitary (Health) Certificate, if necessary
- Results of Examination (from analysis of alcoholic beverage)
- Documents showing the materials, additives and manufacturing methods
Importers do not need to register as an importer or obtain an importer license.
Below are the import procedures under Japan’s Food Sanitation Law:
Before shipping a new or unknown product to Japan, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare requires prior consultation – this means the importer should deliver a small sample of the product to be imported to the MHLW port inspectors’ office, along with a certificate certifying compliance with required product regulations. Such samples will be inspected to insure that no importation problems exist before the product is actually exported to Japan. Importers of products which are to be imported for the first time must also submit reference materials showing a detailed ingredients list and the manufacturing process. Another option is to have a sample of the product tested by one of the MHLW official or registered laboratories located in the U.S. A full list of the registered laboratories is found on the MHLW website (http://www.mhlw.go.jp/topics/yunyu/5/dl/a3.pdf).
Once prior consultation is complete, importers should prepare any required documents and have them ready for the arrival of cargo.
Once a shipment has arrived, the importer should submit the “Notification Form for Importation of Foods, etc.” form or submit an online import notification. In order to submit the notification through the online electronic system, importers are required to register their computer terminal along with the necessary information to the MHLW beforehand.
The required documents will be examined by inspectors at a MHLW quarantine station, and if inspection is unnecessary, the importer will be issued a Certificate of Notification, allowing for customs clearance and afterwards, domestic distribution.
However, if inspection is deemed necessary, it will go through (a) an Administrative Inspection (Monitoring Inspection) at the Quarantine Station or (b) a designated inspection laboratory where it will have an Ordered Inspection or an Administrative Inspection other than a Monitoring Inspection at the Quarantine Station. If the shipment passes inspection, the importer will be issued a Certificate of Notification, allowing for customs clearance and afterwards, domestic distribution. If not, the importer must dispose or re-ship the cargo.
In order to see a chart depicting the entire process, please visit the following MHLW website: http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/topics/importedfoods/1-1.html.
Also visit JETRO’s Standards and Regulations website (https://www.jetro.go.jp/en/reports/regulations/) to see Japan’s Food Sanitation Law, as well as other documents which concern import requirements, etc.
The Customs and Tariff Bureau, belonging to Japan's Ministry of Finance, is responsible for administering tariffs. Japan, because of its membership with the Harmonized System Convention, uses the same classification system as the United States, which limits them to a six-digit code. Goods are classified into approximately 9000 items under the international conventions, and can be verified in advance through the Customs Bureau.
Customs duties and liquor tax apply, depending on the product. However, there are no quota restrictions on wine imports.
For the most current tariffs and taxes applied to imported products for this country, please visit the Online Tariff Database provided by Tariffic. Please ensure you have a 10-digit HS classification code in order to obtain tariff information. Also see the Census Bureau’s Schedule B search function ( https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/schedules/b/index.html), which allows you to classify your product according to United States export codes. Simply click "Search" and enter the keyword (i.e. beer) that best describes your product.
AG Trade Office, Tokyo
Alcoholic Beverage Tax Division, Indirect Taxation Department
JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization)
Customs Counselors of Tokyo Customs
Labeling and Standards Division of Food Safety and Consumer Affairs Bureau of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Environmental Health Division, Health Service Bureau
Japan Wines and Spirits Importers Association
The information in this guide was obtained from external sources, including the websites of various governmental agencies and organizations, direct contact with those agencies and organizations, and from Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Attaché reports. Consequently, the accuracy of this information depends upon the accuracy of the sources.
TTB is not responsible for the content of external websites.
This page was last reviewed on August 17, 2010.