Straining to feed an insatiably gadget-hungry and fad-crazed populace, Japanese electronics companies churn out dozens of ultra cool items that take years to arrive on North American shores. If they ever do. Fortunately, several import firms specialize in shipping Asian electronics to the U.S., and it's all perfectly legal. Of the group, Dynamism (www.dynamism.com) and Japan Direct (www.japan-direct.com) are the most reliable and well-known by electronics manufacturers and hard-core geeks.
Based in Chicago, Dynamism specializes in tiny but full-featured
subnotebook computers, although it also offers a range of digital cameras and other gadgets. The company delivers overnight and offers free, unlimited toll-free tech support and free return shipping for warranty service - critically important, because none of the items can be serviced at U.S. electronics dealers. If you want to return the item, Dynamism will let you send it back for full store credit or for a cash refund minus a 15 percent restocking fee.
Japan Direct, a retailer in Osaka, specializes in the latest minidisc recorders and other handheld gizmos. Delivery takes a few days, and while the company also handles warranty service, you have to pay your own postage to get the item back to its offices in Japan. Tech support is only through e-mail; we received answers to several of our e-mails within 36 hours. As for returns, Japan Direct says they will consider them on a "case-by-case basis."