On Ebay and elsewhere, there's a seller by the name of Shinei. He/they overtook Ryu-Japans' shop, and they also have two or three of their own shops under various names on various websites.
For a long time, I bought many private collection items as well as others from them. They started the ads at a ridiculously cheap price and reasonable shipping from Japan. However, it seems that their practices have been increasingly erratic and outright deceitful towards their buyers. There is also some evidence that someone has created a shilling account to deliberately raise prices on their own items by placing false bids.
If Shinei feels that they are not getting enough money for their items, they should simply raise the starting bid price on their kimono. Many sellers like japanese.antiques and kyoto-antiques do this and sell successfully, at much higher prices. It is not fair to artificially inflate prices on buyers after the fact.
They also need to be more honest about shipping charges.
For myself, I am fine with paying for higher shipping than normal because of the vastly deep discount on the item itself; I even plan for a high cost because I only use EMS service. Otherwise, SAL may take months to get here, and has sometimes gotten lost on the way. I have lost quite a bit of money on items that never arrived and were past the date of dispute because of Ebay's policies. EMS costs two to three times as much, but it is well worth it! But then, Shinei has not inflated prices so much for me. Perhaps because I have shown that I can navigate the Japanese postal website, or because I tend to buy a few hundred dollars worth of items at a time. However, for other buyers, they have asked for two or three times the shipping price for any form of shipping on a single items. This is a ludicrous practice, and by the time you find out, you are often locked into a buyers' contract on Ebay.
Then there is another issue: dishonest selling practices regarding descriptions.
I have previously warned that many Japanese do not generally wear secondhand kimono items. They are mostly sold for crafting purposes, or to wear for events where something new and pristine isn't necessary. For example, I can wear wool or cotton kimono to a restaurant I am now training at, but I would not want to wear a new one because it will get stained easily. A used one with some damage makes more sense. But because these things are normally used for crafting, and not wearing, many sellers who do not natively speak English to begin with don't even think that Americans are buying with intent to wear, and therefore, neglect to mention damages. This is more of a cultural misunderstanding and naivety on their part, not something malicious. This is why it is a good idea to always ask about an item if you are not sure. Stains can be hard to see in photos; I have firsthand experience in trying!
However, Shinei has demonstrated before that they understand that these kimono are being sold for the express purpose of wearing, and yet they have previously intentionally photographed things in such a way as to disguise or hide flaws in order to sell them more quickly and at higher prices. Personally, I have come to expect damages to something I buy, regardless of whether or not they are described, but for some items this is inexcusable. It is one thing to photograph an entire item and have a stain that specifically fails to show up on camera due to whatever reason (such as the way the stains on my blue Taisho kimono won't show up because the blue colour distorts the lighting), but to specifically avoid photographing a section of an item with a very obvious damage or stain is deceitful.
Previously, I really enjoyed my experiences with them because I haven't had any of these issues yet. However, the complaints from other buyers are mounting. I feel I cannot support a business with such a bad reputation any longer. This is incredibly disappointing; it means raising some prices because many of the cheaper kimono item exporters have shut down due to the circumstances Japan is facing right now.
Mainly, my goal is to provide great items which are accurately described and photographed at fair prices, which can be shipped expediently because they are already in the country and are thus not subject to losing them in transit from half a world away. I can ensure quality of items before they leave my hands, and not leave buyers wondering at what they'll actually get in the mail as I do when I buy from Japan. I hope to continue to be this kind of provider. Some changes are coming soon now that ArtFire is changing their seller account structure, but the name and services will be the same. Please keep looking out for me, and for new items. I have so many things that I am looking to list because they are not vintage, and I do not want to falsify the information about them only to put them up for sale. They will become blog-exclusives, I think!