I am starting to hear this one a lot, and it's kind of making me feel like a broken record, so I want to save everybody some time by making this post.
As there are so few people playing riichi out there, there are not currently a lot of ways to buy Japanese mahjong equipment. There are so few ways that a couple of simple questions will narrow your selection down a lot.
Do you want the Yellow Mountain Imports set?
Yellow Mountain Imports sells a decent set that's specifically tailored for Japanese-style mahjong. I don't own this set, but I've used all the different types and colors at length. They are basically the same solid workhorse set. They're on Amazon for $50. This is the easiest and recommended way to buy your riichi set.
Must the set be Japanese?
Mahjong is played all over the world, and any basic set will have the tiles you need to play, plus the flower tiles that aren't used in Japanese mahjong anyway. In addition to the tiles, all you need are dice and a scoring method (preferably scoring sticks, as they're easier for everyone). Most sets will give you this, and you can probably buy a serviceable mahjong set in your local Chinatown, if you have one. This is one way to go, and the USPML guys have a number of MJ sets that I'd rather not use than my Japanese sets, but which will do the job. Maybe you could find a really good set this way!
You've picked a hard road. You see, a quality mahjong set is heavy: over 2 kilograms. Shipping that much from Japan is extremely expensive. For (otaku) comparison, it costs 1,200y-- around $15-- to ship a typical Figma toy, which is about a quarter of a kilo. We're talking over $60 just to send the thing out. So I must ask you.
Are you in Japan?
Why the hell are you reading this? Just read the mjpai wiki and go to the damn store, armed with your superior knowledge. And get me something nice, please!
Do you know somebody in Japan who's going to be visiting you soon?
I'm serious. This is how I got my Take set: a good friend who was working in Japan for a while just went to Don Quixote and picked it up for me for 3500y. That's about $40 or so.
If you truly want to do this, expect to pay at least 6000 yen (so around $80) just to ship the item. I took a blind jump when I ordered my first set from Japan and I paid 7000y to ship a 4000y set of Junk Mat and tiles. It came out to around $120 for a convenient play mat and what turned out to be a cheap set anyway. I'm glad I have them, but it was obviously a terrible buy.
Rakuten will sell you the sets. Unlike Amazon.jp, they will actually ship overseas. However, as I already said, you will pay dearly. The Naniwa set appears to be the one to buy right now, and that will run you an estimated $140. japanese-games-shop.com also has a comparable price on the Naniwa set, and reachmahjong has the Take set for $140 as well.
Next post I'll show off the Japanese sets I have and warn you NOT TO BUY THE “DRAGON TILE SET” UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.