It's time. Those of us who enjoy import games have put it off long enough. We waited, hoping for a miracle. That Nintendo would reverse its region-locking policy with a patch, perhaps, or that a third party peripheral manufacturer would create a region-unlocking device. That isn't happening, and the most recently discovered means of removing a 3DS' region lock involves a DS flashcard, Gateway 3DS firmware, and a chance of completely and utterly bricking your system.
You do not want to brick your system.
No, instead, it's time to start saving for an import 3DS. The Japanese library is diverse enough, the systems can be cheap enough, and it's easy enough to get one. It'll be expensive and will mean carrying around two handhelds at any special event where StreetPasses will be plentiful, but if you want access to every amazing 3DS game, it will be worth it.
Before we get into how importing a 3DS and games from Japan would happen, let's start with the real reason why you want one. Japan is getting some awesome games that aren't being released anywhere else. Daigassou! Band Brothers P, Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai, Game Center CX 3, Tomodachi Collection: Shin Seikatsu, and Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest 3 are all examples of absolutely incredible titles that are currently Japan exclusive and not terribly difficult for even people with little knowledge of the Japanese language to play.
The 3DS didn't just hit its stride in North America in 2013. Japan has started getting some truly notable titles as well and an import 3DS will be the only way to play them. Of the games I mentioned above, Tomodachi Collection is the only one actually considered for a U.S. release, and who knows if it will actually, really happen.
The way I see it, if you can name 10 games from another region that you'd want to play, then it's worth importing a region-locked system. 2013 was the year that happened for the 3DS, which means people should at least consider it. especially since it will involve saving up a substantial amount of money and picking the right means of acquisition.
The beginning of any import 3DS quest will start with the procurement of the actual hardware. It may sound simple, but it can actually be a bit of a hassle. Some of the more affordable websites, like HMV Online, will tease you with 3DS and 3DS LL models at incredibly affordable prices, but then refuse to ship said systems outside of Japan due to the lithium battery within. Amazon.co.jp also won't ship Japanese systems and games outside of Japan. Which means importers are left with three options. Two are easy, and one involves a bit of waiting and searching.
If you're into effortless import console ownership, you'll want to go with a site like Tenso or Play-Asia. Tenso is an international forwarding service, which means it would allow you to purchase a cheaper, or maybe even used, 3DS from Amazon.co.jp, HMV Online, Rakuten, or even Yahoo! Auctions. This would involve a service fee, but is usually a very simple process. If you'd rather not deal with an intermediary, sites like AmiAmi, Nippon-Yasan, and Play-Asia will sell Japanese systems at (usually) reasonable prices to anywhere in the world.
People willing to hunt for one, however, may want to consult eBay. Japanese-model systems appear there fairly often, and if you search for auctions and avoid Buy It Now options, you can find a system at a reasonable price, perhaps even with games. The only drawback is the fear that the 3DS you buy won't actually be a Japanese system. Which means if you go to eBay for your import, you should only buy a 3DS in a Japan-exclusive color. This may mean settling for an Ice White 3DS or Mint x White 3DS LL, for example, to be sure you're getting the right model.
Of course, a system is nothing without games, but getting import titles is far from difficult. In fact, it can be quite affordable. It isn't terribly difficult to find new or used Japanese 3DS games online, not to mention the Japanese 3DS eShop accepts credit cards from US shoppers. Pop in a 32GB SD card and you can build a digital, import library consisting of your dream games.
Region-locking is a hassle, and it's a shame that Nintendo couldn't be more open minded about it, like Sony, especially since we've reached a point where so many fantastic games are being announced and released in Japan. Which means those of us who can't live without these exotic treasures have to start making our lists and plans, seeing if it's time to actually take the plunge. I think we've reached the point where an import 3DS is finally a viable option. If you start taking stock of what's out there and what could happen if you decided to attempt the cheaper, more hazardous means of region-unlocking, you might agree.