by Bryce Marley-Jarrett
Everyone hates getting to their destination, then realising “oh, I need to carry my luggage now to my hotel”. Well, in a place like Japan there is a better way! Today we are showing you the wonder that is shipping your luggage to your accommodation in Japan! It’s cheap, quick, and safe! So say sayonara to lugging your luggage when moving around on vacation!
One of the things travellers to Japan say on their return is how the Japanese have mastered conveniences in everyday life. From vending machines, to convenience stores everywhere, as well as the to-the-second promptness of their train networks; Japan has convenience down to a science, and arriving into the country, travelling around and leaving with your luggage is no exception.
Luggage delivery services are plentiful in Japan, with three big companies offering the service, JALABC (a subsidiary of JAL airlines), Sagawa Express and Yamato (arguably the largest shipping company in Japan). These companies all have desks in the arrival halls in major international airports in Japan.
These (and similar) companies will take your luggage and have it shipped to your hotel, same day. YES! The whole you have arrived tired, sore, wanting to sleep and shower and now have to lug your luggage to your hotel, through train stations and up and down stairs, and luggage compartments, GONE. Your luggage will be at your hotel, waiting for you - in most cases by 5pm - so long as you’re staying in the closest city to the Airport (i.e greater Tokyo region for Narita or Haneda airports), that is.
NOTE: Make sure you have your hotel’s name, address and your reservation/booking name to make the process simpler. To make it even easier, print out the Japanese written details of your hotel too.
Once you arrive into Japan, and have made your way through immigration, collected your bags and cleared customs, you will be in the arrivals hall and you will find luggage services here.
Go up to the luggage desk of your chosen service provider (We have used both JALABC and Yamato) and tell them you would like to ship your luggage to your hotel.
If you have printed out a page with your hotel name and address in English and Japanese and show the attendant, they will either fill out the shipping form for you with these details or get you to in English and translate after.
The attendant will measure and weigh your luggage, and show you the total cost (average from an airport to city, same day is apx 1700¥ per bag (that is about $17.00 - yes that cheap!)
Pay the attendant, and they will give you a receipt and a carbon copy of your shipping slip which will have a tracking number (Keep hold of this!)
Go and start your trip.
When you arrive to check in at your hotel, present your shipping slip copy and ask if it has been received. They will bring out your luggage or let you know it is already in your room.
If it hasn’t arrived - and it is past the time the attendant at the airport mentioned, ask the front desk to call the company to check on it. They will be able to find out where your luggage is and give you an updated time on when it is expected to arrive.
Japlanning Tip - We would recommend that you at least pack a change of clothes in your backpack/bag you will carry with you for the day, just in case you need a change of clothes, or if there is a delay. At worst it may arrive the next morning, so you're not stuck (we have not had this experience, however always better to be prepared). If you forget or don’t have the room and your bags are delayed, you can usually find a Uniqlo or other basic clothing shop in most cities.
The convenience of luggage shipping does not end here: You can also ship your luggage from one hotel to another, and even back to the airport at the end of your trip - so it’s waiting for collection to just grab, check into your flight and not see it until you get home.
Shipping your bags to the airport to depart is great if you are taking a Shinkansen a long distance around Japan, as it takes the hassle out of carting your bags through stations, streets and worrying about finding compartment space on the train.
Before going to ship your luggage from the hotel to the airport, a day or two prior, ask the front desk or luggage desk when they will need your luggage to have it arrive at the airport in time for your arrival to check in for your flight. This also works for shipping to another hotel, as that will take min overnight delivery if it is in another region of Japan.
Take your luggage to the front desk of your hotel or the luggage desk.
Tell them you want to ship your luggage to your next hotel the airport you are departing from.
Present them with your next hotels address/airport in English and Japanese.
The hotel will usually have a luggage company it works with and have you fill out the packing slip, or will complete it themselves (you will find Yamato used more than anything).
The attendant will confirm the shipping time it will take for it to arrive at it’s destination (make sure you packed a change of clothes in your carry on).
Pay the desk attendant for the shipment (for estimates on what it could cost check Yamato’s rates table here), and take your copy of the shipping label.
On arrival to your next hotel/airport follow the following:
AIRPORT - Locate the shipping company’s desk in the departure hall and hand them your shipping note. They will locate your luggage and have you sign for it, and you can take it and check in for your flight.
HOTEL - When you arrive to check in at your hotel, the process is the same as if your items were shipped from the airport: present your shipping slip copy and ask if it has been received. They will bring out your luggage or let you know it is already in your room.
Note: Not all hotels are affiliated with a shipping company. If yours is not, and you really want to have your luggage to be shipped, you can find a 7-11 that handles luggage and organise it through there. More info on 7-11’s services below.
On our most recent travels in Japan, for the most part, we stayed at Airbnb apartments, which do have the downfall of not having a front desk for luggage shipments. Don’t fear though, you can still use the luggage service from the airport to your apartment!
Follow the steps above, and make sure you have your apartment's address details in Japanese and English to put on the shipping label. For shipping to private residences, I would recommend using either Yamato or Sagawa Express, as they have online English tracking. The company will give you a choice of time to select for delivery (within a 3 hour window) - and you need to be at the apartment to accept the bags, so this can eat into your day.
We found the online tracking from Yamato incredible valuable for this as we were in the area of the apartment and checked they were nearby and made sure we were at the apartment for delivery. However, if you are not and miss it, there is an English customer service email you can contact to organise re-delivery. But this will take up more of your time waiting for your bags.
Shipping between apartments around Japan.
Japlanning wouldn’t recommend this. Shipping between hotels is definitely recommended, as you just need to drop off and pick up and not worry about being there for pickup or delivery. However when you have your belongings collected and dropped back off to a private residence, you must be present at both ends. Most of the shipping companies will give a 4 hour window for pick up and drop off.
You will be wasting a lot of time waiting around at both sides of the delivery to ensure it happens. Be mindful of this when considering staying at an Airbnb apartment or home. If the convenience of luggage delivery is important to you, a hotel may be a better option.
Alternatively you can drop your bags at a participating 7-11 and fill out the forms and have it delivered, however you will still have the 4 hour window and the other end when waiting for the company to drop your bags off (unless going from 7-11 drop off to hotel). Yamato maintain a list of the participating stores, and the stores usually have Yamato’s logo on the outside windows - so are pretty easy to spot.
Luggage shipping in Japan is an amazing convenience, and is easy to use, especially if you are staying at a hotel. Staying at a private residence and shipping from the airport to the residence is a good option, however when shipping between private residences, Japlanning wouldn’t recommend it simply because you could end up wasting 4 hours at each end of the delivery waiting for a pickup and drop off to happen.
When you're on vacation you don’t want to waste your time waiting for a delivery truck. If you are staying at hotels though use delivery services! The joy of not dragging bags down streets, stairs and on trains is worth the $17-$30 you will pay per bag (price depends on distance of delivery)
Have you used any of the luggage delivery services when in Japan? What was your experience?
Tell us in the comments below!