My first employer in Japan insisted on new employees shipping luggage from Narita Airport to the placement city. This is how I experienced Japan’s incredible system for moving just about anything around the country. Service is fast, convenient and reasonably priced.
How much does it cost?
Costs are hard to pin down because no too bags are alike but we have not seen much price difference in the last eight years shipping while living in Japan and when travelling to Japan. (Prices will likely have gone up since the April 1, 2014 tax increase.)
Air Canada’s weight limits for a checked bag between Canada and Japan are 23 kg or 50 lbs. Using these weights as a guide, we have not generally paid more than about Y3,000/bag (say $30-$35 depending on the exchange rate) to ship between Tokyo and Kyoto, Ibaraki, Fukushima and Akita. This has included suitcases and packs close to the max weight and snowboards in board bags.
Getting from Narita to Tokyo with and without shipping – what a difference
The advantage of shipping is you don’t need to take your bags on public transportation. This may seem painfully obvious but I have seen the following scenario many times.
You arrive at Narita Airport and want to get to Tokyo. You roll/carry/drag your bags through long halls and down multiple escalators to your train of choice in the heat and sticky humidity of summer after you’ve sat on a plane for far too many hours. Next, you pull/push/lug those bags onto a train and bump them down the aisle (because you got on the wrong door), lift them up to the racks (because the lowest level is always taken) and trudge back to your seat where you finally collapse, limp and exhausted. Then imagine doing this with only a carry on!
Two Shipping Companies – how they work and who they are
Note: Links below go to external sites and are current as of May 2014.
If you are at the airport, shipping companies have booths in both terminals at Narita. Narita Airport’s web site has interactive maps to show you the way. Same day shipping is usually not possible for Tokyo unless your flight arrives early in the morning.
When you are bopping around Japan, shipping companies pick up from your door or you can leave luggage at some convenience stores and all depots. Look for signs outside or ask in the store. The signs are logos of shipping companies. Depots are obvious and are not necessarily in remote locations. In fact, there was a Yamato depot a few blocks from where we lived in Adachi Ward.
Two companies we have used many times are Yamato (Black Cat or Kuro Neko) and Sagawa. Yamato’s logo is a black cat carrying a kitten and Sagawa is a blue and grey sort of arrow without the stick. Yamato’s forms are bilingual and the web site shows how to complete them. My mother was worried about this next point – you don’t have to use Japanese on the forms. English is fine.
Leaving Japan and shipping your bags to the airport
You can ship your bags back to the airport from your accommodation or some convenience stores when you leave. Your bags will be waiting at the terminal you are leaving from at the booth of the company you chose. I discovered though that same day shipping for departures is usually impossible.
Check with your airline to see if they offer free or specialized baggage delivery service. I found this out after I flew on JAL. ANA has a similar program.
Do you now dream about shipping your bags? Have you used shipping services in Japan?