Did you know that you can send your bulky luggage within Japan and enjoy a hassle-free journey on public transport? Here are some tips to help you get the most out of this magical Japanese invention.
What is Takkyubin / Ta-Q-Bin?
In short, Ta-Q-Bin is a next-day delivery service for parcels and luggage within Japan, operating 365 days a year. When you visit Japan, you may have seen this “black cat” logo at the airport, railway stations or even convenience stores in the city. These black cats denote Ta-Q-Bin counters, which are operated by Yamato transport, the biggest delivery company in Japan. Other than Yamato, there are also other delivery service companies, but I have not tried them myself.
Ta-Q-Bin counter at airport
How do I use Ta-Q-Bin?
Just find a Ta-Q-Bin counter at airport or railway station, or ask your hotel reception for help. The counter staff / hotel reception will most likely assist you in filling in the shipping form and arranging for the pickup. Most of the time, the only part of the form I have to fill in is my name and telephone number. It is also okay to fill in the address in English in the unlikely event that no one is there to help you.
Hotel receptionist measuring my bag for Ta-Q-Bin
The prices are determined by destination, size and weight– a cabin luggage will cost from c.JPY1200/one way within Tokyo & surrounding areas, and a full size trolley bag or snowboard/ski bag will cost from c.JPY1600/one way. I usually pay c.JPY2000 to send my snowboard bag from Tokyo airport to my hotel in Hokkaido. If you are sending bags TO an airport, an additional airport handling charge of JPY648 is applied.
When do I use Ta-Q-Bin?
Basically you will use it when you don’t want the hassle of dragging large or heavy bags around on train transport in Japan. In Japan, most tourists will use train and bus transport rather than taxis because taxis are very expensive. Due to high population density, such public transport can be very busy, especially during peak hours, so dragging big bags around becomes inconvenient and inconsiderate (as you are taking up space and time which could be used to sardine people into the trains). Here are the most common situations that I use Ta-Q-Bin for myself:
#1 For my ski/snowboard bag
I most often use Ta-Q-Bin to send my snowboard bag to/from airport from/to my hotel, so that I can skip all the unglamorous heavy lifting and crowd bashing on the train. This service works best when you are combining your ski/snowboard trip with sightseeing / city tour, as you will not need your ski/snowboard bag on the sightseeing /city part of your holiday.
BeyondBanality pro tip: Do not use Ta-Q-Bin if you plan to ski on arrival day (siao onz meh?), or departing Japan directly after ski trip (i.e. same day departure flight).The Yamato website advises you to drop off your ski bag 2 days before, although in all likelihood the bags will arrive the next day. For Tokyo area to Hokkaido, next day delivery is guaranteed ONLY if you pay express fee (however I do not find that this is worth it as it doubles the cost).
In my most recent experience (Feb 2017), I dropped off my bags at the Yamato counter in Narita airport (Tokyo) around 1730h on a Wednesday evening, and my bags magically appeared at my apartment in Niseko (Hokkaido) on Friday (my check in day) around 1500h. Given that I actually addressed the bags to the hotel agent in Kutchan and not my apartment in Niseko, they must have arrived in Hokkaido on Thursday (i.e. next day), such that the agent could arrange to have it onward delivered to my apartment on Friday.
Your bags will be waiting to greet you when you check in
#2 For shopping items that you do not need until you depart Japan
Most ladies will identify with this ! I often buy a lot of toiletries when I visit Japan, which are quite bulky and heavy. I will put all my shopping into one bag and send it to the airport 2 days before my departure flight, leaving only the essentials in a small overnight bag. Yes, you need to do a bit more “luggage planning”, but the upside is that you don’t have to drag heavy bags when going to the airport train or bus departure point. Anddddd I will try my best not to shop on the last day 😛
My Tokyu hands beauty haul
#3 As an alternative to purchasing luggage on budget airlines
With the advent of budget airlines like Jetstar and Vanilla air, domestic routes such as Tokyo to Sapporo can cost as little as JPY5000/one way, without check-in luggage. However, the cost of check-in luggage on such airlines can sometimes exceed cost of Ta-Q-Bin! For example, on Vanilla air, check-in cost of normal bag up to 20kg is JPY2000, plus an additional JPY2000 for oversized luggage (such as a snowboard bag). If I am not connecting to an international flight, I may choose Ta-Q-Bin instead of paying for check-in luggage.
For my most recent trip to Japan (Mar 2017), I stayed in Tokyo for 3 nights after a week-long ski trip in Hokkaido, so I decided to send my ski bag directly from Hokkaido to Haneda airport. It would have been unnecessary hassle to check in my ski bag from Hokkaido to Tokyo, then carry it on the train into Tokyo city, and all the way back again to Haneda. Paying JPY2700 for Ta-Q-Bin turned out cheaper and more convenient!
Ta-Q-Bin form (sending from Sapporo airport to Haneda airport)
#4 When travelling solo
When I am travelling solo I prefer to use Ta-Q-Bin as there is no one to watch my bags if I need to visit the washroom or go inside a restaurant to eat (as you know Japanese restaurants can be very cramped with nowhere to put big bags). Also if you are a budget traveller overnighting at the airport, who is going to watch your stuff when you are sleeping? Even the capsule hotel (9h) at Narita airport has no secure locker for big luggage (only a broom closet that anyone can open). It may be a little more expensive to use Ta-Q-Bin but definitely a more relaxed way to travel without worrying if someone is going to kidnap your precious snowboard while you are sleeping!
Capsule hotel Narita: The only locker you get
People overnighting at NRT Terminal 3
#5 When travelling in rural areas
When travelling in rural areas, not all hotels offer pick up service especially if the hotel is located within walking distance of the bus stop or train station. You often see people on Japanese travel shows walking to their onsen hotel while dragging their luggage, right? In the city, you can easily flag a taxi (albeit expensive), but in rural areas it is not a given that there will be taxis around. For example, when I visited Nozawa Onsen, my hotel was only 350m from the bus stop, but what I didn’t realize from Google maps was that it was 350m UPHILL. Almost died carrying my snowboard bag uphill. Should have just used Ta-Q-Bin to send my bags directly to the hotel. Or be glamorous and rent a car (my preferred mode of transport as you know!)
Do you really want to drag your bags uphill?
See my Japan sample itineraries:
- Tokyo and surrounds (4N): Sample itinerary and budgeting
- Hokkaido summer self-drive (6N): Sample itinerary and budgeting