Is Luggage Free Travel in Japan Possible?
Yes, luggage free travel in Japan is possible and is super convenient in certain situations.
What is Luggage Free Travel?
The system of shipping goods, including luggage, from door to door was first set up by the Yamato Transport company back in the 1970s. In Japanese it’s known as either Takuhaibin (宅配便), or Takkyuubin (宅急便), and it basically translates to express home delivery.
Image by Yamato Transport Co., Ltd.
Luggage free travel in Japan is an easy way to send your larger suitcases from hotel to hotel, hotel to airport, or airport to hotel. The service time is based on distance and the price is based on size and distance.
Delivery time ranges from same-day to 2 days and costs between $15 to $30 USD per bag.
How Do I Travel Luggage Free?
There are kiosks at all the international airports where you can drop off your luggage, fill out some paperwork, pay, and be on your way. If you drop your bags off before a certain time, and your hotel is within a specified delivery zone, you can get your bags that evening.
If you’re staying at a hotel, you can ask the concierge to send your bags to your next destination. They’ll measure your bags, fill out the paperwork and collect payment. It takes about a half hour to complete the process, so make sure you budget your time accordingly.
This is usually an overnight service, since most tourists travel long distances between hotels. That means you will need an overnight bag with your toiletries, pajamas, underwear, and a change of clothes for the following day.
Staying at an Airbnb adds a little bit of a challenge to this process. Since Airbnbs don’t have a concierge service, you will need to either locate a transport company’s service center or find a convenience store that provides the Takuhaibin service.
Is It Worth Traveling Luggage Free?
Not all the time.
I know, there are dozens of websites out there touting about how great it is and your bags are waiting for you at your next hotel after a day of sightseeing. While same-day deliveries may be possible for short distances, delivery is usually the next day.
When Should I Use This Service?
While this service isn’t a full proof solution, it is very convenient if you’re willing to go a night without your suitcase.
As a tour operator and a veteran Japan traveler, here are my suggestions of when to use this service.
Visiting Mt. Fuji – Most of the popular areas for viewing Mt. Fuji require multiple modes of transportation and are difficult to navigate with luggage.
Visiting Koyasan – Like Mt. Fuji, Koyasan is a journey full of packed trains, cable cars, and buses. As you can imagine, heaving large suitcases isn’t a pleasurable experience.
Staying at a Ryokan – Traditionally, these inns accommodated pilgrims and were setup to host guests for just one night. Most Japanese follow this tradition and only stay one night. So it’s not necessary to take a suitcase for just one night. Also, ryokan have traditional tatami flooring, and rolling or dragging large suitcases across them can cause significant damage.
Staying 2 or More Nights – If you don’t want to travel with your luggage to the next hotel, then this service will only work if you’re staying 2 or more nights. Remember, you more than likely won’t get your suitcase back until the following evening.
There are times that we use this service during our small group tours. And in all the years we’ve been running tours, it’s always been reliable. I don’t think it’s the ultimate solution to luggage free travel in Japan, but it does help.