I’m taking a bit of a break from my typical content to hopefully help some English-speaking folks with their travels in Japan. Note that I cannot take responsibility if this guide doesn’t work for you, if you lose your luggage doing this, or if the content in this post becomes out of date. It worked for me, but use it at your own discretion and risk.
Traveling in Japan is awesome. The sights, the smells, the food, the stuff— all of it.
But if you’re like me, you start to accumulate little things along the way, and if you’re really like me, you end up buying yourself a whole new suitcase to take your new trinkets home.
I personally hate being sweaty and gross traveling on trains and subways with way too much luggage in-hand. Thankfully, Japan is nicely set up for hands-free travel. You can still be a hoarder, bring gifts home to people, and not have to compromise with lugging heavy suitcases up and down crowded stairs and subways.
Ship your dang luggage for pickup at the airport! Go hands-free!
As of time of writing, this guide works for:
- Narita Airport Terminal 1
- Narita Airport Terminal 2
- Haneda Airport (International terminal)
- Kansai Airport
Check this site for more info.
Introducing Yamato Transport
If you’ve spent a few days in Japan, you’ve probably noticed these cute little kitties around town.
This is the logo for Kuroneko Yamato AKA Yamato Transit (fun fact: Kuroneko means ‘black cat’).
Yamato is a regional courier service. In all of my travels in Japan, their services have been available. There might be some exceptions, but I have yet to encounter any.
They will be our shipping provider.
How to do it
The basic steps are pretty simple:
- Pack your luggage up nicely, the way you would to check it into a flight
- Take it to the nearest 7-Eleven or Family Mart convenience stores (note: Yamato does not partner with Lawson’s at this time)
- Ask for a waybill from Yamato (if you’re nervous about language barrier, pointing at your luggage and saying “Yamato o-nee-guy-shi-mas” should get you what you need)
- Fill out the waybill they give you (more on this in a second) and hand it to the person behind the counter. They might measure and weigh your luggage. You pay them based on the dimensions, weight, and destination. It cost me about 2,500 JPY, or ~$23 USD.
The dreaded waybill
This is where I got the most stuck in my process. Luckily, I figured it out so you don’t have to. As of writing this post, a Yamato waybill looks like this:
I got stuck trying to figure out what the address is for the freaking airport. I called and called, with a heavy suitcase late at night. And I got it wrong. But Yamato sorted me out. Here’s the right way to fill out a Yamato waybill going to the airport (There’s a completed example below, for your reference)
Post code: Nothing
Phone number: Nothing
First line: Airport name and terminal of departing flight
Second/Third Line: Flight number, Date, and Time
Receiver's name: Your name, as it appears on your ID
I used the address of the hostel at which I was staying. And I used my own phone number, from the US since I was roaming while in Japan.
Up top on the right column, you’ll see some other stuff in Japanese only. One to pay attention to is the section with 月 and 日. This translates to month and day, respectively, equating to when you want your luggage to be delivered.
Yamato kindly stores your luggage for delivery on specific days, up to ~5 days in advance. I would suggest making this the day before your flight, to be safe. So if you were flying on August 14 for example, it would look like ‘8月 13日’.
Please don’t write this in yourself — ask the store clerk at the convenience store for help with this.
There are also a few other things to fill out with the store clerk. I’ve indicated them on the completed waybill, but they’re basically specifying the date of your flight, and your method of shipment. I’ve indicated these items in blue below. Your store clerk will also add measurements and weight, as well as time of delivery. Don’t be nervous if they bust out a scale and tape measure!
A completed waybill
When you’re done with your part, hand it to the store clerk to verify. It should look something like this:
When you’re done, your store clerk will give you a copy of your waybill. Do not lose this. It’s your method of pickup, so have it handy.
Tracking your luggage
On the top right hand corner of your waybill (not pictured in my example) you’ll see ~12 numbers, separated by dashes. This is your tracking number. Pop that number into this site and see where your luggage is! Note that it might take some time to show up once you drop off, so don’t worry about the first ~24 hours. Also note that a “held by Yamato” status means that they’re waiting to deliver your package at the right time before your flight.
When you’re at the airport, head to the JAL ABC counter. You can find the location of the counter here. Show them your waybill and your ID, and you should be getting your luggage back in a few minutes. After that, just take your luggage for check-in to your flight just like normal.
Final notes and potential pitfalls
It takes a bit of time for your luggage to arrive, so make sure you send out your luggage a few days in advance. Three is plenty, but even two should be okay. Again ask the helpful store clerk for help with this, or call Yamato in advance to ask them how much lead time they’ll need.
Hours of operation
If your flight is really early in the morning or late at night, make sure the JAL ABC counter is open. you can see their hours of operation here.
If you get stuck, Yamato has awesome English-speaking customer service. You can call them at +81–3–6757–1061 or 0120–17–9625.
Good luck and enjoy your Japanese travels!
I am a user experience designer from New York. I grew up in Toronto. I’m also the co-founder of SIBlings, a group of designers and developers that design and bring crazy ideas to life. We’re the co-creators of Emoji Salad, an emoji Pictionary SMS game that makes friends out of enemies and enemies out of friends.