Needless to say that luggage handling is an issue for travelers all over the world. Japan, however, offers a few solutions of its own including the excellent Takkyubin system which we have already explained at some length on Kanpai.
But since it is not always necessary to transfer one’s luggage from one end of the country to the other, coin lockers are a useful addition to this solution. There is nothing novel about this system though since it merely consists of different-sized plain lockers in which you can store your luggage for periods ranging from a few hours to a few days.
In fact, it is exactly the same principle as the lockers one finds in swimming pools and schools around the world.
Usage of Coin Lockers in Japan
Coin lockers provide very convenient solutions and are therefore largely used and even sometimes stormed, especially by travelers although not only passing tourists in transit.
Tourists, however, can rely on two specific Japanese features. First of all, these lockers very rarely get pried open so people can feel secure in storing their personal belongings there for several days in a row, contrary to how they might feel in other countries. The second feature is the almost complete absence of luggage racks on Japanese trains except in airport shuttles.
There are many different situations in which using a coin locker might prove useful:
- Trips of one or more days from a “base camp” location: you will be much better off leaving your bulkier luggage behind and save yourself the trouble of carrying it around during transfers or visits;
- Late departure or arrival from or to the airport and failure to find suitable accommodation;
- Hopping from town to town without much need for all your belongings;
- Or else the capsule hotel experience.
These type of luggage lockers, in addition to being extremely convenient, are found in almost every train station in Japan (except in very remote places), their numbers being proportional to the size of the station, and even on major tourist sites. So it is possible to store your purchases away in very crowded places in order to continue shopping with your hands free of carrier bags!
Sizes and rates
There are four main types of coin lockers in Japanese stations with the following typical features (via):
|Height||20 to 40 cm||55 cm||84 cm||103 to 177 cm|
|Width||34 cm||34 cm||34 to 43 cm||34 to 43 cm|
|Depth||57 cm||57 cm||57 cm||57 cm|
|Rate / day||300¥ (~US$ 2.90)||400¥ (~US$ 3.90)||500¥ (~US$ 4.80)||600 to 700¥ (~US$ 5.80 to ~US$ 6.80)|
|Availability||All stations + a few tourist sites||Large stations only||Major stations only||Major stations only (seldom found)|
The extra-large type is the least common; it is mostly found in the main stations of major cities.
The rates indicated above are for information purposes only, regardless of the drop-off time. Coin lockers are typically available from the scheduled time of the first train of the day till the scheduled time of the last train, i.e. from 6 a.m. to midnight in Tokyo.
Most of the time, payment is made with 100 Yen (~US$ 1.00) coins. Some of the latest models are equipped for payment by electronic means, with a Suica card for example, via NFC. In both cases (but more specifically in the first one), you need to collect your locker key. If you come to pick up your luggage after several days, you will have to top up the rate with the relevant number of 100 Yen coins or by using your card again.
To inquire about the location of the coin lockers, ask the staff the following question: すみませんが、コインロッカーはどこですか。Sumimasen ga, coin locker wa doko desu ka ?
Maximum storage time typically amounts to three calendar days (not 3 times 24 hours) although it may vary depending on the station concerned. Narita airport, for example, allows an 8-day maximum storage time.
For long-term luggage storage however, manned luggage storage services are available at major stations: at Kyoto station for example, you may store your luggage for up to 15 days.