The Magical Japanese Art of Luggage Forwarding
As Japan has seen a resurgence of tourism, I’ve noticed more and more slightly-confused looking folks hauling their colossal suitcases around like traumatized barbarians.
If you’re one of these suitcase luggers, there’s an easy, cheap way to relieve yourself of this burden: takkyu-bin (pronounced: tah-cue-bean, written sometimes oddly in English as “ta-Q-bin”).
To send a giant suitcase to your next hotel — arriving next day, waiting in your room, handled with utmost care and gentleness — costs about $13 USD (maybe even less considering current exchange rates). Every hotel (from the humblest Dormy Inn to some oligarch-owned Aman) does takkyu-bin. Every hotel has the forms and will help you fill them out. “Hi, I’d like to send my luggage using takkyu-bin.”
Stick an AirTag in your suitcase (heck, AirTags in all the bags, taped onto bicycles, in wallets, passport cases, AirTags within AirTags within AirTags, those dots twinkling in the sky are not stars, they’re AirTags, slotted into and onto anything else bigger than a breadbox and worth more than a shoe), watch it flit lightly about your smartphone screen to your next stop.
Even the airports have a takkyu-bin counter. Disembark, breeze through immigration, and head straight there. Send your bags off. Keep a daypack handy with a toothbrush and change of clothes. (Note, also: You don’t really need pajamas when traveling in Japan since every hotel will supply you with them — and yes, sure, they tend to be odd, making you look like a time-traveling Ebenezer Scrooge, but they’re clean and funny and do the job.) Your luggage will be in your room the next day. If you need some emergency undies or T-shirts, any convenience store will supply you with Good Enough stuff (often of Uniqlo or Muji provenance).
Takkyu-bin also works in reverse — send your bags to the airport the day before your return flight. No need to board the Narita Express with trunks capable of holding a dismembered human body. Takyyu-bin takkyu-bin takkyu-bin. Incant the magic phrase and marvel as an unbearable featherweightness fills your sight-seeing life with simple delights.
Examples: When my parents visit, we send bags ahead no fewer than four or five times during a two week period. When I do my big walks, I have a supply box (medicine, protein bars, extra clothes) that’s always five days ahead of me — delivered on the day I arrive at an inn down the road.
Which reminds me: You can set day / time of deliveries up to ~two weeks in advance; i.e., the friendly takkyu-bin person picks up your bag today and delivers it, say, ten days later. This is great for having gifts meet you at your final hotel, or even the airport. (Most gift shops will also be able to takkyu-bin stuff ahead for you — it’s everywhere.)
That’s it. That’s the whole tip. Ship stuff! It took me more than a decade of living in Japan to notice the takkyu-bin service. (It took me about three years to build up the courage to use a Washlet; five to learn to love natto.) I had never considered shooting my bags ahead of me. Now, I can’t imagine traveling around the country for more than a few days without it. I wish someone had grabbed me by the shoulders in my 20s and said: Good god, young man, just send that bag a-head.
I know that for Americans (me, being one of you, commiserating deeply), the thought of sending your suitcases ahead multiple times, reliably and without them being destroyed / damaged / stolen sounds as mythical as a leprechaun that expectorates diamonds on command, but here it is common. This is one of many corollaries that present when the systems and structures of a society elevate common workers — the work done is reliably good work.
So — come to Japan, but please don’t shuck your four hulking Rimowas onto the Shinkansen. Dispatch them ahead. Not only will it be easier for you, but it’ll minimize the stress of everyone else.
My sub-tip would be: Pack sensibly. That is, don’t pack in such a way where you need big suitcases. I realize that that’s not always possible. And, anyway, even for smaller bags — it’s nice to forward them. Train-hopping and exploring cities without baggage encumbrance is a gift you deserve.
On the Things Become Other Things book front — I just finished a mega two week editorial-polishing stretch. I’ve been living in the book, bathing in the book, drinking the book. I feel like I am waking from a book-induced coma. Things have become other things alright — my brain has become cinnamon oatmeal. If the book were luggage, I’ve now hauled it up and down the mountain fifty times because there is no takkyu-bin in book land.
TBOT’s November Fine Art edition cover has been finalized. Files have been submitted to the printer. DIC colors have been chosen for silk screening.
More updates soon. Thank you to everyone who responded to my book survey (and if you haven’t yet responded, please do!). Each and every kind message is read (and often filed away in my “nice things people have written to me” folder) and greatly appreciated.
For now, travel well, travel light. Takkyu-biiiiiiin.