The elder child and I are off on a ski weekend this Friday! When we last skied in early January we took the whole family and drove in an overstuffed rental minivan; this time the two of us will travel via the shinkansen bullet train.
We will board the shinkansen at Tokyo station, an hour from our local train station. We don’t have to change trains to get to Tokyo station, but hauling skis and gear for two people on a local train is simply not an option. Enter Black Cat.
Black Cat–or Yamato Transport, as it is properly known–is Japan’s version of UPS. You see the cute little Black Cat vans everywhere around town. In addition to delivering packages, Yamato ships luggage around Japan and overseas via their TA-Q-BIN service.
Yamato caters to its non-Japanese speaking customers quite well; they maintain both an English version of their entire website and a phone number manned by English-speaking customer service representatives. One quick phone call later, our baggage pickup was set! I scheduled the driver to come to our house for two bags the next day, with the bags arriving at our hotel one day before us. Blank shipping labels magically appeared in my mailbox a few hours later. [For you Yokohama locals out there, scroll down for URLs and phone numbers.]
The total cost: 6512 yen, or about $53 total. That averages out to $13 per bag, each way. Not bad for 70 lb. (32 kg) of stuff!
On Wednesday morning I packed our bags and had them ready to go for the 12PM to 2PM pickup window. Back in the U.S., scheduling a 12PM to 2PM appointment at the house means that the repairman (or whoever) will arrive at 3PM….or 4:30PM…..or call at 5:30 to reschedule for the next day. In Japan a 12PM to 2PM pickup means that the driver will arrive at 11:45AM or earlier.
Right before my pickup I scrambled on last-minute errands. I planned to return to the house at 11:45AM, and I hit it right on the nose. I pulled up, all proud of myself…and saw the Black Cat driver waiting for me, standing at parade rest. I apologized for being late, he apologized for being early, we bowed, etc. At least I had the bags and packing slip ready to go.
My skis and gear are on their way, and in two days time Tessa and I will be too!
Arranging Yamato Transport in English
-Yamato Transport Customer Service in English: 012.017.9625, daily 9AM to 6PM
-Ski TA-Q-BIN info:
On that page, look along the right side for other categories of TA-Q-BIN service.
-How to fill out the shipping label:
Honestly I found this page really confusing, so I called Customer Service and they walked me through it.
When shipping luggage to hotels within Japan, allow at least three days for transport. The shipping itself takes two days, and Yamato plans on delivering to the hotel one day before your check-in.