Coin lockers are a fantastic way to store suitcases and other belongings while touring or day-tripping in Japan.
Since many hotels and ryokan have early check-out times (some, as early as 9am, though 10 or 11am is more common) and travelers may have several hours to kill before checking into the next night’s lodgings, public coin lockers are often a great way to free yourself for sightseeing during the day.
(Note: most hotels and ryokan will store baggage, free of charge, during the day before or after checkout – but sometimes it’s more convenient to store luggage at the train station, so you don’t have to return to the hotel to pick up your bags before catching a train.)
Most major (and many smaller) train and subway stations have coin lockers. Look for the sign reading “Coin Locker” – or, more commonly: コインロッカー.
The lockers themselves are normally near the center of the station, along the walls:
Prices range from ¥300 to ¥1000, depending on the station and the size of the locker selected, and the fee is good for 24 hours from the time you lock the bags in. (Note: in a few places, the lockers are only good until midnight, so make sure you check the signs if you plan to leave your luggage overnight.)
¥500 – about $5 – is the average price for a locker that will hold both a well-stuffed backpack (academic size, not camping size) and a fairly large carry-on roller suitcase.
This is the size I use when traveling in Japan (I travel light).
They function pretty much the same as coin lockers in the United States: load the locker, put coins in the slot (be sure you have exact change), lock the locker, and take your key. The fee is a one-lock/one-open deal: if you re-open the locker, you’ll have to pay again before you can re-lock it.
Newer lockers have often eliminated the “pay at the locker” feature and moved to a kiosk system. With these, you pay for the locker at the computerized screen near the center of the locker bay, and receive a printed paper ticket with a code you use to unlock the locker when you return. Don’t lose the ticket – it’s the only way to get the locker open (without the help of an attendant – and if you don’t speak Japanese, explaining the situation can be a challenging proposition).
When using keyless lockers, I always photograph the locker I choose to ensure I don’t forget the number. If the locker is located in a large train station, I also photograph the area where the lockers are located — many stations have multiple sets of lockers, and having a photo can ensure you get back to the proper area later on.
Have you used coin lockers when traveling in Japan, or elsewhere? What tips do you have for making the process smooth?