Experience Japan like a local
As a general guide, we suggest you bring a small or medium suitcase with wheels, plus a medium daypack. It is important to travel light in Japan. Buses and trains have limited luggage space and stations often have stairs. Your tour will be more enjoyable and easier if you limit the luggage you bring.
On small-group guided tours with Oku Japan, your guide takes care of luggage arrangements for you. On tour, we send larger items of luggage ahead by Takkyubin Courier to make our long-distance transfers by bus and train more relaxed. This means you do not have to handle your larger items of luggage through railway stations and on trains. However, those larger items of luggage do not rejoin us on the same day and you do not have access to them on certain nights. So please bring a backpack to carry your overnight essentials.
All Japanese inns on the intervening nights provide cotton yukata gowns and slippers for you to wear after arrival for dining, relaxing, exploring outside and sleeping. They also provide small towels, soap, shampoo and hairdryers. You don’t need a change of clothing for the evening, so it really is possible to manage with just a medium daypack. Takkyubin Courier of one larger item of baggage per person is included in your guided tour price; if you choose to travel with two larger items of baggage, then your tour guide will happily arrange Takkyubin Courier for both items and simply ask you to pay locally for the second one.
If your self-guided tour includes village-to-village trail walking, you will want to carry just a daypack on those days. Takkyubin Courier is ideal for dealing with your main luggage while walking on the trail. An alternative option of Daily Luggage Transfer is available on the Kumano Kodo Trail and parts of the Nakasendo Trail, so on those tours you can choose the system which suits you better.
For most clients on our self-guided walking tours, the best way to deal with your main luggage is to send it ahead by the wonderful Takkyubin Courier service. Takkyubin is the brand name of the best-known service provider. These services are secure, efficient and economical, typically between JPY1,500 and JPY2,000 per bag per transfer. The sent luggage does not re-join you each night; it is waiting for you at the accommodation where you stay at a night or two later on. You carry overnight essentials in your daypack for the intervening nights.
Send your main luggage from the hotel you stay at before the trail to an inn part-way along the trail. You then send it from the inn part-way along the trail to the hotel you will stay at after the trail. Takkyubin does not need to be arranged in advance. You arrange and pay for the service yourself in Japan, usually with help from the concierge of your hotel or inn. Some smaller local hotels and inns may not offer the service, but they will direct you to the nearest location where the service is available – a local convenience store, for example.
Takkyubin is also ideal for those who choose to manage with their daypack for all their nights on the trail, without any access to their main luggage. Simply send your main luggage from wherever you stay before the trail to wherever you stay afterwards.
Travelling light on the trails is easy. All inns provide cotton yukata gowns and slippers for you to wear after arrival for dining, relaxing in your room, exploring outside and sleeping. They also provide small towels, soap, shampoo and hairdryers. You don’t need a complete change of clothing for the evening, so it really is possible to manage with just a medium daypack to carry overnight essentials. Takkyubin may be a novel experience for clients who have walked self-guided in other parts of the world, but it works wonderfully well in Japan.
Takkyubin allows you to travel throughout Japan without having to handle your main luggage. You can avoid carrying your bags on trains and buses, where luggage space is often limited, or through busy railway stations. The only disadvantage is that you are without your main bag for one or more nights while it is in transit.
Daily Luggage Transfer
For clients who prefer to have access to their main luggage each night, we now offer Daily Luggage Transfer on the Kumano Kodo Trail, and for a portion of the Nakasendo Trail for a supplement. This service is pre-booked and pre-paid through Oku Japan.
Daily Luggage Transfer offers clients the option of bringing luggage by train and bus to the trail, and then having it transferred from inn to inn on a daily basis. This Daily Luggage Transfer is more expensive than Takkyubin Courier. We know it will appeal to some clients, because it means having to carry less in your daypack and allows access to your main luggage each evening. But please be aware that bringing large suitcases through railway stations, on the train and then on the bus to the start of the trail can be inconvenient. Luggage space on trains and buses is limited; railway stations may be busy and involve stairs. We think Takkyubin Courier is a better choice for most clients. Please note that Daily Luggage Transfer is available on the Nakasendo Trail as far as Narai (the third night on the trail); the service does not extend to Karuizawa (the fourth night on the trail, featuring in our longer Self-Guided Nakasendo tours), so it is still necessary to use Takkyubin Courier for that final section.