How to use the Japanese coin lockers

Coin lockers are one of the most ingenious things you’re going to find in Japan. Being able to break free from extra weight wherever you are is the smartest solution when you’re backpacking.

I’m going to tell you some fundamental technical advice about how to unravel the mysteries of Japanese coin lockers. These recommendations will be explained in detail by none other than myself, a woman who can’t even change a light bulb, so… they’ll be easy to understand and to put into practice. If I can do it, anyone can!

So, let’s begin right away, and you’ll be a master of Japanese coin lockers in no time.

Japanese coin lockers: how they work

Finding a whole wall covered with coin lockers with no idea about how to use them could give you an unpleasant sensation. But I’ll give you some advice to help you understand them better and appreciate their usefulness.

All coin lockers are closed when you arrive. But the empty ones have got a key, which cannot be taken straight away. Just beside the key hole, you’ve got the coin slot.

Prepare the sum you need to open your locker: the bigger, the more expensive. I normally need one of the biggest for my backpack, and the cost was of 700 yen a day. You can only use 100 yen coins, so be sure to have the right change. A change machine will probably be available close to the lockers in the biggest stations, or go to the nearest shop or supermarket to get your change.

Once you’ve put the coins into the slot, you can open the locker with the key, put your luggage in, close it and take your key with you.


Japanese coin lockers and IC cards

Apart from the key-type coin lockers, you can also find the PIN-type and IC card-type, which are becoming more and more diffused. The first ones can be paid with cash, in this case the correct change isn’t necessary because they give you change. On the contrary, you don’t have to use coins for paying the IC card ones. You only need your IC card. Let me explain what an IC card is.

What is a Japanese IC card?

Pasmo and Suica are two different brands of IC cards you can use in Tokyo. Different cities have different IC cards, but they are normally all compatible with each other. You can buy one of them at every station as soon as you land in Japan, you cannot book one from abroad. They were originally produced as magnetic multi-transport tickets, but now they can be used in a similar way as rechargeable credit cards at many vending machines, lockers and convenience stores.

When using IC cards to pay for coin lockers,

you’ll have to press the button “Deposit” on the touch panel. The screen tells you which of the lockers are empty. Put your bags in, close it and pay with your card. To pick them up, press the “Retrieval” button, insert your card in the reader and the locker will open automatically.


Japanese PIN-type coin lockers

PIN-type coin lockers use the same touch panel as the IC cards ones. You can see the IC card reader and the money slot close to the screen. Pressing the button “Deposit“, you’ll know which are the empty lockers to put your bag in it. Then insert the sum into the money slot and the machine will print you a PIN on a little piece of paper: look after it until you’ll pick your luggage up.

When you go back to collect your bag, press the button “Retrieval” and type in your PIN number. Your locker will open automatically.


Difficulties you might find using coin lockers:

  • They can all be full during rush hours
  • The biggest lockers are the most popular and fewer in number, so they could all be taken. In small locations, where you can only find a small number of them, e.g. Shirakawa-go, a tourist office or an additional luggage storage will probably be available. Without lockers, but with an agent who collects your baggage and gives you a number to pick it up later.
  • Some very crowded places, e.g. Tokyo main railway station, there are thousands of coin lockers. Once you’ve put your luggage in, note down the exact position of it, not to get lost when coming back.
  • If you forget something in your luggage, you’ll have to pay again, because reopening always means end of the service. So be sure to take everything you could need before closing!
  • Lockers can be used for one day, and if you leave your bags for more you’ll have to put additional coins into the slot before being able to reopen it. The maximum time is three days for the majority of the lockers. One day doesn’t mean 24 hours, because the lockers are reset during the night. So, if you store your luggage during the evening and go back the following morning, you probably will have to pay for two days. After the third day, the station officers open the locker and put your bags into their storage. When you go and pick them up, you’ll have to pay for three days plus a fee for every day of additional storage.

This is the link to another article where I talked about where to store your luggage in Japan for a long period of time. I hope you’ll find it useful! Let me know if you have any doubts about coin lockers in Comments below.

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How to use the Japanese coin lockers
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How to use the Japanese coin lockers
Coin lockers: how they work. Keys, IC cards, PIN code. Some fundamental technical advice about how to break free from extra weight and overcome difficulties.
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