Saturday, August 28, 2010

Coin Lockers

As you travel you'll probably need to be carrying some luggage. When you arrive at your destination before check-in time, or you stop at a city en-route, what do you do with your luggage? The answer is to find a coin locker. Almost every train or bus station has some. They are easy to use. They come in various sizes. Just put your bags in, close the door, insert the indicated amount of money, and lock the door, taking to key with you. Just don't lose the key!

Finding coin lockers can sometimes be tricky as they can be located in obscure, low-rent areas of the station. You can ask a station employee, information desk attendant, or a passer-by who doesn't look to be in too much of a hurry: コイン ラカー は どこ ですか。Sometimes if the station is very small, for example, Juuniko Station on the Gono Line, there may be no lockers, but there may be a shop nearby that will hold you bags all day for a few hundred yen.

Airline type carry-on cases work pretty well, but may not quite fit in some coin-lockers. Even though the cases are basically soft-sided, many have some rigid pieces in the wheels or the extending handles. In most cases a 21 X 14 X 9 inch bag will fit into lockers designed for carry-ons, but in a few cases, the bags didn't fit and you'll have to pay for a larger locker. Don't give up to quickly on the smaller locker, though. Sometimes you can insert your bag horizontally, then rotate, applying some topological gymnastics to get it to fit.

Most lockers take 100 and 500 yen coins, so you'll want to make sure you have plenty of change on hand. In Tokyo I've seen large blocks of lockers that use Suica contact-less stored value cards. Someday we might all have to learn how to get a Suica card if the old-fashioned coin lockers become too scarce.

In large stations, it's possible to lose your locker. Tokyo Station has three central exits on each side, so sometimes it's not good enough just to remember that your bags are in the lockers by the central exit. Tokyo Station also has lockers on multiple levels, making it even easier to lose your bags. Since the lockers are almost always indoors or underground, marking the location with you GPS won't work. You could take a picture of the location, but above, you see a photo of us closing our locker, only to require the help of a police officer to find it again. I think the best way is to acquire a map of the station - these are available on pamphlets and fliers on racks or at information booths - and mark the location of your locker on the map. Another good location for 3D station maps is the Internet, but you generally have to print the map out before you go.

Finally, I don't believe it's permitted to leave your bag overnight in the locker, so include a trip back to the locker before heading to your hotel or other final destination.

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