A Beginner’s Guide to Sending Packages To, From, and Within Japan

Two international packages
There’ll probably come a time when you need to send something to, from, or within Japan, so let’s take a look at how to send all kinds of packages!

Whether your friends or family have requested something, you’ve just sold something online, or you are just looking to make someone’s day, there will probably come a time when you need to send a package to, from, or within Japan. However, it can be difficult to wrap your head around all of the information out there, let alone handle the details in a language that’s not your native language. Read through this article to find out how and where you can send packages of all shapes and sizes!

Filling Out Japanese Addresses

First, let’s go over an essential part of any parcel or letter – the address. Here’s what an address in Japan looks like both in English and Japanese:

Japanese
〒107-0061
東京都港区北青山3-2-1 
ABビルディング2階
山田花子様

English
Hanako Yamada
2F, AB Bldg.
3-2-1, Kita Aoyama, Minato-ku
Tokyo 107-0061

Broken down into parts, each section means the following:
〒107-0061= postcode
東京都 = Tokyo (prefecture)
港区 = Minato-ku (ward)
北青山 = Kita Aoyama (district)
3-2-1 = street number
ABビルディング= AB Bldg. (building name)
2階 = 2F (floor level)
山田花子様 = Hanako Yamada (name and honorific)

When writing in Japanese, remember that addresses begin with the postcode and end with the recipient’s name, while English is the opposite. However, make sure to keep the street number as is. Also, it is customary to add 「様」(sama) or a polite honorific after the recipient’s name.

If you’re sending something within Japan, either English or Japanese is acceptable for addresses. On the other hand, anything headed outside Japan generally requires English. If you’ve received a specific slip to fill out, look out for the space for your address/the return address, which is usually below the recipient’s. If there is none, just write it on the back of the package, and the recipient’s address on the front. Also, if you are sending mail to Japan from abroad, don’t forget to write “JAPAN” at the bottom of the address!

Sending Packages Within Japan

Japan Post

Japan Post postboxes
cowardlion / Shutterstock.com

True to its name, Japan Post deals with mail and package delivery and runs the many post offices of Japan. Post offices are easily identified with a red 〒 symbol, which is also seen on its post boxes and before postcodes in Japanese addresses.

Japan Post provides numerous options for sending packages within Japan, with most offering delivery within 1–2 days. Let’s take a look at some of its most popular services, all of which include tracking through the item number (お問い合わせ番号).

  1. Yu-Pack

This is your standard package delivery service for any packages that aren’t out of the ordinary in regard to size, shape, or weight. After estimating the rates and expected delivery times (Japanese only), simply pack up whatever you want to send in your own box, bag, or wrapping and drop it off at the post office. If you can’t rustle up any packaging, you can also buy some directly at the post office, although this will cost more.

Box with measurements
PIXTA

For Yu-Pack, a door-to-door delivery option (集荷サービス) is also available through an online form or phone. If you want to dial in, find your local post office and check if there’s a specific phone number for the service (集荷電話番号). Alternatively, you can ask staff for delivery at the following convenience stores: Lawson, Ministop, Seicomart, and Lawson Store 100. Finally, let them know if you’d like it to arrive on a certain day, a popular option for gift sending. You’ll generally be able to set the delivery date for 2-10 days later, but do not expect for your items to be delivered quickly – depending on the couriers’ schedules, it may take some time for your package to be delivered, so be sure to plan ahead.

Size: Up to 170 cm for total length, width and height
Weight: Up to 25 kg
Price: Calculated depending on total length, width and height
● Within same prefecture: 810 to 2,340 JPY
● Tokyo to Osaka: 970 to 2,530 JPY

  1. Yu-Packet

Suitable for small, thin items like clothes, accessories, and CD discs, Yu-Packet is a handy option for anyone looking to go light. It’s especially popular for sellers on online marketplaces, because the postage slip itself can be bought beforehand. After sticking it to your parcel, you only have to drop it off at a post box at any time of the day, meaning there’s no need to rush to the post office during lunch hours or before it closes at 5:00 pm. It will be delivered straight to the recipient’s letterbox, so they won’t have to wait at home to sign for it either.

Woman packing a shirt
The_Molostock / Shutterstock.com

Size: Up to 60 cm for total length, width and height (up to 34 cm for length and 3 cm for height)
Weight: Up to 1 kg
Price: Flat rate calculated by box height
● Up to 1 cm: 250 yen
● 1-2 cm: 310 yen
● 2-3 cm: 360 yen

  1. Letter Pack

Also used for super light packages, the Letter Pack service offers prepaid cardboard envelopes that fit items up to A4 file size, or 340 mm x 248 mm. They come in two options: Letter Pack Light, which is delivered to the recipient’s letterbox, and Letter Pack Plus, which is hand-delivered and requires the recipient’s confirmation in person. While the former is more convenient for the recipient, the latter promises peace of mind for important packages and includes free pickup service from your house. Both can be bought at your local post office or participating convenience stores to be sent on the spot or dropped off any time at a post box. Be sure to keep the “Sender to Retain” sticker for tracking.

Size: Up to 34 cm for length, 24.8 cm for width and 3 cm for thickness
Weight: Up to 4 kg
Price: Flat rate of 370 JPY (Light) or 520 JPY (Plus)

Other Japan Post Options

If these services don’t cover the package you need to send, check out their purpose-specific Yu-Pack options, which include chilled delivery for food, same-day delivery, and golf/ski gear delivery. Frequent senders who are savvy with Japanese and internet services might also find their online Click Post service convenient, with which you can pay delivery fees and create delivery slips (Japanese only). Those who sell things specifically through the online marketplace Mercari can even try Yu-yu Mercari-bin, which offers the additional perk of complete privacy between sender and recipient.

Kuroneko Yamato

Kuroneko Yamato delivery van
NP27 / Shutterstock.com

Kuroneko Yamato is a company famous for its trademark door-to-door delivery service, dubbed takkyubin (宅急便) or TA-Q-BIN in English. Often referred to as simply Kuroneko (black cat), its logo of a mother cat holding a kitten in her mouth symbolizes the company’s emphasis on careful delivery. Unlike Japan Post, Kuroneko Yamato operates all year round, although select locations are closed on weekdays and holidays.

TA-Q-BIN generally delivers within 1–2 days, although you can also ask for a specific delivery date and time. However, same-day delivery will attract an extra fee. After checking their delivery rates, contact them by phone or their website to order pickup at your home. Alternatively, head directly to your local branch for a discount of 100 yen. Signing up as a member or paying with cashless methods like IC cards also earns you a slight discount. If you’re going light, you can get even cheaper delivery rates with TA-Q-BIN Compact boxes that clock in under 60 cm for total length, width, and height. And if you find yourself over the size or weight limits, consult rates for their Yamato Bin service, which goes by a different system.

Kuroneko Yamato mailing slip
Kuroneko Yamato

Regardless of how you send off your package, first you’ll need to fill out a waybill – in other words, a delivery slip. You can get one in advance by asking for an okurijou (送り状) at a Kuroneko location or receive it directly from your driver if you’ve ordered pickup. Other time-saving options include filling out the info on your smartphone or printing your own at home (Kuroneko members only), although these do require some Japanese skills or at least a translation app. Remember to note your item number for tracking.

Size: Up to 160 cm for total length, width, and height
Weight: Up to 25 kg
Price: Calculated depending on the total length, width, and height (up to 160 cm) or weight (up to 25 kg)
● Within same prefecture: From 930 JPY
● Tokyo to Osaka: 1,040 to 2,180 JPY

Sagawa Express

Sagawa is another company known for its door-to-door service, which is referred to with the general term takuhaibin (宅配便). Like Kuroneko Yamato, Sagawa Express usually delivers within 1-2 days year-round, with some locations closed for weekends and holidays. Either drop off your package at your closest office or service center for a discount, or call them for pickup. You can also request the delivery slip in advance to save time filling it out, or receive one directly from the driver.

Sagawa mailing slip
Sagawa Express

If you want a package to be delivered within a specific time slot, ask if Delivery Time Selection Service (時間帯指定サービス) is available for the recipient’s area. After sending, you can track packages by entering the item number on this page.

Aside from regular delivery, Sagawa also offers special options with extra fees for packages with chilled items and even formal clothes.

  1. Hikyaku Express

Pronounced Hikyaku Takuhaibin (飛脚宅配便), this is the standard door-to-door option. It can be used for packages under 30 kg and 160 cm in total length, width, and height. Beyond that is the Hikyaku Large Size Express (飛脚ラージサイズ宅配便) category, which accepts packages up to 50 kg and 260 cm total. Rates for both can be checked here.

Size: Up to 260 cm for total length, width, and height
Weight: Up to 50 kg
Price: Calculated depending on the total length, width, and height (up to 260 cm) or weight (up to 50 kg)
● Within same prefecture: From 770 JPY
● Tokyo to Osaka: From 880 JPY

PIXTA
  1. Hikyaku Air Express

An air service that promises next-day delivery to any other prefecture in Japan. Pronounced Hikyaku Kuukoubin (飛脚航空便), it allows you to choose delivery for the next morning, afternoon, or a specific time slot, as long as you get your package in before the collection deadline. Delivery rates depend on your selected timing, with afternoon delivery being cheaper than the morning or at a specific time slot.

Size: Up to 160 cm for total length, width, and height
Weight: Up to 30 kg
Price: Calculated depending on the total length, width, and height (up to 160 cm) or weight (up to 30 kg)
● Tokyo to Osaka: From 1,914 JPY

Sending Packages From Japan to Overseas

Japan Post

Street with Japan Post office sign and postbox
VTT Studio / Shutterstock.com

International package delivery through Japan Post is mainly split into four methods: EMS, Airmail, SAL, and surface mail. When choosing, consider your priorities in regards to delivery time, size, cost, and tracking options. If you’re having trouble juggling all of the information, start off by estimating delivery rates and days. Availability also varies by area, so make sure to check the current status of the recipient’s country. And if that wasn’t enough, international packages are regulated far more strictly than domestic packages, so confirm the restricted items before you seal that box. While the majority of people probably aren’t trying to send firecrackers or bleach through international mail, more innocent everyday objects like even sunblock (over 24% in alcohol content) and power banks are also on the list.

When you’re ready to send off your package, visit your local post office and tell the staff the recipient’s country and your preferred shipping method. They will hand you a special slip for the address and information for customs procedures, like the exact items inside and their value(s).

Japan post mailing slip
Japan Post

After confirming directly with the staff that there are no dangerous items inside, pay and say goodbye to your package! And if you’re curious as to how your package is doing, simply enter the item number into Japan Post’s Track and Trace Service.

Please note that from January 2021, packages that are sent with handwritten slips may be delayed or returned with no reimbursement due to enhanced security measures. To prevent this, enter the details for your package at Japan Post’s International Mail My Page Service, which will automatically send them to the destination country’s postal service and create a printable label.

  1. EMS

A fast but expensive service that has priority over all other international deliveries. While no valuables (money, precious stones, etc.) are allowed for EMS, some countries are eligible to receive chilled packages for extra fees.

Delivery time: 2-4 days
Weight: Up to 30 kg
Price: Calculated by weight
● Asia: From 1,400 JPY
● North and Central America/Middle East/Oceania: From 2,000 JPY
● Europe: From 2,200 JPY
● South America/Africa: From 2,400 JPY

Delivery worker checking packages
BUNDITINAY / Shutterstock.com
  1. Airmail

A service that sends packages by air, leading to fairly high rates.

Delivery time: 3-6 days
Weight: Up to 30 kg
Price: Calculated by weight
● East Asia: From 1,700 JPY
● Southeast Asia/Southwest Asia: From 2,100 JPY
● North and Central America/Europe/Oceania/Middle East: From 2,500 JPY
● South America/Africa: From 3,200 JPY

  1. SAL

A service that balances speed and cost by combining surface mail and air transport. Be sure to check if your package’s destination is one of the 39 countries where SAL is available.

Delivery time: 6-13 days
Price: Calculated by weight
● East Asia: From 1,800 JPY
● Southeast Asia/Southwest Asia: From 2,200 JPY
● North and Central America/Europe/Oceania/Middle East: From 2,700 JPY
● South America/Africa: From 3,400 JPY

Japan Post Delivery Truck
Terence Toh Chin Eng / Shutterstock.com
  1. Surface mail

A slow but cheap delivery service due to using land and sea transport. As packages will be in transit for a long time, it might be a good idea to pack yours with greater care than usual.

Delivery time: 1-3 months
Price: Calculated by weight
● East Asia: From 1,600 JPY
● Southeast Asia/Southwest Asia: From 1,700 JPY
● North and Central America/Europe/Oceania/Middle East: From 1,800 JPY
● South America/Africa: From 2,200 JPY

Small Packet

While it isn’t actually a separate shipping method, the small packet is a great option for cheaper rates when sending small, light packages. Simply confirm with staff that you’d like to send it as a small packet through airmail, SAL, or surface mail. If they do not provide you with a specific slip, write the address directly on the parcel or stick on a printed address, including the words “Small packet” or “Petit pacquet” on the upper left corner of the address side of the packet.

Japan Post

Delivery time: Same as airmail, SAL, and surface mail
Size: Up to 90 cm for total length, width, and height (14-60 cm in length and over 9 cm in width)
Weight: Up to 2 kg
Price: Calculated by weight and overall shipping method
● Airmail: From 120 JPY
● SAL: From 160 JPY
● Surface mail: From 130 JPY

Kuroneko Yamato

Kuroneko Yamato office doors
Ned Snowman / Shutterstock.com

Kuroneko Yamato’s answer to sending packages overseas is International TA-Q-BIN, a reliable service that can sometimes restrict deliverable items. For example, it will allow processed food for some countries, but no food at all for others. Before sending, check the rates, estimated delivery time, and restricted items for the recipient’s country. Items that cannot be sent to any country are listed here.

Another important thing to know is that International TA-Q-BIN requires confirmation by telephone before sending off your package. Try to do this as early as possible, as you may have to wait due to busy phone lines and limited delivery slots. After checking the phone number and business hours for the “Sending Parcels from Japan to Overseas” option at their website, give them a call and tell them the destination country, as well as the number of packages and their contents. You will then be able to schedule pickup at your house. After filling out the slip given to you by the driver, pay them and say goodbye to your package!

Kuroneko Yamato

Alternatively, you can pick up delivery slips in advance at your local Kuroneko Yamato office, as they do take more time than usual to fill out due to lots of specific details like materials, weight, and height for the items inside. Sending packages directly from an office will also earn you a discount of 100 yen, but be careful as you still need to phone them in advance for confirmation.

Weight: Up to 25 kg
Size: Up to 160 cm for total length, width, and height
Price: Calculated by individual country and the greater weight or size category
● Example: 2,750 JPY for a package to the United States (if up to 2 kg and 60 cm in total length, width, and height)

Sending Packages to Japan From Other Countries

Pen and clipboard on package with world map underneath

When sending from any country to Japan, it’s best to confirm with your local delivery service for their own fees, restrictions, and quirks. However, customs also prohibits certain items like firearms and narcotics to be sent to Japan by law, so be sure to double-check here.

Whether your package is traveling for two or twenty days, the wait until you finally know it’s arrived can be stressful. In order to increase the chances that it arrives swiftly and safely no matter its destination, be sure to double-check all addresses and contact details filled out on the package. If required, declare its contents and value as clearly as possible, following any examples given to you. Of course, everything should also be packed securely inside and out with tape and cushioning materials as needed. And before that, remember that some options may not be available at all due to region restrictions, so check with your local delivery service first.

Conclusion

Are you finally feeling ready for that visit to the post office you’ve been putting off? We hope that this guide was able to assist you in any way, so good luck, and when in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask your local delivery service for help! If you are on the receiving end of a package and miss the delivery, fret not, as it is easily retrievable!

Title image credit: Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you’d really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our Facebook!

By the way, if you're looking for a job or career change and you're already in Japan, we now have a jobs site called tsunagu Local Jobs! On top of having exclusive job listings that you won't find anywhere else, we've vetted all the listings to ensure that they're foreigner-friendly and high quality. If you register for an account on the site, you can even make use of our agent service where our international staff will help you find the perfect job in Japan, so check it out today!

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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