[Updated on 16 June 2012, originally posted 10 April 2012]
One service in Japan that is quite unique is the luggage delivery service or Takuhaibin (a.k.a. Tak-Q-Bin) of which the most extensive is the Yamato Transport Company, whose logo is a black cat or Kuroneko.
Our plan was to "leapfrog" our main luggage and travel light. So when we arrived at our hotel in Narita, we repacked our "day pack" for 3 days, and forwarded our bulky luggage to the hotel in Asahikawa by Tak-Q-Bin. Then we lived out of our day pack for our day in Abashiri.
We spent two nights in Abashiri and before heading to Asahikawa by train, and were reunited with our main luggage.
At Loisir Hotel, Asahikawa, we repacked our day packs with fresh clothes and send the luggage to our hotel in Hakodate. We also had the opportunity to use the coin laundry at Loisir to wash our clothes. Would have been nice to stay at Loisir a little later in our trip when we would have more to wash.
At both International Garden Hotel Narita and Loisir Hotel Asahikawa, the Bell desk arranged for the Ta-Q-bin. The Narita Hotel was better in that they did accept credit cards. The Loisir Hotel required cash payment. From Loisir, we sent our luggage to Hotel Ekimae, Hakodate.
At Hotel Ekimae, which is a very small hotel, the staff who spoke good English explained that they would send the luggage COD to Shinjuku Prince Hotel. And we would pay when we collected our luggage at Shinjuku. Apparently, they were less of an agent and more of a facilitator. The charges were a little more for this COD arrangement. The pay in advance were both about Y3400 (Y1700 for each piece). the COD arrangement was Y4000 or more.
So generally, the hotels should be able to arrange for Ta-Q-Bin (You may wish to learn how to say "Nimotsu no tehai" which means to make arrangements for the luggage. "Nimotsu" is luggage. Or you could just say "Nimotsu" and "Ta-Q-bin" and they should be able to figure out what you mean). I guess the problem might be if both sending and receiving hotels are like Hotel Ekimae and do not collect the charges on behalf of Ta-Q-Bin. Not sure how that would work out.
One thing I liked about booking hotels with Agoda.com is that the hotel vouchers they send has the name of the hotel and address in Japanese characters. That really helps with the nimotsu no tehai when the staff helps you fill in the Ta-Q-bin delivery order form.
One inexplicable but not within the control of the Ta-Q-Bin is that by some strange coincidence, all the hotels we picked to send our luggage to were hotels with the smallest rooms! So with our bulky luggage, we were really squeezed for space.
Whereas when we got big rooms, we had no large luggage.
Murphy's Law at work.