Coin lockers in Japan are an essential part of travel. Every station has a coin locker and they can be pretty easy to use. They can also be extremely difficult to use if you are using one of the electronic ones and you don’t know how to follow instructions. For the most part, they are everywhere but they are also used a lot. I often need to use coin lockers when I am travelling alone because I often stop at several places before reaching my final destination for the evening. Heading to the hotel to drop off my bags is not always an option, or I am returning home and I don’t want to return to the hotel. There are several reasons to use coin lockers but in the late morning and early evening it can be very difficult to get a coin locker. It is like the Hunger Games (note, I never actually watched or read that series) where everyone is out for themselves. It can be very infuriating to see someone put a small bag the size of a notebook into a locker that can fit a human body inside. When you have no choice, you have no choice and you’ll take whatever locker will fit your bags. The only problem is; what do you do when there are no coin lockers?
The main thing to do when all of the coin lockers are taken is to start crying. Once all of the tears have been shed, hopefully quickly, you have to make a mad dash for the secondary lockers. Lockers at the JR stations fill up quickly but many people forget that the JR stations are often connected to the subways. It is not an ideal choice as you have to lug your things to the basements but you can often find unused coin lockers around the subways. They may not be as “safe” but they are definitely useful. Going to the subway stations in the early afternoon may be too late as well as people will start to clue in and head down there. In that case it is better to try and find another locker somewhere nearby. They can be difficult to find but sometimes department stores have coin lockers. It is unlikely but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If all of that fails, you can just cry again and hope someone is kind enough to give you their locker.
In the major stations such as Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyoto, you will find it hard to get a coin locker. Patience is a virtue and so is aggressiveness. Be ruthless in trying to get a coin locker. Make sure you have 100 yen coins, especially if you are alone. When someone starts to get their things out, make sure you ask them if you can take their locker when they are done. Thank them for the locker too as a courtesy and once you are done, grab your key and rejoice as you can go about travelling the city on your own.