Get inside Japan’s largest parcel delivery terminal

Japan’s technology has been globally recognized as cutting-edge for half a century, but if only electronics or automobiles first come to mind, it won’t be a stretch to realize that Japan also has first-class logistics operations. Yamato Transport is the dominating leader of the door-to-door delivery industry with its Ta-Q-Bin (takkyubin) services offering same-day or overnight shipment to the entire country. The company’s Haneda Chronogate is the largest general logistics terminal in Japan, and here you can witness the most advanced package transportation technology up close with your own eyes.

Established in 1919, Yamato started providing door-to-door delivery service in 1976. Today, they offer a range of delivery services covering all of Japan, most of Asia and many parts of Europe and North America. Now expanded into the Yamato Group, they also provide other services in a network of companies, but parcel delivery remains the core of their business. The corporate logo of a black cat, or kuroneko, carrying its kitten is visible on their vehicles everywhere in Japan and on the uniforms of their 60,000 drivers. Kuroneko also serves as a synonym for Yamato.

To continue their lead in delivery services for the future, Yamato built the giant Haneda Chronogate next to Haneda Airport in Tokyo in 2013. The main building has seven floors and a total area of nearly 200,000 square meters.

Haneda Chronogate offers a free 90-minute tour for visitors of all ages by friendly Yamato employees who explain everything there is to see. English and Chinese audio guidance as well as subtitles and signage are provided for non-Japanese speakers. Early in the tour, you’ll see short informative videos to give you a better understanding of Yamato’s background and services. And there’s also the chance to see up-close the state-of-the-art logistics equipment and technology.

The highlight is the automatic cross-belt sorting system. With a total length of 1070 meters and 1336 plates moving at the speed of 6 mph, it’s able to sort up to 48,000 packages per hour with little to no human intervention. You’ll see parcels being sped along the conveyor belts, merging and splitting, adjusting speeds automatically to ensure safe and correct passage for the boxes find their way along the appropriate path to over a hundred loading docks for trucks.

The tour also features a close examination of the central control room of the automatic sorting system. Although visitors can’t enter the room, it is possible to watch through huge windows how a sole technician is able to control the whole system with simple clicks on his computer. Just in seeing the huge number of monitors filling the wall, one can appreciate the greatness in size and complexity of what’s happening there. The control room is also the brain of this eco-friendly, zero emission logistics building.

Although the top floors of this building are not accessible to visitors, videos and projection mapping introduce their roles and functions. Here, Yamato explains how they’ve reinvented logistics with what they call value-adding services such as surgery equipment rental, home electronics repairing and computer calibrating, as well as other unexpected and mind-blowing services for an express delivery company.

At the end of the tour, there are free souvenirs distributed to all visitors through a special sorting system you’ll experience.

Haneda Chronogate sits in a compound that also features the Local Contribution Area in accordance with Yamato’s goal of harmonious co-existence with the community. After the tour, visitors can take a walk in this area of trees, little parks, outdoor theatres, a cozy bakery, a multipurpose hall, and even a nursery. All the facilities are open for public use.

This tour of the chief operations center of a major Japanese corporation is informative and entertaining for all ages. You’ll leave with a new interest in how our modern lives are simplified with the movement of consumer goods and see how it’s done with the care a mother kuroneko gives when carrying her kitten.

How to book

The tour is free and can be booked online in Japanese; but to make reservations in English or Chinese or for groups of 20 people or more, it’s necessary to call 03-6756-7180. Walk-ins are allowed but reservations are recommended because space is limited. Closed on Mondays as well as during Obon and New Year’s.

Getting there

Ten minute walk from Tenkubashi Station on the Tokyo Monorail.

More information

  • 11-1 Haneda-Asahi-cho, Ota-ku, Tokyo