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New Train Station Lockers Attract Users (August 15, 2006)

Swiping a Suica-compatible mobile phone (East Japan Railway Co.)
New types of coin lockers are appearing in train stations around the country. Some can be paid for by a swipe of an electronic money card or cellular phone, and others have enough space to store big suitcases. Innovations like monthly locker rentals and mail pick-up lockers have also appeared and are helping to make lockers an increasingly popular station service.

Coinless, Keyless Lockers
Some of the lockers at JR Ueno Station in Tokyo require neither coins nor keys. To store or retrieve their belongings or make a payment, users simply swipe a Suica prepaid card (made by East Japan Railway Co.) or a payment-compatible mobile phone against the electronic sensor on the door. There are also coin slots for those who wish to pay in cash. The lockers first appeared at Ueno Station in February 2005 and are now found at six stations, including Tokyo, Ikebukuro, and Sendai. According to company officials, they are particularly popular among young people, who like the fact that they do not need to carry around a key and prefer them to conventional types of lockers.

Instructions are provided on how to use the lockers. (East Japan Railway Co.)

Shipments of coin lockers in fiscal 2004 (April 2004 to March 2005) totaled almost 17,000 units, 50% more than the previous year. One reason for the increase is that the current generation of lockers are starting to show their age. Many date back to the bubble economy in the late 1980s and need to be replaced. Other factors include the increasing abundance of commercial establishments inside stations and the recovery in capital investment by railway companies.

Sales of next-generation lockers that can handle electronic money have been particularly strong, and also gaining popularity are large lockers that can hold the kind of soft luggage on wheels that is now popular among women, as well as other big bags.

Some of the new lockers (East Japan Railway Co.)

Lockers as Private Space
The emergence of new types of lockers has spurred the development of innovations in how they are used. Monthly rental contracts are proving popular at Shinjuku Station on the Odakyu Line in Tokyo and Umeda Station on the Hankyu Line in the Kansai region. Under the system, users register and use their credit card as a key and pay ¥5,000 ($43 at ¥115 to the dollar) a month for unlimited access to a locker. The system is designed to meet the needs of people who want their own private space in the stations, and at present all available lockers have been rented.

Meanwhile, Japan Post has teamed up with the locker rental firm X-Cube Corp. to create "post cubes," or station lockers where mail packages can be picked up. Post cubes have been installed at stations on the Odakyu Line, the Meitetsu Line in and around Nagoya, and lines operated by West Japan Railway, which mainly operates in the Kansai region. Users can pick up parcels stored in these lockers just by inputting their cell phone number. The system is proving particularly popular among young women living on their own who are out at work during the day.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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