If I were to choose three things I missed when living away from Japan, they were the food, having four real seasons (spring, summer, winter, and fall each lasting around three months), and an efficient and inexpensive delivery system.
Major delivery service companies in Japan deliver packages in convenient time slots that can be chosen by the sender (see Table 1). The system is very reliable and flexible. Delivery hours can be set within relatively small windows of time, so people don’t have to spend a lot of time waiting at home for deliveries. Even in Japan, delivery was not always this easy. In past years people could only choose from a few broad time periods, such as morning, afternoon, or evening). In those days, people waiting for a delivery were required to stay at home, waiting for a package which might arrive at any time during a four to five hour period. At that time, receiving a package was a special event which had to be prepared for. (It was a bit like waiting for a phone call before mobile phones became generally available).
Table 1. Sample delivery times offered by delivery service companies.
While things are a lot better than the bad old days, can further improvement be made. Is current delivery scheduling flexible enough to meet the demand’s of today’s Japanese lifestyle? As you can see from Table 1, the latest delivery time each day finishes at 9pm and the person receiving the package needs to be home by 8pm in case the delivery arrives at the start of the allotted time. How many working people in Japan can guarantee to be home by 8pm?
Statistical data from the Japanese government is available about living hours in Japan (e-Stat, Portal Site of Official Statistics of Japan, URL is below). According to that data, the average time of coming home from work is 6:58pm nationwide (N=38,950), and 7:19pm in the Tokyo metropolitan area (N=5,008). For the people who are employed in companies their average time of returning home each day is 7:44pm (N=18,678) and again the time for Tokyo residents is likely to be somewhat later. The people who came back home at the latest times were single men in their early 20s (N=774), and the average time for them to come back home is 8:39pm.
Thus coming back home to get packages delivered remains as a different problem for large groups of people within Japanese society.
So, given this unmet need, how will people adjust to the challenge? Online shops are starting to offer an alternative method of receiving products at a nearby convenience store which is typically opened 24 hours a day and seven days a week. In addition, some (mostly high-class) condominiums have so-called Delivery Boxes where courier can leave a package inside (Figure 1 and 2). As proof of delivery, these Delivery boxes can print out a proof of delivery as the door is closed, and this slip can then be placed in the receiver’s post box.
Figure 1. Examples of the Delivery box.
Figure 2. Control panel of the Delivery box (the one in the right of Figure 1).
This sophisticated delivery system seems currently unique to Japan. We will continue to track this issue in future. Japan, land of convenient deliveries!
Nippon Express (Nittsu)