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Tourists Are Flocking to Japan – and Leaving Their Luggage

Tourists Are Flocking to Japan – and Leaving Their Luggage

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Lost luggage
Picture: sasaki106 / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Tourists to Japan are leaving a lot behind - and in some cases, that includes their broken luggage. One hotel in Tokyo found a neat solution to the problem.

With more tourists coming to Japan than ever, the country continues to experience new and unique problems that require solving. One issue that hasn’t received a lot of attention: the amount of stuff foreign visitors are forgetting to take home with them – up to and including whole suitcases.

The spike in forgotten – and broken – items

Broken suitcase
Picture: mrwed54 / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Japan continues to experience record tourism numbers since reopening for inbound travel in October 2022. March 2024 saw the most travelers to Japan in one month ever, surpassing 3 million. April’s numbers didn’t bust that record but saw the 3 million/month pace going strong.

With that spike comes a spate of problems related to overtourism. They include tourists trespassing down private streets to strain on local bus and taxi systems that are now operating over capacity.

A less-dicussed problem is the stuff that tourists leave behind. Late last year, a report from TV Asahi revealed that tourists were leaving behind more things in hotel rooms than ever. Most of the items are stuff you can easily forget – things like cell phone chargers and charging cords. In these cases, when an item looks like it was forgotten, most lodgings will save it in a lost and found pile for three months, waiting for the guest to claim it.

However, hotels report that guests are also leaving behind stuff that’s broken down. The biggest culprit? Busted suitcases.

One hotel in Tokyo’s Roppongi says it’s not uncommon for guests to leave behind their broken-down luggage without informing staff. Disposing of the busted item costs the hotel around 2000 yen ($12.85) per item. One manager says the hotel tries to email customers about covering the fee. However, most guests simply ignore it.

However, the trend of forgotten items is good news for one type of business. Firms that specialize in shipping forgotten items back overseas to guests say they’ve seen a spike in requests from hotels to return property to guests. One company says they handle 1500 such requests every month.

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One hotel’s clever reuse strategy for suitcases left behind

One hotel at least has found a neat way to deal with abandoned suitcases without the headache of disposal.

Hotel Niwa in Chiyoda, Tokyo has a greenhouse where it grows herbs and vegetables that it uses in the hotel’s restaurants. Among the planters they use are customer’s abandoned suitcases.

The hotel hit upon the idea when it started growing food using fallen leaves, egg shells, and used coffee grounds as compost. While searching for planters to use, the general manager’s eye fell upon the large collection of left-behind, busted-ass suitcases that the hotel hadn’t gotten around to disposing.

It now grows eggplant, tomato, and other veggies in the suitcases. Managers say the cases are light and, so long as the wheels aren’t broken, easy to move around.

Hotel Niwa, which has operated since 2009, says they see customers leave behind one or two suitcases monthly. Using them as planters means they don’t have to hassle with the monetary and time cost of disposing of them.

The entire greenhouse project has been so successful that the hotel has started beekeeping, which gives its chef a supply of fresh honey for their culinary creations.

Cleaning up after yourself

Woman looking for something she lost/forgot

Forgot something in Japan? In most cases, it’s easy enough to retrieve. You can usually call the hotel directly or e-mail them. If you left it in a taxi, contact the taxi company.

If you’re not quite sure where you left something valuable, your best bet is to file a police report. The good news is that expensive stuff – even cash – is handed in to the cops all the time in Japan and returned to its rightful owner.

And if your suitcase breaks? Tell a staff member and pay the fee to help dispose of it. Because leaving it behind without saying anything is just plain gauche.

What to read next

Sources

忘れ物も急増…ホテルにズラリ 外国人観光客戻り「約20倍」. TV Asahi News

訪日客が捨てたスーツケース、加工してプランターに 野菜作りに活用. au web Portal News

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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