Dear visitor, if you know the answer to this question, please post it. Thank you!

Note that this thread has not been updated in a long time, and its content might not be up-to-date anymore.

How to bring gifts for relatives 2009/7/18 23:01
I'm going to Japan in 10/09 (alone) but will need to take omiyage (gifts) for relatives. Planning to take beef jerky, chocolates, dried fruits and nuts for 5 families. Is it better to bring a 28" suitcase, fill it with clothes and lighter omiyage and also put some in carryon? Someone told me I should mail (very expensive via airmail) the omiyage, another said to pack into box (make a handle) and check it in as baggage. Am really at a loss 'cuz need to take the omiyage. Appreciate any suggestions.
by aiko2107  

... 2009/7/19 13:53
Not sure your gifts would be worth this effort, but something you may not have considered - and something I have done on occassion when I need to transport stuff one way.

I have my standard (not cheap) smallish suitcase which does me for most of my world travels. I once purchased a very big suitcase at discount store (cost $20) - put my suitcase INSIDE this and then packed the extra stuff around it. Once I got where I was going I disposed of the large one (I was going to put in rubbish, but one of the hotel staff asked if they could have it).

Bit excessive maybe, but depends what you have to carry.

I'd almost be inclined to make a box with a handle as suggested. Although, food being food you will have to open and display it in quarantine - better to have something you can open easy (zips etc, not a box with half a mile of sticky tape holding it together).
by johnhbf rate this post as useful

... 2009/7/19 14:48
First of all, be careful with beef jerky from the US. If you buy them in town in advance, be sure you buy those with a certificate on the bags saying they are OK for export into Japan. For that matter, it might be better to buy them at the duty-free shop at the airport as you leave from the US, and simply carry them on in their duty-free plastic bag. (From your profile I am
assuming you are traveling from the US, and that you will be coming on a direct flight to Japan.)

With others, I would just pack them into the suitcase - you never know when you might have to open the box to show what it is :)
by AK rate this post as useful

Personal Experience 2009/7/19 21:19
I have been through this many times. One thing you really need to watch out for these days is the dimensions of your suitcase and the weight. Airlines are enforcing the limits more than they used to, and the weights have gone down. It is easier than you think to put more than 50 pounds into a suitcase. Dried fruits, nuts, and candy are heavy. So be sure to measure and weigh--if the airline decides to be picky the excess charges are enormous. But you'll probably be okay. (Where I always have trouble is coming back!) Use a relatively lightweight suitcase as you don't want to waste your precious weight allowance on a heavy one.

I always bring a big suitcase (although if you don't watch it, a 28-incher can exceed the total dimension limit if it is an expandable one and you stuff it to the gills). The main problem with that is that you then have to figure out what to do with the suitcase until you come back from Japan. I use a combination of takuhaibin and leaving it with family. I never travel around in Japan with the big suitcase. (I use a backpack plus sometimes a folding duffle bag.)

Another thing I recommend is to use a large corrugated cardboard box (or multiple cardboard boxes) inside the suitcase. This keeps the omiyage nice-looking during transit (a smashed box of chocolate or a package of whole nuts that has been rendered into fragments is not a nice gift). The same box is invaluable for lugging things back. I bring back all kinds of rice crackers and other fragile food items, and they hardly ever break. This is simply not possible if you use conventional cloth or vinyl packing cubes or plastic bags to compartmentalize the stuff. Airlines are ruthless. The cardboard box trick may seem fussy or excessive, but I have done it many times and it is one of the best packing discoveries I have ever made. I use one big box that is as large as the suitcase will hold, and then nest others inside it. Outside of the big box I usually put some of my clothes and other items I use while traveling. When I collect my suitcase at Narita I sometimes take a few items I need out and then send the suitcase to the family via takuhaibin. (Not sure if this will work in your case. Be sure to warn them in advance at any rate.)

Omiyage for five families is a lot! You are wise to start thinking about this in advance and have a plan. I always spend a ridiculous amount of time preplanning luggage logistics, but as a result my trips go smoothly.

I have never had to show food (or anything) at customs in Japan, by the way. But I suppose it is good to be prepared for that. The cardboard box trick will make it easy. (And like AK says, watch out for beef jerky. It is a red-flag item.)
by Uma (guest) rate this post as useful

Thank you! 2009/7/20 04:17
johnbf, AK & Uma,

Thank you for your much needed advice. I will consider all and decide what to do. I live in SoCal....this is my 1st trip in many years so am very excited to meet relatives again. Even deciding which suitcases to buy has been very challenging. Briggs & Riley has a fairly lightweight line but so-so expensive. Just out of curiosity, how much do the airlines charge for overweight baggage?
Thanks again!
by aiko2107 rate this post as useful

Excess Baggage Fees Vary 2009/7/20 04:36
Fees vary, but to give you an idea, Northwest is currently charging $150 on trans-Pacific flights if you go over the 50-lb weight limit and are traveling on a discount coach ticket. They charge multiple fees in some cases.

You may end up having to put some of the heavier omiyage in your carry-on bag. But be aware that since many airlines have been cutting down on how many pieces of luggage you can check for free (now often none, or 1 piece on international flights), people have been stretching the carry-on allowances to the limits and it can be hard to find overhead bin space for your carry on! If it won't fit under your seat, don't put anything breakable in it, in case you are forced to gate-check it. Gate-checked luggage is sometimes handled VERY violently.

If you and your luggage survive the flight, have a great trip!

As for expensive luggage, another advantage of the cheap cardboard box trick is that it adds a layer of protection so you don't have to rely so much on good-quality luggage. The suitcase I use was not expensive, but I did spend a lot of time shopping for it to find a light one.
by Uma (guest) rate this post as useful

pack well 2009/7/20 09:29
I don't know about the other airlines, but with United you can take 2 checked bags for free (under 50 lbs.) Seems like everytime I go to Japan I am taking 2 suit cases and a carry on. 1 suitcase for gifts, 3/4 the next suitcase is my GF's stuff that she forgot to take back to Japan. So I get 1/4 of a suticase and my carry on. wheeled suit cases are a lot easier to move around going from train to train, than to carry a box with a handle.
Just be careful and NOT to go over on the weight. Coz they will charge you an arm & a leg if you go over the 50lbs.
I have never had a problem taking beef jerky into Japan. ( I make my own) And I bring a lot. But I have heard some people have. good luck & pack smart!
by daz88 (guest) rate this post as useful

reply to this thread