If Santa and his elves find themselves overwhelmed with preparing and delivering Christmas packages, they would do well to turn to Haneda Chronogate for help.
Opened in 2013, Haneda Chronogate is the flagship facility of Yamato Holdings Co., Ltd. (also known as “kuro neko”), the shipping firm that first conceived and developed TA-Q-BIN, express package delivery, both c-to-c and b-to-c. As a package processing and logistics terminal Haneda Chronogate operates 24/7, 365 days a year, to ensure that packages are delivered quickly and efficiently. Although only 1 of 71 hub terminals operated by Yamato across Japan, it is the largest and most sophisticated. And its location, just outside Haneda Airport, enables it to send and receive international packages as well.
With advance reservations, Haneda Chronogate offers free 90-minute tours in several languages, enabling visitors to learn about the TA-Q-BIN business and see first-hand just how packages are sorted and processed. For tourist with curiosity about how things work, this is a great peek behind the scenes.
The tour begins with a display called 100 Thanks, highlighting key milestones in the history of the Yamato group, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019.
Visitors then view a video introducing the TA-Q-BIN business and the Haneda Chronogate facility before moving into the “visitor’s corridor”, a route that allows visitors to see the cross-belt system of conveyor belts that enables speedy tagging and sorting of packages.
The conveyor belts move swiftly along pushing packages off into various sorting bins based on their destinations, using information scanned and coded when the packages are first fed into the system. It is mesmerizing to watch, but incredible to think of the level of sophistication involved in the system. It even beats the conveyor belts portrayed in the animated movie “Polar Express”. (Alas, things moved so fast that in-focus photos were beyond me.)
Short videos are shown at intervals on the route–using an elevator motif (a la Willie Wonka’s elevator) to give visitors a sense that they are moving throughout the facility–show not only the arrival and preliminary treatment of packages, but also how packing materials get tested, how some business inventories are maintained on-site to stock orders and ship them out, and how an on-site home appliance repair shop provides same-day pick-up, repair and return services.
The next stop is the Central Control Room, which monitors all the activity in the facility simultaneously. It is a nerve center to rival NASA’s Mission Control, yet there is so much automation that only one person is required to staff it.
Finally, an exhibition hall provides a last look at the services and work of the Yamato group, include some of their recent innovations for customer convenience, such as expanded partnerships with local convenience stores. In this room, you will also have a chance to collect a few Yamato souvenirs while trying out for yourself FRAPS, the “Free Rack Auto Pick System” Yamato has developed to facilitate rapid filling of stock orders.
To operate around the clock as it does, Haneda Chronogate employs 2,000 people.
Yamato handles 47% of all package delivery in Japan. In 2015, that was 1.7 billion packages. Even Santa has to be impressed!
Haneda Chronogate is located a 5 minute walk from Anamori-inari station on the Keikyu line (just 2 stops from Haneda Airport). Tours take place from 9:30 am and 3:00 pm (you must arrive 30 minutes before the start time), daily except Monday (and some national holidays). To reserve a tour, go to http://www.yamato-hd.co.jp/english/hnd-chronogate/reservation.html or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Postscript: On Christmas morning, while my Christmas stocking remained empty (I heard a rumor that Santa focuses his efforts on children, so it’s okay), the Kuroneko delivery man brought me two packages–presents from friends.