Special Delivery

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2


Often unnoticed by the casual visitor to Japan, takkyūbin provides an amazing assistance in a country famous for its punctuality and efficiency. Takkyūbin (宅急便) means “speedy home delivery” and it furnishes a complimentary service to Japan’s outstanding public transportation system by offering a better alternative to transporting cumbersome baggage on trains, subways and buses. A customer simply fills out a standard form that includes the shipping address, and their luggage is promptly picked up at their home. It is then delivered the next day within a designated two-hour window for a very reasonable fee (roughly $17). This remarkable service is available throughout Japan to every major Japanese transportation hub and each individual residence. While the transport of luggage meets a huge need, people increasingly use takkyūbin to send all kinds of goods across the country because of its convenience, low cost and dependability.

The concept of takkyūbin originated in 1975 when Yamato Transport, an established shipping firm, decided to extend its services across the country to every address. Such a massive expansion was quite an ambitious undertaking, but due to its high standards and reliability, the company’s new services were enthusiastically received. Yamato now boasts of a workforce of almost 200,000 employees manning roughly 45,000 vehicles in hundreds of offices scattered throughout the country. Its distinctive logo is that of a yellow oval centered on a black cat carrying a kitten in its mouth, representing the company’s promise to take care of items entrusted to them. Therefore, the company is often colloquially referred to as “Kuroneko,” meaning “black cat.”

Although Yamato now has other competitors, its popular services are so ubiquitous that the term coined by the company, takkyūbin, has largely replaced the previous term, takuhaibin, in everyday language. This changed usage pattern was further established when the famous Studio Ghibli anime film, “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” was released in 1985. Co-produced by Yamato, the popular movie used the word takkyūbin in its title and featured a black cat as one of the characters.

The business of takkyūbin was created to deal with the logistical problem of transporting physical burdens, but there are burdens of a vastly different nature that no commercial enterprise can ever resolve. In general, a burden can be simply defined as “a load that one must carry” and such encumbrances are considered to be heavy or challenging to bear. A burden can be physical in nature, but it can also be anything that invites stress, pain, anxiety, or hardship as we bear it for ourselves or for the sake of others. The Bible addresses quite a variety of such burdens offering different solutions.

The daily burdens of life are often very difficult, if not impossible to carry alone, as Moses himself recognized in his leadership role when he complained to God: “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.” (Numbers 11:14) The Psalmist spoke of another type of burden when he lamented, “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” (Psalm 38:4)

Thankfully, God “daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19) and Jesus invites us to lay our heavy load upon His shoulders that will in turn provide genuine rest of a spiritual nature that we all crave. (Matthew 11:28-30) But to the degree that we are able and available, we are exhorted to help carry the burdens of others, which exemplifies the heart of God and the nature of the church. (Galatians 6:2) We all need help with our baggage.

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