Japan Accessible Tourism Center

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Railway is a major public transportation for Japanese people and has a very well established network nationwide. You will also find them very accessible; ramps, escalators, and elevators are available at major stations.  Train car floors and platforms are usually level, making it easier to get on and off the train.  In some rural cities, however, you may find lower accessibility.  Some express trains do not have enough wheelchair space or seats.  And some stations do not have elevators, but if you are on a manual wheelchair, you can help yourself to the escalators, or ask the station staff to help you out.  Be reminded that Tokyo metropolitan area can get extremely crowded during morning and evening peak hours, sometimes too dangerous to move around in wheelchairs.      


Shinkansen ( bullet train ) is the fastest and the most convenient express train in Japan, and all stations are wheelchair accessible. Elevators on platforms are available for all passengers.  Train car floors and platforms are almost level, but train doors are not so wide 71cm.  The aisle width is 57cm. They have a wheelchair friendly coach (#11 of Tokaido Shinkansen), equipped with wider doors 101cm, spacious toilet, wheelchair space, and even a special private room. Wheelchair space and multipurpose room requires advance booking and additional fare for reserved seat. For short trips, you can save your money by staying on the deck area, which requires no seat reservation.  

report " On the Bullet Train with the Wheelchair

 

Most stations have very good accessibility; elevators, almost no steps and gaps between platforms and train cars. You may have difficulty at times in finding elevators from the street, because terminal buildings have many entrances.  Make sure you know your way at major stations and underground shopping centers, otherwise you can get lost when transferring trains. Also be careful of the crowd when using Tokyo Metro during morning and evening peak hours.    

We find more non-step buses recently, but the number of such vehicles is still less than half of all the buses operating, and even less in country side areas. Although non^step buses are physically accessible by wheelchair, you may sometimes feel uncomfortable sensing rejection or non-welcoming atmosphere among drivers or other passengers.  Japanese roads and streets are not wide enough to leave much space around the bus stop area, so you may sometimes find it difficult to board a bus. Also Japanese buses are not so big.   

Long distance buses are called “highway bus” or “limousine bus” in Japan, and they are the cheapest means of transportation. Many different bus operators form network among major cities. Unfortunately, buses are not wheelchair friendly because they only have stairs at the door, and there are no wheelchair accessible toilets inside.  But still, if you request the front row seat, kind drivers and passengers will help you. The quality of the seats varies by fare they charge.  Of course, you will get wider and more comfortable seats if you pay more.  

Unfortunately, taxi fare is not cheap in Japan.  Most taxis are small sedan type cars, and in urban areas, many cars carry natural gas tanks in the trunk, leaving less space to load wheelchairs.  Care taxi (welfare taxi) services, which you can board on your wheelchair, are available. They normally provide transportation service for elderly and disabled people in the local community, but can also be chartered for sightseeing purpose.  This will be useful especially when you are traveling in a group or with your family.  

三菱 ミニキャブ

You can also rent a car.  If you are going to drive, be reminded that most cars are automatic, and not many manual cars are available.  Also, there is basically no (or very limited) service for hand controllers.  If someone in your group is going to drive, some car rental companies have cars with lifts.  With this, you can go wherever you like.    

You will not find any accessibility problems at airports. Most airports have bridges, so it is easy to board and disembark aircrafts.  If you need any special assistance on a domestic flight, you can go and ask at the boarding counter. Free wheelchair rental service is available at all airports, and if necessary, airport staff will guide your way. Powered (electric) wheelchair passengers should consult the airline company in advance for special assistance. Low Cost Career " Vanilla Airline " and " Jet Star" are not kind for wheelchair users. They sometime refuse passenger who cannot walk up and down stairs in small airports. Discrimination still exists. We try to change this horrible situations.  

Japan being an island country, ship (ferry) network is very well established.  Most of these services are owned and operated by small local companies. Ships are basically wheelchair accessible, with slopes at the boarding site. Some smaller ships may have steps at the door, but a kind and mighty ship crews will help you out. New vessels are legally required to have space and restroom for wheelchair passengers. Bigger car ferries, long distance vessels, and new ships have elevators inside, but not for the older ones. So in this case, you will have to stay either on the deck or in your car. Anyway, you don’t have to worry too much about ship travel.