How to ride trains with a wheelchair in Japan

japan train wheelcahir

Japan’s railway systems are being transformed to cater to everyone, including individuals who utilize wheelchairs.

Although there are some specific guidelines to consider for smooth travel, this guide will help you understand how Japan’s railways are adapting to make their services more accessible for all.

Read on to discover the answers to the most common questions about navigating Japan’s Railways as a wheelchair user.

Can I buy a JR Pass as a wheelchair user?

Yes, you can buy a JR Pass as a wheelchair user. You can use the pass on most train services in Japan operated by the JR group.

Depending on the train line, there are 2 types of wheelchair seats available:

  • Regular wheelchair seats
  • A spacious private multipurpose room.

There are also wheelchair-accessible restrooms on all JR group trains.

If you’re considering buying a Japan Rail Green Pass, it’s important to note that there is no dedicated wheelchair seating area on first-class Green Cars. Therefore, we advise you to buy a regular JR Pass to ensure a smoother and hassle-free ride.

What are the restrictions on the type of wheelchair that I can take on trains in Japan?

Japan Railways Group has specific guidelines for the size of wheelchairs allowed on Shinkansen bullet trains:

  • Wheelchairs should ideally be under 120 cm in height and 70 cm in width.

This is to ensure smooth movement in the train compartments and prevent obstruction in aisles.

If your wheelchair exceeds these dimensions, it’s important to get in touch with JR staff in advance, who can provide further assistance and advice on handling larger wheelchairs.

When it comes to reserving seats as a wheelchair user, you should keep the following in mind:

  • You can select a reserved seat in the final row and position your wheelchair behind the seat if your wheelchair is foldable and has dimensions totaling no more than 250 cm (height, breadth, and length are restricted to 2 meters).
  • You may also use a wheelchair seat and position your wheelchair next to it if your wheelchair is NOT foldable and its size is within the allowed range.

Furthermore, depending on the operator of the service, you may be able to book a multipurpose room. In this case, the size must be within those stated above and should be a handle-type electric wheelchair.

How can I book assistance at the stations?

For personalized support at train stations, you can book assistance through the JR ticket/sales office center known as ‘Midori no Madoguchi’.

The service center staff usually speak English and can offer assistance such as helping passengers on and off trains, and guiding them through stations. They can also aid you in reserving wheelchair spaces.

You can also book these services over the phone in advance of arrival if you speak Japanese. Nevertheless, many travelers opt to arrange their wheelchair assistance when exchanging the JR voucher in Japan.

Can I take assistance dogs on trains in Japan?

As long as you take the steps to get the correct certification in Japan, then yes, you can take assistance dogs for persons with physical disabilities on Japanese trains.

Accepted assistance dogs in Japan include:

  • Guide dogs
  • Mobility service dogs
  • Hearing dogs

The first category must be trained by a member of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). The latter 2 categories must be trained by an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International(ADI).

If your assistance dog meets these criteria, you then need to complete an “Application for Temporary Certification of Foreign Assistance Dog Users.” This can be issued by a registered assistance dog certifying organization in Japan. Check the official guide to the procedure for more details.

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