New Rules to Require Reservations for Large Suitcases on the Shinkansen From Next May
In preparation for the Summer Olympics, shinkansen (bullet train) passengers will now be required to reserve storage space for their extra-large luggage starting late May of 2020. Failure to do so will result in a penalty fee. Here's everything you need to know on this new baggage policy, including what exactly counts as "extra-large luggage", how you can make a reservation for the storage space, and how much it will cost.
Sep 03 2019 (Jan 20 2020)
A Brief Overview of the New Policy
A common complaint with shinkansen is that they don't have much in terms of luggage storage options. There's a limit to what can fit on the overhead storage compartment, so if your baggage happens to be a bit too big or if the storage area is full, you have no choice but to sit with your luggage or have it taking up aisle space, making it difficult for others to pass through.
Realizing that this would become an even bigger problem with the sudden influx of international visitors for the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020, the Tokaido, Kyushu, and Sanyo bullet train line operators have decided to introduce a new luggage policy.
Starting from late May of 2020, all passengers boarding the JR Tokaido, Kyushu, and Sanyo shinkansen are required to reserve luggage space for any extra-large baggage in advance.
It is believed that this new reservation system will help prevent the overcrowding of carriages as well as provide extra safety measures for any luggage that gets brought onto the bullet trains.
What Is Considered "Extra-Large Luggage"?
Any item whose length, width, and height total to 160-250 cm is considered "extra-large luggage," or in Japanese "tokudai nimotsu" (特大荷物). In the above chart, this refers to the section marked in red.
However, there is no weight limit. So, if you're the type that likes to cram as much as possible into one suitcase, you can still do so without any financial repercussions.
How Can I Make a Reservation for My Baggage?
Extra-large luggage space reservations can be made at the same time and in the exact same way as booking a bullet train seat. In other words, you will be able to do so online, through the bullet train ticket machines at local train stations, and at ticket counters like the Midori-no-Madoguchi (JR Ticket Offices).
The price of the luggage space is included in the fee for reserving a bullet train seat, so it will not cost any extra money. However, if you fail to book in advance, you will be required to pay 1,000 yen (incl. tax) in cash when you board the bullet train.
All shinkansen seats do not come with extra-large luggage space, so it is highly recommended to reserve your seat and baggage space as far in advance as possible. For most people, this will be up to a month before your actual departure date.
Where Will My Luggage Be Stored?
By 2023, some of the toilets and sinks on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu shinkansen will be renovated into lockable extra-large luggage storage corners. Once you put your luggage in, you will need to produce two forms of authentication - a series of numbers and a unique card - in order to take your luggage out. The blue section in the image above gives an example of what the corner is expected to look like.
From May of 2020 until then, however, all extra-large luggage will be put behind the very last row of each carriage. Images of this space in both a regular and green carriage can be seen in the orange section of the image above. Please note that this space can also be used to store strollers, wheelchairs, and other large equipment.
Some parts of this new policy, such as how it will affect JR Travel Pass users, still remain unclear. However, anyone planning on taking luggage that could be categorized as "extra-large" should remain cautious and book their tickets and luggage storage space as far out in advance as possible.
Please make sure to share this with everyone you know who is coming to Japan in 2020. And if you happen to be one of the many people who will travel on the shinkansen in May 2020, expect to be able to book your ticket and storage space sometime in April!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.