Are you excited about the 2020 Summer Olympics? If you are traveling to Japan for the event, expect that tourists would flock the country and there would be changes in the areas of accommodation and transportation.
One of those changes is the policy on large suitcases. As part of preparations for the Olympics, all passengers of the shinkansen (bullet train) with extra-large luggage will be required to make a reservation for storage space in advance starting late May 2020. Those who fail to do so will have to pay a penalty fee.
Here’s all you need to know about the new shinkansen luggage policy:
Reason Behind The New Policy
While the shinkansen is highly praised by travelers for its speed, cleanliness and top-notch service, most people find it lacking in terms of luggage storage. There is very limited space on the overhead storage compartment so it can easily become full or cannot accommodate larger baggage.
The common practice among passengers is to either sit with the luggage or place it along the aisle if it’s too big to fit between the seats. If the luggage is large, it could take up more aisle space, causing inconvenience to other passengers passing through.
Taking these things into consideration, operators of the Tokaido, Kyushu, and Sanyo bullet train line have decided to launch a new luggage policy to prepare for the expected increase in tourists for the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020. The Japanese government has set a tourism target of 40 million foreign visitors who will spend 8 trillion yen in 2020.
The reservation system is geared towards preventing carriages from overcrowding as well as providing additional safety measures for luggage brought into the trains. Failure to comply will result in a penalty fee of 1,000 yen in cash (inclusive of tax) upon boarding the bullet train.
Some details of the new policy still remain uncertain, including its impact on users of the JR Travel Pass. However, travelers are advised to book storage space as early as possible to avoid any hassle.
How Large Is Extra-Large Luggage?
Anything that is between 160 to 125 centimeters in terms of length, width, and height will be classified as tokudai nimotsu or extra-large luggage (see the image below). While the operators will restrict the dimensions of the luggage, there will be no limit to its weight. Passengers may opt to stuff their belongings into one suitcase as long as it is smaller than the aforementioned size to avoid paying the penalty.
How To Reserve Luggage Space
Reserving luggage space for extra-large baggage can be done at the same time and in the same manner as booking a seat on the bullet train. This can be done online, through the ticket machines at the local train stations, and at ticket counters in Midori-no-Madoguchi or Japan Rail (JR) Ticket offices.
Booking a luggage space will have no additional cost for the passenger, as it is already included in the bullet train fare. Passengers are advised to book at least one month prior to their departure date as the extra-luggage space does not automatically come with all shinkansen seats.
The designated extra-luggage space will be placed behind the very last row of each train carriage and will also be used as storage for strollers, wheelchairs, and other large equipment (See area in peach in the image below).
Future Storage Plans
Renovations will be underway on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu shinkansen by 2023. Some of the toilets and sinks will be converted into lockable extra-large luggage storage corners (See area in blue in the image above). Once the luggage is secured, passengers will need to authenticate using a number code and a unique card in order to take their luggage out.